Belarus opposition leader to ensure Lukashenko’s safety if he resigns

Belarus opposition leader to ensure Lukashenko’s safety if he resigns

Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya has pledged to ensure long-time President Alexander Lukashenko’s safety if he were to resign peacefully.

There have been protests in Belarus every day since the country’s disputed presidential election more than a month ago. Last weekend, at least 100,000 people gathered for a mass protest march in Minsk.

Asked whether Lukashenko’s personal safety would be guaranteed if he peacefully stepped aside, Tikhanovskaya said: “Yes, even more so,” according to an interview published late Tuesday by Ukrainian news outlet LB.ua.

Tikhanovskaya claims she is the rightful winner of the August 9 election. Within days of the vote, she fled to neighbouring EU state Lithuania amid a violent police crackdown on the protesters.

Tikhanovskaya has maintained that the protests should remain peaceful. The election’s disputed official tally gave Lukashenko more than 80 per cent of the votes. Tikhanovskaya and her supporters claim it was rigged.

The European Union has denounced the election as “neither free nor fair” and condemned the crackdown on the protests, saying “state authorities deployed disproportionate and unacceptable violence.”

Russia, Belarus’ closest ally, has thrown its weight behind Lukashenko, with Russian President Vladimir Putin promising earlier this week to provide a 1.5 billion dollar credit line to Lukashenko’s government.

Russia’s defence minister, Sergei Shoigu, visited Minsk on Wednesday to “discuss matters of the bilateral military collaboration,” state media reported. Russian and Belarusian forces have been conducting previously planned joint exercises this week.