Tsikhanouskaya Calls For 'Crucial' International Conference On Belarus

Belarusian opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya has called for a high-level international conference on resolving the crisis in her country.

Tsikhanouskaya said on Twitter it is “crucial” to hold such a conference with the participation of the Belarusian “democratic forces, national governments, parliaments, and civil society groups from the European Union, Russia, Britain, and the United States” along with representatives of Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s regime.

Tsikhanouskaya on May 6 also called on the European Union to publish a comprehensive plan for Belarus that will help civil society and the country’s economy.

Tsikhanouskaya said she sent these requests in a letter to the foreign ministers of the European Union and the foreign relations committees of the EU countries on May 4.

Earlier on May 6, Tsikhanouskaya testified virtually before a U.S. congressional commission, also requesting a high-level conference in her remarks.

She called on the United States to use diplomacy “to further isolate Lukashenka, to underscore his point of political no-return has passed.”

Describing human rights abuses and “relentless political repression" in her country, she asked Congress to increase its support for civil society, independent media, and human rights defenders in exile and in Belarus.

The opposition leader claims to have won last August’s presidential election and has sought to unite opposition forces in the face of a brutal crackdown on mass protests by Lukashenka’s regime.

The United States and the EU have imposed sanctions on senior figures in Lukashenka’s government over what they say was a fraudulent election and ongoing human rights abuses.

In April, the United States said it would not renew a special license authorizing transactions with nine state-owned Belarusian companies.

Tsikhanouskaya called those sanctions "among the most effective measures," but she called on Washington to punish other entities and regime figures in her country, namely those responsible for human rights violations in Belarus.

Tsikhanouskaya also noted the strain on her family since her husband, vlogger Syarhey Tsikhanouski, was arrested last year after he and other opposition politicians and activists demanded election officials allow independent candidates to register for the election.

Tsikhanouski, who ran a popular YouTube channel called The Country For Life, faces many more years in prison if convicted of the charges against him related to his attempt to participate in the election.

"For almost a year, my children have been asking me every day where their father is and when he will be back," said Tsikhanouskaya, who ran in her husband’s place after he was arrested.

Tsikhanouski is one of more than 300 political prisoners caught up in the crackdown. Almost 30,000 people have been detained since the election, according to human rights groups. Tsikhanouskaya put the number of people detained at more than 35,000 and said there were more than 3,000 criminal cases. At least eight people have been killed, she said.

With reporting by AFP and dpa

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