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10 Oct, 2020 18:50

Eyebrows raised as Lukashenko claims he 'saved' opposition candidate Tikhanovskaya, giving her $15,000 before she left Belarus

Eyebrows raised as Lukashenko claims he 'saved' opposition candidate Tikhanovskaya, giving her $15,000 before she left Belarus

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has dropped a bombshell by claiming that former Presidential candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya was provided with $15,000, by the state, right before she left for exile in Lithuania.

Speaking at a government meeting on Friday, Lukashenko explained that shortly after the election the leading opposition figure requested a meeting with the country’s Interior Minister Yuri Karayev, asking him to allow her to leave Belarus.

The President's version of events is different from that put forward by Tikhanovskaya, and her supporters.  After the disputed August 9 election, she quickly departed from Belarus and has never explained, in detail, the circumstances around her exit. Her husband, Sergey, is currently imprisoned in Minsk. 

"God forbid [anyone] to face the choice I faced," she said, cryptically, at the time. "What is happening now is not worth any life. Children are the most important thing we have in our life."

Tikhanovskaya said she "absolutely independently" decided to go to Lithuania for her own wellbeing and for that of her children.

The president had said before that he tasked the country's special services with safeguarding Tikhanovskaya, as she perfectly fit the role of a potential “sacrificial lamb” to fuel the anti-government protests. The candidate herself apparently shared a similar sentiment and feared for her life.

“All in all, there was only one request: ‘Please tell the president that I want to leave Belarus, bad things will happen.’ We understood that there could be trouble indeed,” the president said, adding that he then ordered that Tikhanovskaya be provided with an escort to ensure her safe departure for Lithuania. Some of supporters say she was given little choice in the matter. 

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Tikhanovskaya then claimed she was short of money to live there and to support her children, Lukashenko said. After that, he ordered one of the “state enterprises” to allocate a lump sum of $15,000 to support the politician. Tikhanovskaya was immensely grateful for the support and was “crying,” Lukashenko added.

So far, Tikhanovskaya has not reacted to Lukashenko’s claims.

The ongoing turmoil in Belarus erupted after the contested August 9 presidential election. The country’s long-term leader Lukashenko secured a solid win, scoring more than 80 percent of votes, yet the opposition challenged the result alleging it was grossly falsified. Tikhanovskaya, the main opposition candidate, who got some 10 percent of votes, fled the country shortly after the election, claiming to have won it.

The election triggered a wave of mass protests which have been met with a heavy-handed police response, especially violent in the first few days after the polls. The protests have continued across Belarus each weekend since then, but they’ve seemingly lost momentum and the number of people taking to the streets are dwindling.

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Tikhanovskaya’s supposed ‘gratefulness’ for Lukashenko’s material support did not last that long though, as she maintains the president should step down and even describes herself as “the only leader elected by the Belarusian people.” Minsk, in turn, opened a criminal investigation against the former candidate and placed her on the wanted list over her calls to seize power.

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