Opposition leader ‘safe’ after leaving Belarus

Opposition leader ‘safe’ after leaving Belarus

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Opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya has left Belarus and is “safe” in Lithuania, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius says.

Ms Tikhanovskaya’s departure came as protests went on for a second day over Sunday’s disputed presidential poll.

Her campaign team said she was avoiding the protests because of “possible provocations”.

Election results gave President Alexander Lukashenko 80%, but Ms Tikhanovskaya refuses to accept them.

A lack of scrutiny, with no observers present, has led to allegations of widespread vote-rigging in the poll. The US and EU have condemned the vote.

Mr Lukashenko, in power since 1994, has described opposition supporters as “sheep” controlled from abroad.

On Monday evening police in Belarus’s capital Minsk fired rubber bullets to quash protests, and officials say one demonstrator died when an explosive device went off in his hands – the first confirmed fatality since the clashes began.

Mr Linkevicius tweeted about Ms Tikhanovskaya’s whereabouts on Tuesday morning after rumours that she had disappeared.

There had been concern for her on Monday but her campaign later said she was “safe”, without saying where.

Mr Linkevicius told Lithuanian radio she had been detained for seven hours in Belarus but did not say why or by whom.

The election campaign saw the rise of Ms Tikhanovskaya, 37, a former teacher who was a stay-at-home mother until she was thrust into the political spotlight.

After her husband was arrested and blocked from registering for the vote, she stepped in to take his place.

President Lukashenko has dismissed Ms Tikhanovskaya as a “poor little girl”, manipulated by foreign “puppet masters”.

After the vote took place, her campaign said the results, which gave her just 9.9% of the vote, “did not correspond to reality” and vowed to challenge “numerous falsifications”.

Ms Tikhanovskaya told reporters that she had in fact won the election, and called on the authorities to relinquish power peacefully. Protests began as soon as polls closed and continued for a second night on Monday.

However, Mr Lukashenko said he would respond robustly to the protests and not allow the country to be torn apart.__BBC

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