“Este momento puede suceder en cualquier segundo,” Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya le dijo a Fox News. “La Unión Soviética se derrumbó en seis días. Nadie sabe cuál puede ser el detonante.”
Hablando desde Lituania, where she is living in self-imposed exile after running for president last year, Tsikhanouskaya pointed to the recent defection of a Belarusian Olympian as evidence of a broad crackdown on dissent.
Sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya fled to Poland after publicly falling out with Belarusian team managers during the Games in Tokyo. She said she was warned she faced an unspecified punishment at home.
“The situation with Krystsina shows that nobody is safe,” Tsikhanouskaya said. “Even if you are not in politics — if you have never been in demonstrations or [la] opposition movement — you are under attack as well. If you dare to say a word against this regime, you for sure will be imprisoned.”
The U.S., Britain and Canada announced coordinated sanctions against Belarus on Monday, marking one year since the country’s presidential election and a violent crackdown on ensuing street protests. Alexander Lukashenko was returned for a sixth term, but the U.S. called the election “fraudulento”.
President Biden said the penalties were punishment for “a brutal campaign of repression to stifle dissent” and accused Lukashenko of “an illegitimate effort to hold on to power at any price.”
Lukashenko, who has led Belarus since it gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1994 and is labeled “Europe’s last dictator” by critics, publicly brushed off the sanctions. He said Britain could “choke” on its measures.
But Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya — who met with President Biden at the White House last month — told us her team has had contacts with businesspeople close to Lukashenko who are impacted by the penalties.
“The sanctions that were imposed by democratic countries are very painful for businesses that are around him,” ella dijo, adding that some businesspeople were “looking for a way out of the situation.”
She also insisted dissent is not limited to the general population, but extends to members of the ruling elite.
“Lukashenko’s boat is sinking, and they have to choose if they want to sink with him or build a new country. We want to show them [un] alternative.”
Until last year, Tsikhanouskaya, 38, was a stay-at-home mom. Her children, Envejecido 11 y 5, are with her in Lithuania.
She was thrust into the political spotlight when her husband, Sergei — a blogger who had joined the presidential race — was jailed.
In welcoming U.S. apoyo, Tsikhanouskaya echoed President Biden’s recent assertion that Western democracies are in a race to compete with autocratic governments.
“Belarus is on the front line of this fight,” ella dijo.