Belarusian tycoon launches multi-million dollar crowdfunding campaign to arrest embattled leader Lukashenko after flight debacle
Tech entrepreneur Valery Tsepkalo, who left the country after last year's disputed national election and now lives in neighboring Latvia, made the explosive offer in a video appeal posted online on Thursday. In it, he branded Lukashenko "criminal number one" and said that those opposed to the government, and even those currently working within it, should do their best to arrest him.
"I am absolutely convinced that within the system there are also a huge number of decent, principled people for whom serving the people, serving the law is not an empty phrase,” he said, calling on state security officials to stage a coup. In order to help motivate them, he said that he would put up 11 million euro ($13.4 million) in prize money to anyone who captured him.Also on rt.com Western enemies of Belarus are using country as ‘testing ground’ before an attack on Russia, says embattled President Lukashenko
Tsepkalo's wife, Veronika, was one of the group of three women who fronted an opposition campaign standing against Lukashenko in August last year, led by Svetlana Tikhanovskaya. They, and many international observers, say that the vote was rigged in favor of the veteran leader, and tens of thousands then took to the streets for long-running protests calling for a new poll.
The same day that Tsepkalo posted his appeal, Lukashenko made a bombastic speech to say that foreign backers of the opposition had been frustrated by the lack of progress achieved by the protests, and so were changing tack. “That's why they've gone from organizing riots to the strangulation stage,” he announced. “They are searching for new vulnerabilities, and it is not only aimed at us: we are a testing ground, a place for them to experiment before they rush to East [Russia].”
Lukashenko's security services sparked outrage in the West when they told a Ryanair flight between Greece and Lithuania to divert and land in the capital, Minsk. Authorities claimed to have received a bomb threat from Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, threatening to blow up the passenger jet. However, once on the tarmac, officers boarded the plane and detained Roman Prostasevich, an opposition activist and editor of a Telegram news channel banned in Belarus. Critics have slammed the move as state-backed "piracy" and demanded the release of Prostasevich and his girlfriend, Sofia Sapega. Lukashenko has defended his officials, however, saying they'd acted within the law.
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