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Foreign Minister Champagne meets exiled opposition leader in Belarus in Lithuania




Canada’s foreign minister has pledged support for senior Belarusian opposition figure Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who is in exile in Lithuania, during a meeting Friday.

Franois-Philippe Champagne told Tikhanovskaya that Canada “will always be on your side”.

“In fact I believe you can expect that (i) the international community will be together with you and the people of Belarus for the democratic future of your country,” Champagne said after the meeting, in the final part of his European tour.

Champagne has said that the result of the August 9 presidential election in Belarus, which gave a strong man for a long time, President Alexander Lukashenko, an extraordinary controversial victory by the opposition, was “fraud”.

Champagne’s visit to the Baltic after Tikhanovskaya’s meetings with European leaders including French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The United States and the European Union have denounced Belarussian elections as neither free nor fair, and have imposed sanctions on Belarusian officials responsible for alleged vote-rigging and crackdowns on protesters.

“This is a very clear sign to criminals in Belarus that the international community is watching them and they should think twice before (launching) another wave of violence against their people,” Tikhanovskaya said after her talks with Champagne.

President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko attends his inauguration ceremony in Minsk on September 23, 2020. (Andrei Stasevich / BelTA / AFP / Getty Images)

Tikhanovskaya has warned the Minsk government that it will call a nationwide strike in Belarus later this month if Lukashenko, who took a sixth term in August, resigns, releases political prisoners and stops violent repression. of protesters.

Earlier on Friday, Belarusian authorities announced that they had issued an arrest warrant for Tikhanovskaya, who fled to neighboring Lithuania after the election, accusing her of “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order” and of threatening national security.

“I continue to fight with this regime. After our victory, all these accusations will be erased,” Tikhanovskaya said.

The announcement of the arrest warrant follows reports that she was on a wanted list in Russia. Moscow has strongly supported Lukashenko amid two months of massive protests. Moscow has refused to talk to Tikhanovskaya and other opposition activists.

On his first visit to Lithuania by a Canadian foreign minister in 24 years, Champagne would also meet his counterparts from Lithuania and neighboring Estonia and Latvia.

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