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Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya: Belarusians 'don't want to fight'

Kieran Burke
February 25, 2022

Belarusian opposition leader in exile Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya has expressed solidarity with Ukraine, telling DW that most people in her home country "don't support this war."

Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya speaks during a press conference
Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya said Minsk's support of Russia was a debt Alexander Lukashenko owed for the Kremlin's support after elections in 2020Image: Petras Malukas/AFP/Getty Images

There's a growing wave of opposition following Moscow's decision to invade Ukraine.

Among those speaking out is Belarus human rights activist and opposition leader, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya.

The politician has been living in exile in Lithuania, where she fled to shortly after running in the 2020 presidential election against Alexander Lukashenko, who was contentiously declared the victor. 

She had run as an independent candidate following the arrest of her husband, pro-democracy campaigner Siarhei Tsikhanouski.

Belarus opposition leader Tsikhanouskaya on war in Ukraine

Lukashenko 'paying' for Kremlin support

Tsikhanouskaya told DW's Phil Gayle that Belarusians did not want this fight, and Belarusian involvement was a debt Lukashenko owed for Russian support.

"We didn't expect this war would happen. We didn't believe in this… Putin partnered with [Alexander Lukashenko] and attacked Ukraine. And this is the price Lukashenko is paying for Kremlin's support in 2020, which allowed Lukashenko to stay in power," the opposition leader said.

Tsikhanouskaya said that she stood by the people of Ukraine and that Belarus did not want to fight its neighbor.

"I really want to express solidarity with all Ukrainians because some people don't want to fight, especially they don't want to fight against Ukraine, our neighbor, people we love... We want to be friends, of course, with them."

Belarusian activist calls on EU leaders to investigate Lukashenko

Kremlin's 'denazification' of Ukraine claim is 'propaganda'

Responding to a question about the Kremlin's claim that its mission in Ukraine was to "denazify" the country, the opposition leader said that people should not allow themselves to be swayed by propaganda. She added that it was false to assert the people of Ukraine were being abused by the government.

"Our people in the 21st century have to realize the situation by themselves and not to follow propaganda messages… I'm communicating with Ukrainians. Nobody complains that the Ukrainian government is abusing them or whatever. And of course, this narrative, this message sent by Russia doesn't have anything… real."

People in Belarus do 'not support Russia's actions'

Tsikhanouskaya claimed the vast majority of people in Belarus did not support Russia's actions. This is despite Belarus's armed forces having taken part in large-scale military drills in the buildup to the invasion.

"I know that a majority of people don't support this war, don't support the participation of the Belarusian army in this war. Only 12% believe that Belarus must send its soldiers and only 13% are in support of the Russian campaign," the oppostion leader claimed.

With respect to Belarus's challenges when it comes to authoritarian leadership and the clampdown on political opponents, Tsikhanouskaya said that although she was pleased with EU support, sanctions were too late in coming.

"I'm grateful to the European Union for united position about Belarus, and I saw a lot of sympathy and solidarity with the Belarusian people. But actually, the first strong package of sanctions have been imposed 10 months after crackdown of the Belarusian uprising. And of course, it's too late. And I think that half measures only harm in this situation."

Edited by: Mark Hallam

Women of Power: Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya