Opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya has called on Belarusians to initiate a “second wave of protests” next week and to vote online to support internationally mediated negotiations with Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s regime.
In a video statement released on March 18, Tsikhanouskaya said that the voting is being launched to help the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the United Nations act as mediators in the crisis that erupted after Lukashenka was declared the landslide winner of the August presidential election amid allegations of widespread fraud.
“We launch this voting to start talks with the representatives of [Lukashenka’s] regime, who are ready to think about the future and make mature decisions instead of prolonging the crisis until a full catastrophe. And there are such people,” said Tsikhanouskaya, who is currently in Lithuania, where she relocated for security reasons after the presidential election that she and her supporters say she won.
Calling herself “the leader elected by the Belarusian people,” she also set March 25 for the start of a new series of pro-democracy protests against Lukashenka. The day marks the anniversary of the short-lived Belarusian People’s Republic, which existed for less than a year in 1918.
She described Lukashenka’s recent public threat to use the army against the protesters “an act of fear and despair.”
More than 30,000 people have been detained, hundreds beaten, several killed, and journalists targeted in the government’s crackdown on the protest movement.
Lukashenka, who has ruled Belarus since 1994, has resisted international calls to step down.