4 Feb 2021

Belarus opposition leader says she won’t return until safety guaranteed


The jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has issued a statement from prison, urging Russians to “overcome their fear”.

In a post on his Instagram account he called on people to free the country from a “bunch of thieves” – describing his jail sentence imposed earlier this week as “Putin’s personal revenge”.

But while thousands of Mr Navalny’s supporters have been taking to the streets across Russia – risking violence and arrest – there’s been less sign of mass protests in neighbouring Belarus, where months of demonstrations against President Lukashenko were brutally suppressed.

The country’s opposition leader, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, has been in exile since the disputed election six months ago. She is an English teacher who only ran for office after her husband – the original candidate – was arrested. Now, from her temporary home in Lithuania, she is calling for an international day of solidarity. And she tells us she will not be returning to Belarus unless her safety can be guaranteed.