Opposition leader says Belarus shouldn’t fight for Russia

Oct 24, 2022, 10:29 PM | Updated: Oct 25, 2022, 10:33 am
Belarus exiled opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya speaks during her interview with Associat...

Belarus exiled opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya speaks during her interview with Associated Press in Tallinn, Estonia, Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2022. Belarusian opposition on Tuesday said that Belarusian soldiers should lay down their arms if Minsk deploys them to Ukraine under pressure from Moscow. Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who has been in exile in Lithuania since 2020, spoke out against Belarus' direct involvement in the war in Ukraine, but said that the ex-Soviet country's leadership became the hostage of its powerful ally Russia. (AP Photo)

(AP Photo)

              Belarus exiled opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya speaks during her interview with Associated Press in Tallinn, Estonia, Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2022. Belarusian opposition on Tuesday said that Belarusian soldiers should lay down their arms if Minsk deploys them to Ukraine under pressure from Moscow. Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who has been in exile in Lithuania since 2020, spoke out against Belarus' direct involvement in the war in Ukraine, but said that the ex-Soviet country's leadership became the hostage of its powerful ally Russia. (AP Photo)
            
              Belarus exiled opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya speaks during her interview with Associated Press in Tallinn, Estonia, Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2022. Belarusian opposition on Tuesday said that Belarusian soldiers should lay down their arms if Minsk deploys them to Ukraine under pressure from Moscow. Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who has been in exile in Lithuania since 2020, spoke out against Belarus' direct involvement in the war in Ukraine, but said that the ex-Soviet country's leadership became the hostage of its powerful ally Russia. (AP Photo)
            
              Belarus exiled opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya leaves after her interview with Associated Press in Tallinn, Estonia, Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2022. Belarusian opposition on Tuesday said that Belarusian soldiers should lay down their arms if Minsk deploys them to Ukraine under pressure from Moscow. Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who has been in exile in Lithuania since 2020, spoke out against Belarus' direct involvement in the war in Ukraine, but said that the ex-Soviet country's leadership became the hostage of its powerful ally Russia. (AP Photo)
            
              Belarus exiled opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya speaks during her interview with Associated Press in Tallinn, Estonia, Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2022. Belarusian opposition on Tuesday said that Belarusian soldiers should lay down their arms if Minsk deploys them to Ukraine under pressure from Moscow. Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who has been in exile in Lithuania since 2020, spoke out against Belarus' direct involvement in the war in Ukraine, but said that the ex-Soviet country's leadership became the hostage of its powerful ally Russia. (AP Photo)

TALLINN, Estonia (AP) — An opposition leader in exile from Belarus said Tuesday that her country’s soldiers should lay down their arms if they are deployed to Ukraine under pressure from Russia.

Russia used Belarus as a staging ground for troops and weapons when it invaded Ukraine eight months ago. Concerns persist that the authoritarian president of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, might agree to send his own troops south into Ukraine.

Opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who has been in exile in Lithuania since 2020, said the leadership of Belarus has become a hostage of powerful allies in Moscow who provide political and economic support. She opposes the direct involvement of Belarus in the war.

“If it happens that under pressure, under threats, Belarusian troops will be deployed, we’re urging our soldiers to lay down their arms, join the guerillas, change sides, join the Ukrainian military,” Tsikhnouskaya said during a visit to Estonia.

Moscow has pumped billions of dollars into shoring up the Soviet-style, state-controlled economy of Belarus with cheap energy and loans. Lukashenko, who has been president since 1994, survived the largest mass protests in the country’s history following a 2020 presidential election that the opposition and the West denounced as rigged.

Tsikhanouskaya ran against Lukashenko in that election, and many believed she won. She was forced to leave Belarus under pressure from the government.

“Lukashenko, of course, is very dependent on the Kremlin, because it is the Kremlin that helped him in 2020 to hold on to power, and right now he is paying his debt to the Kremlin,” Tsikhanouskaya told The Associated Press.

Lukashenko has publicly supported Russia’s attack on Ukraine, drawing international criticism and sanctions against Minsk. Still, he has repeatedly rebuffed speculation that Belarus would send its own soldiers to fight alongside Russia.

Earlier this month, however, Belarusian authorities announced the establishment of a joint “regional grouping of troops” with Russia and said some 9,000 Russian soldiers would be stationed in Belarus.

Tsikhanouskaya said there currently was no evidence of a planned Belarusian deployment in Ukraine. The 1,000-kilometer Belarus-Ukraine border has been mined, she pointed out, and “the Ukrainian forces are also prepared for the possible offensive” from Belarus.

She also spoke out against Belarus storing Russian nuclear weapons — a possibility Lukashenko also has mentioned.

“A possible scheme they have is following: if the irrational thinking of Putin, all of the sudden, leads to doing this terrible thing with terrible outcome, it will be done from the territory of Belarus, (so Putin can) demonstrate that ‘I’m not alone like this, I have an ally,'” Tiskhanouskaya predicted.

In the meantime, hundreds of Belarusians volunteered to fight in Ukraine as part of the Kastus Kalinousky regiment. A separate guerilla movement in Belarus has disrupted the movement by rail of Russian military equipment.

“A guy who in 2020 took his shoes off to stand on a bench (during a demonstration) is fighting in the Kalinousky regiment now,” Tsikhahouskaya said. “We see that Belarusians are not all that patient… But I remain committed to peaceful change.”

Tsikhanouskaya has formed a Cabinet in exile, and two former high-level security officials joined it. She invited Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to form “an alliance with the democratic Belarus” but has not yet received a response.

Still, Tsikhanouskaya said, one “should view Belarus as occupied territory.”

“Now is not the time to compare our pains,” Tsikhanouskaya said. “We are now in the same boat. Of course, the situation is completely different; there is … a terrible war there while in Belarus there are political and military repressions. But we draw on the fact that Russia considers neither Ukraine, nor Belarus sovereign independent states.”

Lukashenko harshly suppressed mass antigovernment protests triggered by his 2020 reelection. Police arrested 35,000 people and brutally beat scores. Tsikhanouskaya told the AP that 150,000-200,000 Belarusians have left the country, and 1,349 political prisoners are currently behind bars.

They include the co-winner of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, Ales Bialiatski, founder of Belarus’ most prominent human rights group, and opposition politician Siarhei Tsikhanouski, who is Tsikhanouskaya’s husband.

___

Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin speaks during a briefing at the Pentagon in Washington, Nov. ...
Associated Press

Pentagon chief: US faces pivotal years in countering China

SIMI VALLEY, Calif. (AP) — The U.S. is at a pivotal point with China and will need military strength to ensure that American values, not Beijing’s, set global norms in the 21st century, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Saturday. Austin’s speech at the Reagan National Defense Forum capped a week in which the Pentagon was […]
2 days ago
Associated Press

Jury awards ex-Maine trooper $300,000 in whistleblower case

BANGOR, Maine (AP) — A jury in Maine awarded a now-retired state trooper $300,000 Friday after finding that the state police retaliated against him when he raised concerns about the agency’s intelligence gathering work. George Loder, 53, filed a whistleblower lawsuit alleging that he was unfairly punished after he went to his superiors with concerns […]
2 days ago
This undated photo from Wise County Sheriff's Office shows Tanner Lynn Horner. Horner, 31, was arre...
Associated Press

Body of 7-year-old Texas girl found, FedEx driver arrested

PARADISE, Texas (AP) — A 7-year-old Texas girl has been found dead, two days after being reported missing, and a FedEx delivery driver arrested in her death, authorities said. The body of Athena Strand was found Friday and Tanner Lynn Horner, 31, was arrested on kidnapping and murder charges after confessing to killing the girl […]
2 days ago
Associated Press

Scientists call for action to help sunflower sea stars

ASTORIA, Ore. (AP) — Scientists along the West Coast are calling for action to help sunflower sea stars, among the largest sea stars in the world, recover from catastrophic population declines. Experts say a sea star wasting disease epidemic that began in 2013 has decimated about 95% of the population from the Aleutian Islands of […]
2 days ago
Associated Press

Pug who went viral on TikTok for ‘no bones day’ dies

Noodles, a senior pug who predicted on social media whether it would be a bones day or a no bones day, has died, according to his owner. Jonathan Graziano posted on Instagram on Saturday that his 14-year-old dog died Friday, calling it a “day I always knew was coming but never thought it would arrive.” […]
2 days ago
Associated Press

Moldova signs new energy deal that could ease blackout risk

CHISINAU, Moldova (AP) — Moldova has struck a deal to renew severed electricity supplies from its breakaway, Moscow-backed region of Transnistria to lower the risk of more massive blackouts amid an acute winter energy crisis, a senior Moldovan official said Saturday. Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Spinu said Moldovan state power company Energocom has signed a […]
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.
SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Opposition leader says Belarus shouldn’t fight for Russia