Russia plays down role of Belarus opposition figure Tikhanovskaya

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Russia played down the role of Belarus opposition figure Svetlana Tikhanovskaya on Wednesday, saying President Vladimir Putin had no plans to meet her.

Tikhanovskaya, a 38-year-old political novice, claimed victory over strongman leader Alexander Lukashenko in a presidential election in August but she was forced to flee to Lithuania as massive protests broke out over the disputed vote.

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She has met French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, but Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday the Russian leader had no plans to follow suit.

“No contacts are being planned,” Peskov told reporters. “Madame Tikhanovskaya is not in Belarus. One can hardly say that she is somehow involved in Belarus’s life.

“She is meeting with various heads of state and government who consider Belarus’s sitting president illegitimate.”

Tikhanovskaya has sought to rally international pressure on the Minsk regime, as protests continue on the streets of Belarus.

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Speaking in Berlin on Wednesday, she said it was not up to Putin to decide the fate of her country but added that she would welcome his involvement in mediating the political crisis.

“We don’t want to say that Putin has to decide how to solve our problems. This is our internal problem,” she told reporters in the German parliament’s lower house, the Bundestag.

“We want to invite him to be a mediator,” she said in English.

The United States and the EU have hit Belarus officials with sanctions, drawing an angry response from Minsk and its ally Moscow.

Tikhanovskaya joined the political fray after her blogger husband was barred from registering as a presidential candidate and arrested for allegedly plotting to overthrow the government.