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Belarusian opposition leader ‘to address UN’

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Media captionDozens arrested in Belarus as they took to the streets over the 9 August election, widely believed to have been rigged

An exiled Belarusian opposition leader, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, has been invited to address the United Nations Security Council on Friday.

She will speak via video link at the invitation of current member Estonia, Reuters news agency reports.

Ms Tikhanovskaya was forced to leave Belarus after losing to veteran leader Alexander Lukashenko in this month’s disputed presidential election.

Pro-democracy campaigners have vowed to force Mr Lukashenko from office.

They say they will come out on the streets every week until he leaves.

Tens of thousands on Sunday occupied the centre of the capital Minsk for the third week in a row to protest about his victory, and dozens were detained there and in other cities. At least four people have died and hundreds have been injured in the unrest this month.

Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia are to announce travel sanctions on about 30 Belarusian officials including Mr Lukashenko on Monday, Reuters news agency reports.

Mr Lukashenko has led the former Soviet republic of Belarus since 1994, maintaining close relations with neighbouring Russia, on which the country relies heavily for energy supplies and trade.

Where else is Tikhanovskaya speaking?

Ms Tikhanovskaya’s press team announced both plans for a speech to the UN Security Council on 4 September and an address to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on 8 September.

Russia, President Lukashenko’s chief backer, is a permanent member of the UN Security Council, and it is unclear if it will try to stop the Belarusian politician speaking.

Last Monday, Ms Tikhanovskaya told the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee that government intimidation could not stop the protesters. “We will not relent,” she said, speaking from the Lithuanian capital Vilnius. “We demand to respect our basic rights. We demand all political prisoners be free.”

Since moving to Lithuania, the opposition leader has called on Belarusians to continue to demonstrate peacefully against Mr Lukashenko.

Image copyright
EPA

Image caption

Svetlana Tikhanovskaya

Election authorities gave Mr Lukashenko 80% of the vote but Ms Tikhanovskaya said she had won 60-70% based on results that had been properly counted.

On Sunday, the president’s 66th birthday, protesters faced off with riot police in Minsk and at least 140 arrests were made.

Protesters chanted “disgrace” and “leave” in standoffs with police.

On Saturday the authorities withdrew the accreditation of 17 reporters, most of them Belarusian citizens who had been reporting for foreign media outlets including two journalists with the BBC’s Russian service.

Russian President Vladimir Putin telephoned Mr Lukashenko on his birthday and reportedly invited him to visit Moscow.

It appeared to be the latest sign of Kremlin support for a president who has not always been seen positively by Russia.

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