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In an interview with FRANCE 24, exiled Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya said she held out hope that the regime of Alexander Lukashenko would collapse in the face of mass demonstrations against his disputed re-election. She called on the regime not to engage in a bloody escalation and said the resignation of Lukashenko as president was a precondition in order to organise “free and fair and transparent” elections. “We want another country, we want another president,” she said.

Speaking to FRANCE 24 from the Lithuanian capital Vilnius, Tikhanovskaya regretted this Monday’s meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian strongman Alexander Lukashenko in Sochi. “We are really sorry that Mr Putin… he goes to the side of the dictator but not the side of Belarusian people,” she said.

The exiled opposition leader brushed aside concerns that Russia might plan a military intervention in Belarus like it did in Ukraine, saying that the issue in her country was “our internal affair”.

Tikhanovskaya said that while she and other opposition leaders had met with foreign officials, no such meetings or contacts have taken place with Russian officials.

She said her jailed husband Sergei was being fairly treated and added that the same was true for fellow opposition figure Maria Kolesnikova, who was arrested last week.

Finally, she called on the EU and the US to slap individual sanctions on members of the regime’s leadership. She described Lukashenko as a criminal, saying the people had become fed up with the regime. “We want a new country, safe and free, where our children will not be slaves of the system,” she concluded.

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>> Which way for Belarus? Protesters defy Lukashenko’s grip on power



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