Belarusian opposition presidential candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya said on Monday that she was ready to lead the country in a wave of protests against President Alexander Lukashenko.
Lukashenko has been in power since 1994, and the opposition rejected the results of the recent presidential election, which according to Belarus’ election commission consisted of an 80.08% victory for Lukashenko. Protests ensued in the wake of the results.
"I am ready to assume my responsibilities and act as a national leader," said Tikhanovskaya in a video, recalling that she had not "wanted to become a politician" but that "fate decreed that I would be on the front line in the face of arbitrariness and injustice."
"You who believed in me, who gave me strength, I admire today every minute your courage, your self-organisation and how strong and brilliant you are," she added, saying she wanted to "get out of this endless circle in which we found ourselves 26 years ago,” when Lukashenko came to power.
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Tikhanovskaya, who is currently exiled in Lithuania, released the video the day after one of the largest opposition rallies in Belarusian history, which saw tens of thousands of people gather in Minsk to demand the head of state's departure.
The opposition leader had taken over from her imprisoned husband. She claimed victory in the presidential election and called on President Alexander Lukashenko to step down, but had not clearly expressed her readiness to assume the highest state office.
She fled to Lithuania at the beginning of last week and called for peaceful demonstrations throughout the country, which have been taking place daily since the election.
The Brussels Times