The President of the United States, Joe Biden, received at the White House this Wednesday morning (28) the leader of the Belarusian opposition, Svetlana Tikhanovskaia.
On social media, the US leader shared a photo of the meeting and wrote that he “supports the Belarusian people in their quest for democracy and universal human rights.”
Tikhanovskaia, 38, has been in exile from Belarus since running against dictator Alexander Lukashenko in the presidential election last August. Lukashenko runs the country, considered the last dictatorship in Europe since 1994. She accuses the autocrat of fraud and claims to have won the dispute.
After last year’s elections, hundreds of thousands of Belarusians took to the streets in anti-government protests, which were violently suppressed. She has since been in exile in neighboring Lithuania.
Without any experience, Tikhanovskaya entered political life when her husband, blogger and activist Sergei Tikhanovsky, was arrested days after announcing he would run for president against Lukashenko. Since then, she has taken over her husband’s legacy and has become one of the most important voices for democracy in the former Soviet republic.
During a trip to the United States, she found doors open with high-ranking politicians to denounce the Minsk regime, which has the backing of Russian President Vladimir Putin, another dissatisfied with the Americans.
In Washington, Tikhanovskaya met throughout the week with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the country’s foreign affairs official, and Jake Sullivan, national security adviser to the Joe Biden administration.
She called on the United States to step up the pressure on the Belarusian dictatorship with sanctions against the country’s mining, logging, steel and oil companies. “Most international companies fear US sanctions, and even the threat of new European or US sanctions could influence Lukashenko’s behavior,” Svetlana said in a debate hosted by the State Department Correspondents Association.
According to her, Lukashenko “is becoming more and more cruel and violence is increasing, but this only shows its weakness”.
Tikhanovskaya even demanded action from the US government. “We understand that only Belarusians themselves can lead the country towards democratic changes, but we expect active and non-symbolic participation from the United States,” he said. “President Biden says the world is torn between autocracy and democracy. So the front line of this fight is now in Belarus. As a champion of democracy, America can help make a difference,” did he declare.
Following meetings with the President’s aides earlier this week, the White House said that “the United States, along with its partners and allies, will continue to hold the Lukashenko regime accountable for its actions, including the ‘imposition of sanctions’.
National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan called for the release of all political prisoners in Belarus and for “a comprehensive and genuine political dialogue with the leaders of the democratic opposition”.
In addition to Tikhanovskaya’s own husband, political arrests in Belarus saw a dramatic chapter in May this year when the dictatorship intercepted a commercial plane flying from Greece to Lithuania and hijacked the plane to Minsk airport. on the grounds that there was a suspicion of an explosive. Upon arriving in the Belarusian capital, the government arrested opposition blogger Roman Protassevich and his girlfriend. The episode was condemned by the international community.
On Wednesday, Tikhanovskaya also posted a message on a social network thanking the reception at the White House.
“Thank you, President, for the powerful sign of solidarity with many intrepid Belarusians who are fighting peacefully for their freedom. Today Belarus is a battlefront between democracy and authoritarianism. The world supports us. Belarus will be an example of success. ”she wrote on her Twitter.