Riga, May 31 (EFE).- Leader of the Belarusian opposition in exile Svetlana Tikhanovskaya said Monday that the people of Belarus would accept harsher international sanctions, even if they affect their everyday lives, as part of a struggle to hold free and fair elections in the country.
Speaking at a joint press conference with Estonia’s president Kersti Kaljulaid in Tallinn, Tikhanovskaya said that a wider package of sanctions impacting the Belarus economy could be acceptable “because people are already suffering, they are afraid to go into the streets, they are afraid in their homes.”
The European Union has signaled that sanctions would target economic sectors close to Belarus’ strongman president Alexander Lukashenko, including the country’s potash industry.
The United States is also considering sanctions that would impact the nation’s petrochemical and fertilizer sectors, in addition to some other industries.
The fresh sanctions against the Eastern European country come after Belarusian authorities forced a Ryanair commercial flight to perform an emergency landing in Minsk in order to arrest dissident journalist Roman Protasevich on May 23.
“Lukashenko has brought Belarus on the path of self-destruction for the sake of personal power and glory. His regime is now a threat to regional and European security,” said Tikhanovskaya.
The opposition leader, who ran against Lukashenko in August and is currently in exile living in Lithuania, said the incident brought international attention back to Belarus, after a loss of interest since December created “a climate of impunity” for Lukashenko’s regime.
“Lawyers were able to visit Roman. It is clear that he was beaten and tortured, and he must be freed, but hundreds of other political prisoners must also be freed,” she told journalists.
Tikhanovskaya said that nationwide demonstrations and strikes against the authoritarian regime will grow once people are ready, and that the level of repression in Belarus is unimaginable.
The Belarus opposition leader also said she wasn’t concerned about international sanctions and protests in Belarus pushing the Lukashenko regime closer to Russia.