Exiled Belarusian politician urges Canada to speak out in support of democracy

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OTTAWA — The exiled opposition leader of Belarus says she is an "accidental" revolutionary who threw herself into the dangerous political arena of her country only out of love for her people, husband and children.

Speaking to theology students in Halifax today, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya says she previously considered herself "just a mother and wife" and never thought she would feel confident in the spotlight.

But Tsikhanouskaya says that after her husband was jailed last year for running against Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, she wanted to stand with her spouse other citizens who have been jailed, tortured and raped for rising up against the authoritarian regime.

Tsikhanouskaya shied away from suggestions she has been fearless or a hero in taking on the role of political agitator.

She says she woke every day in fear of threats she would be jailed and that her children would be taken away, which is why she fled to Lithuania after the August election that was denounced by Canada and its allies as fraudulent.

She praised Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Phillipe Champagne for being the first international official to call her to offer support after her exile.

Tsikhanouskaya urged Canadians and other international allies to speak out against the atrocities being perpetrated against her people in their fight for democracy.

"It's very important for Belarusian people in this difficult period of our lives, in this difficult period of fighting, that the world wouldn't forget about us."

If people tell parents, neighbours and friends about the country's plight, the "more powerful your help" will be, she added.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 18, 2021.

The Canadian Press