Washington, 28 July 2021 (dpa/MIA) – US President Joe Biden met with Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya on Wednesday, in a show of support for the beleaguered rivals of strongman Alexander Lukashenko.
“I was honored to meet with Svetlana Tikhanovskaya at the White House this morning. The United States stands with the people of Belarus in their quest for democracy and universal human rights,” Biden tweeted along with a picture of the two talking.
Their meeting had not been announced publicly beforehand.
Tikhanovskaya said via Telegram that she had asked Biden to throw Washington’s weight behind the opposition so Belarus could become a “successful example of a non-violent transition to democracy.”
She described it as a “moral duty” for the US to help the Belarusian people. She also called attention to the numerous political prisoners in her homeland – including her husband, Sergei Tikhanovsky.
Tikhanovskaya had already met with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Biden’s National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan in Washington last week.
Tikhanovskaya is widely seen as the true winner of Belarus’ presidential election in August. After Lukashenko was declared the winner, the opposition organized months of mass protests that were met by a fierce police crackdown and widespread arrests.
Tikhanovskaya fled to neighbouring Lithuania. She has since met with a host of European leaders, including Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel, as she lobbies for the West’s support.
The US, EU and Britain have slapped sanctions on Lukashenko’s regime. Yet the protests back home have lost momentum amid the government’s repressive tactics.