Exiled Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya plans to attend United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) meetings in person for the first time since the disputed Belarusian presidential election in August 2020, according to diplomatic sources close to her.
The sources say Tsikhanouskaya and her delegation will address ongoing political repression by Belarusian authorities under the rule of President Alexander Lukashenko and call for the immediate release of all political prisoners.
They say Lukashenko’s facilitation of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine would also be discussed during Tsikhanouskaya’s participation in UNGA events from September 18-22.
The Belarusian opposition leader spoke to a virtual informal session of the U.N. Security Council two years ago.
Tsikhanouskaya fled Belarus two days after the August 9, 2020 election, after police detained her for several hours. Lukashenko was declared the winner despite claims by opposition leaders that the vote was rigged.
Security officials cracked down on pro-democracy protests, arresting opposition leaders and journalists. Currently there are more than 1,200 political prisoners in Belarus, according to the State Department.
The United States has imposed sanctions and visa restrictions against Lukashenko’s regime for what U.S. officials call “destabilizing behavior and human rights abuses.” In return, Belarusian authorities requested that Washington reduce its embassy staff in Minsk, denying a visa to the U.S. envoy to Belarus.
U.S. President Joe Biden met with Tsikhanouskaya on July 28, 2021, at the White House, where he expressed support for the Belarusian people’s quest for democracy and universal human rights.
In April of this year, Tsikhanouskaya met with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman. The top U.S. diplomats said Lukashenka’s regime should be held accountable for its “complicity” in Russia’s war against Ukraine.