Belarus: Tikhanovskaya goes into exile in Lithuania

Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya left Belarus for Lithuania on Wednesday. Before her departure she had tried to lodge a complaint with the election commission in Minsk against the official election results and was detained for seven hours. Commentators discuss what this means for the opposition movement in Belarus and call on Europe to adopt a clear stance.

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Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (DE) /

Symbol of the regime's baseness

The video message in which Tikhanovskaya haltingly calls for an end to the protests could have the opposite effect, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung believes:

“Just what sort of pressure did the Lukashenko regime put on Tikhanovskaya? A mother of two, her husband has been in custody since the end of May and several of her close acquaintances have been arrested. Tikhanovskaya was able to become a symbol of the protest because she is like most Belarusians: until this summer she had nothing to do with politics and just tried to live a normal life. So trying to break her is an attack on the self-esteem of those who cheered her on at the election rallies. These videos are a symbol of the baseness of this regime that everyone can understand.”

Radio Kommersant FM (RU) /

The West should shake off its apathy

Radio Kommersant FM calls for Tikhanovskaya to be considered the opposition leader despite her withdrawal:

“No matter what Tikhanovskaya says or calls for, the protests won't stop. On the contrary, this will only make them more radical because there is no longer a contact person. ... Svetlana is de facto a president in exile. The democratic West could shake off its apathy, overcome its indecision bordering on cowardice and at least enter into dialogue with her, if not recognise her as president. Some say that this would be damaging to Sergei Tikhanovsky, who is being kept hostage in a prison in Belarus. To this one can reply: if the West makes a fuss it will guarantee that they won't hurt Sergei.”

Delfi (LT) /

A contribution to the fight for freedom

Political scientist Mažvydas Jastramskis praises Lithuania's conduct in Delfi:

“The fact that Tikhanovskaya, the true winner of the presidential election, has received political asylum in Lithuania shows that our country is moving in the right direction. It's a signal that Lithuania doesn't recognise the falsified election results, and is supporting the protesters in Belarus by offering a platform to the real winner of the election. Let's see if this opportunity is used. The West now has a lot to consider. ... Freedom in the world is gradually eroding, but that it is eroding is clear for all to see.”

Verslo žinios (LT) /

Russian roulette for Lithuanian companies

Several Lithuanian companies have economic interests in Belarus. The current situation could prove difficult for them, Verslo žinios explains:

“Experience shows that political considerations sometimes force a correction of contracts and relations. If the unrest spreads in the neighbouring country, even the 'take or pay' rule [in which a company either takes a product from a supplier or pays a penalty], which is common in the economy, will be of little help. ... It's obvious that the 'little father' [Lukashenko's nickname] is losing his power, and the people are ready for change and new politicians. ... But until times change, it looks like Lithuania's companies will have to play Russian roulette in Belarus.”