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Lukashenko claims Tikhanovskaya herself asked for help in leaving Belarus

According to the country's president, nobody ousted the opposition figurehead abroad
Svetlana Tikhanovskaya Kay Nietfeld/dpa via AP
Svetlana Tikhanovskaya
© Kay Nietfeld/dpa via AP

MINSK, October 9. /TASS/. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said that former presidential candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya herself asked to be taken out of the country, but after crossing the border she was "taken under control by Lithuania’s intelligence agencies," the Belarusian news agency BelTA said on Friday.

"Nobody ‘ousted’ her abroad. That was a question of life and death, and it was her wish," the agency cited Lukashenko as saying.

He added that the Belarusian embassy in Lithuania was instructed to help Tikhanovskaya with relocation, including with the search for an apartment.

"However, she was quickly taken charge of by Lithuanian intelligence agencies. You know the rest," Lukashenko said adding that during the unrest that broke out in Minsk after the presidential election, Tikhanovskaya’s headquarters was a target for an arson in order to make her "a sacred sacrifice."

"The scheme was to set the headquarters on fire and put the blame on the authorities," Lukashenko explained pointing out that 120 law enforcers had been engaged in a special operation to prevent that crime.

According to the Belarusian president, after that, Tikhanovskaya requested a meeting with the interior minister and announced that she wanted to leave Belarus.

"In general, there was just one request, 'Please, tell the president I want to leave Belarus, as something bad will happen'. Following her wish, we helped her go to Lithuania - under protection and with the people who she had asked for to accompany her - to join her children. When she said that she had no money to live on there, I gave an order and $15,000 was withdrawn from a state-run enterprise and given to her," Lukashenko said.

Nationwide demonstrations have engulfed Belarus following the August 9 presidential election. According to the Central Election Commission’s official results, incumbent President Alexander Lukashenko won by a landslide, garnering 80.10% of the vote. His closest rival in the race, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, came in second, with 10.12% of the ballot. However, she refused to recognize the election’s outcome, and left Belarus for Lithuania. After the results of the exit polls were announced late on August 9, mass protests erupted in downtown Minsk and other Belarusian cities. During the early post-election period, the rallies snowballed into fierce clashes between the protesters and police. The current unrest is being cheered on by the opposition’s Coordination Council, which has been beating the drum for more protests. In response, the Belarusian authorities have castigated the ongoing turmoil and demanded that these unauthorized demonstrations be stopped.