Tikhanovskaya open for dialogue with Moscow
Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya is open for a meeting with the Russian government. She will accept an invitation from the Russian minister of Foreign Affairs, Sergey Lavrov, she says in an exclusive interview on the Dutch podcast BNR Perestrojkast, exactly six months after Alexander Lukashenko's falsely claimed election victory.
Tikhanovskaya says there are no official talks between her team and Moscow. But there is contact with the Russian government through unofficial channels, she says. From Vilnius, where Tikhanovskaya fled to after the presidential elections, the Belarusian opposition leader says she would like to meet Lavrov in the Lithuanian capital for a cup of coffee. 'We are open to a discussion with Russia. We are open to everyone. To tell about our position and what we are fighting for, in case others don’t understand our point of view.'
Tikhanovskaya realizes that she cannot ignore Moscow. Russia and Belarus have close economic ties. She strives for a good trade relationship with the neighboring country and recognizes that Russia is an influential player. But it is not up to foreign countries to determine the future of Belarus, she says. 'It is up to the Belarusians to force Lukashenko to leave. We have to solve the problems ourselves, not to leave it to other countries.'
Last year she met Western leaders such as Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron and Mark Rutte. She believes that the EU should be 'braver' and 'more decisive' towards Minsk and come up with tougher measures.
'The Belarusians are disappointed by words of support and solidarity only from the EU. There is not enough pressure behind it. We are waiting for the fourth sanction list and hope it will be big enough to give Belarusians the confidence that the EU cares about the victims of repression and the rights of the Belarusians.'
She herself proposes 'three pillars' that include economic sanctions and, second, support for the population. As a third pillar, she calls on EU countries to investigate the crimes committed by Belarusian security services.
As long as Lukashenko stays in place in Belarus, she will not return, Tikhanovskaya says in Perestrojkast. With this she chooses a different path than Alexey Navalny, who flew back to Russia after treatment in Germany for his poisoning and was immediately arrested there. "My job is to lead the country to new elections. I can do more here, in safety. When I return, I will be arrested immediately.'
BNR Perestrojkast is the one and only BNR podcast about Central and Eastern Europe. From Prague to Vladivostok, and from Riga to Tbilisi. A new, fresh episode every 14 days with major international topics.