Blinken meets Belarus opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya in show of support

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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met Monday with Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who urged greater pressure on the regime that she says rigged last year’s elections.

Blinken joined a meeting between Tikhanovskaya and State Department number three Victoria Nuland, known as a forceful critic of Moscow, in a show of support a day before the Belarusian opposition chief holds meetings at the White House.

“I thanked him for supporting Belarusian democratic aspirations,” Tikhanovskaya wrote afterward on Twitter.

“I called on (the United States) to strengthen help for our civil society, economically and politically pressure the regime, and appeal to Russia to play a constructive role in the crisis resolution,” she said.

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President Joe Biden has vowed to ramp up pressure on President Alexander Lukashenko, an ally of Moscow who has been in power for nearly three decades and whose security forces have put down mass protests following the announcement that he secured a sixth term.

Tikhanovskaya, until then a stay-at-home mother, ran in place of her husband who was detained before the election and claimed to have easily won.

“The world has been inspired by the Belarusian people – including the Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya – who continue to bravely demand a meaningful voice in their country’s future in the face of cruel repression,” a US official said last week when announcing her visit.

The United States, European Union, Britain and Canada last month jointly imposed new sanctions on Belarus after a Ryanair passenger flight was grounded in Minsk on the pretext of a security threat, with authorities arresting an opposition activist and his girlfriend who were on board.

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