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Belarusian Nobel Literature prize winner & leading opposition figure Alexievich leaves country but insists she’s not fleeing

Belarusian Nobel Literature prize winner & leading opposition figure Alexievich leaves country but insists she’s not fleeing
Belarusian Nobel Prize winner Svetlana Alexievich, a key member of the opposition's Coordination Council, has departed the country for Germany. Her assistant says she has left for personal reasons, and will soon return.

Alexievich was awarded the 2015 Nobel Prize in Literature, becoming the first Belarusian to win the award. In recent months, she has become involved in the country’s politics, supporting the opposition to President Alexander Lukashenko. 
On August 19, Alexievich was elected to the seven-member presidium of the Coordination Council – an organization founded by former presidential candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya with the idea of facilitating the transfer of power away from Lukashenko. The group has been accused by the Belarusian authorities of “aiming to seize state power” and “harming national security.” Of the seven elected members, she was the only one to remain free in Belarus. The rest have left the country or are currently in prison.

Despite the fate of other senior Coordination Council figures, Alexievich’s aide, Tatiana Tyurina, insists she is not fleeing. Many observers believe her international celebrity status has made authorities wary of targeting her in the same way as other members of the group.

“Why does Svetlana Alexandrovna [Alexievich] have to leave her country for good? It is nothing of the kind – she left on personal business," said Tyurina. “She has meetings scheduled, a book fair in Sweden, and in Sicily she will be presented with an award.” Other reports suggest she has left for medical treatment. 

The Coordination Council was founded in August, after the country’s presidential election. According to the official vote tally, incumbent leader Alexander Lukashenko won with 80.01 percent – a result widely deemed to have been falsified. His main rival, Tikhanovskaya, got just 10.1 percent. In protest, thousands of Belarusians took to the streets, where they were met by police armed with tear gas, stun grenades, and rubber bullets.

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