Lukashenkos exiled enemy demands revolution against dictator

Drone footage shows attack on Russian AWACS A-50 aircraft in February

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There may be an opinion in Belarus that “peaceful methods are not enough” to overthrow Alexander Lukashenko, the Belarusian opposition leader has admitted, but that does not change her belief that “democratic revolution” is the only way to overcome “Europe’s last dictator”. Sviatlana Tikhanovskaya, who has just been sentenced in absentia by Alexander Lukashenko’s regime to 15 years in prison for high treason, among other bogus charges which prevent her from returning to Belarus, has opened up about the complicated position in which her country finds itself.

While her neighbours in Ukraine are forced to respond proportionately to the vicious warfare waged by Vladimir Putin, Ms Tikhanovskaya suggested that Belarus’s response to its own dictatorial “invasion” by Lukashenko, one of Russia’s key allies, must not be one of violence.

At the end of last month, the exiled politician hailed the “brave actions” of a partisan anti-regime group that, using drone strikes, damaged a Russian reconnaissance plane near the capital of Minsk.

Lukashenko has since accused those responsible for the attack of “terrorism”, arresting more than 20 people and suggesting they were colluding with Ukrainian intelligence.

She said: “Of course, from some inside Belarus, there is an opinion held that peaceful methods are not enough. But let’s look at the railway sabotage plans or the Russian plane strike, these are still peaceful. We are not damaging people.”

She said that while “equipment” was being damaged, “this form will help save thousands of lives in Ukraine”.

Addressing the Lukashenko notion of “terrorism”, she added: “When we talk about violent methods of resistance, you need some sort of – I don’t want to call it weaponry, but you understand – stuff to fight with and we do not have this. How can we fight outside of peaceful resistance, with sticks?

“We do not want to be on the same level as Lukeshenka, who uses brutality, methods of torture, tryanny and terror.”

Responding to her wishes, Mykhailo Podolyak, a senior adviser to the President of Ukraine, declined to join up forces on behalf of Volodymyr Zelensky, accusing the Belarusian opposition of “exerting no organisational or intellectual influence”.

When asked about this discord, the politician in exile intimated that the comments reflected Ukraine’s disinterest in opening up a second front in the north more than a genuine disbelief in the influence of her outfit.

“I believe they think that if they irritate Lukashenko, he will send Belarusian troops [into Ukraine],” she said.

“We are trying to explain that the Belarusian army will not fight against them, that they will defect, and change sides. [We are trying to tell them that] Lukahsenko is blackmailing them.”

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Unlike in Ukraine, where the people and its leaders are united in opposition to their invaders, and western military, financial and humanitarian aid is continual, the Belarusian people are without their rightful, democratic leader.

What’s more, they are under the jurisdiction of a man tethered to the pariah that is Putin, in a country that has been used as a launching pad to attack Ukraine.

Whether or not the Belarusian people oppose the war, which polls suggest is the case, they exist in the interstice between the invaded and the invaders, making their lives doubly difficult.

In a concluding note, Ms Tikhanovskaya said that she “does not want to bring any harm to Ukraine. I maintain that we will help them regardless of the state of our political dialogue.”

That such a phrase needs to be said aloud is evidence enough of the complicated and confused effect the warring world of eastern Europe is having on the state of Belarus.

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