Lukashenko meets Putin in Sochi as western-backed Belarusian opposition figure Tikhanovskaya threatens to cancel any agreements
Exiled former Belarusian presidential candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya has criticized Russia’s President Vladimir Putin for meeting with the “usurper,” a term she has used to describe the country’s president, Alexander Lukashenko.
Tikhanovskaya ran against the incumbent in an election on August 9, as the most prominent opposition candidate allowed on the ballot. According to the official results, Lukashenko received 80 percent of the vote, but Tikhanovskaya says her private opinion polling showed her to be the real winner. She has refused to recognize the election result as legitimate.
On Monday morning, Lukashenko arrived in the southern Russian city of Sochi for a much-anticipated face-to-face meeting with Putin. Amid speculation over their true goals, Tikhanovskaya sent a message to the Russian leader that any agreements signed would be void, if she ever comes to power.
"I want to remind Vladimir Putin: whatever you agree upon during the meeting in Sochi will have no legal force," she said, according to the Telegram channel of her official press service. "All agreements signed by the illegitimate Lukashenko will be reviewed by the new government."
Tikhanovskaya also noted how the Belarusian president lost the "trust” and "support" of the people, calling him the "usurper."
Last week, the parliament of Belarus' northern neighbor, Lithuania, officially recognized Tikhanovskaya as the "elected leader of the people of Belarus." Following August's vote, Tikhanovskaya fled to the Baltic country after pressure from the government, explaining that she had chosen to see her children. Since then, she has campaigned to convince leaders around the world not to recognize Lukashenko as the country's rightful leader.
After she left for Lithuania, Tikhanovskaya founded the 'Coordination Council,' a body whose aim is to ensure an orderly transfer of power from Lukashenko and to a newly elected president. Lukashenko has called its formation "an attempt to seize power," and many of the group's members have been arrested.
Despite pressure from abroad, the Coordination Council has maintained that they wish to continue positive and constructive relations with Russia. As Lukashenko landed in Sochi, the council released a statement explaining that they "support the development of Belarusian-Russian relations in all spheres."
"We are convinced that the Russian people want Belarus to be a peaceful and calm country," the statement said. "We are sure that stability in the region is not only important for Belarus, but also for Russia, and it is clear that this stability cannot be achieved by further repression and forcible suppression of peaceful protests."
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