Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya

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Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya
Святлана Ціханоўская
Svjatlana Cichanouská, Praha, 7.6.2021.jpg
Tsikhanouskaya in 2021
President of the Coordination Council of Belarus
Assumed office
14 August 2020
Prime MinisterPavel Latushko (Head of National Anti-Crisis Management)
Preceded byPosition established
Personal details
Born
Sviatlana Heorhiyeuna Pilipchuk

(1982-09-11) 11 September 1982 (age 40)
Mikashevichy, Byelorussian SSR, Soviet Union
Political partyIndependent
Spouse
(m. 2004)
Children2
EducationMozyr State Pedagogical University
WebsiteOfficial website

Sviatlana Heorhiyeuna Tsikhanouskaya[a] (née Pilipchuk;[b] born 11 September 1982) is a Belarusian educator and the leader of the Belarusian democratic movement. She ran in the 2020 Belarusian presidential election as the main opposition candidate after her husband Sergei Tikhanovsky was arrested in Hrodna by Belarusian authorities. After Lukashenko declared himself the winner she fled via Lithuania and since August 2020 she works with a staff of 16 people in exile in Poland.

She has been nominated twice for the Nobel Peace Prize for playing a leading role in non-violently challenging Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and calling for fair elections.

Early life and education[edit]

Until 2020 Tsikhanouskaya was an English teacher[1][2] and interpreter.[3] She spent many summers in Roscrea, Co. Tipperary, Ireland, as part of a programme for children affected by the Chernobyl disaster.[4] She is married to YouTuber, blogger, and pro-democracy activist Sergei Tikhanovsky, who was arrested in May 2020.[2] The couple have a son and a daughter.[1]

Political career[edit]

2020 Belarusian presidential election campaign[edit]

After her husband's arrest on 29 May, Tsikhanouskaya announced her intention to run in his place. She registered as an Independent candidate on 14 July 2020.[5] After registering, she was endorsed by the campaigns of Valery Tsepkalo and Viktar Babaryka, two prominent opposition politicians who were barred from registering, with one being arrested and the other fleeing the country. During the presidential campaign a photo of Tsikhanouskaya with Maria Kolesnikova (Babaryka's campaign chief), and Veronika Tsepkalo (Valery Tsepkalo's wife), became a symbol of her campaign.[6]

The night before the election, police detained senior staffers from Tsikhanouskaya's campaign and she chose to go into hiding in Minsk, before re-emerging on election day at a polling station.[7]

Harassment[edit]

Before the presidential campaign, Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko insisted that the country was not ready for a female president.[8] Her campaign began as Amnesty International condemned Belarus's discriminatory treatment of women opposition activists, including threats of sexual violence[9] and threats by authorities to take children away from opposition figures and send them to state-run orphanages.[9][10] In response to the threats, Tsikhanouskaya sent her children abroad to live with their grandmother.[10][1][11] During the presidential campaign, Tsikhanouskaya was repeatedly threatened,[12] recounting phone calls from unknown numbers, addressing to her: "We will put you behind bars and place your children in an orphanage."[1] Tsikhanouskaya said she nevertheless decided to persevere in her campaign: "There must be a symbol of freedom."[1]

Platform[edit]

Tsikhanouskaya said that she ran for president out of love, to free her husband from prison.[13] She has vowed to free all political prisoners in Belarus, to introduce democratic reforms to the country, and to move away from the union treaty with Russia, which many Belarusian opposition activists view as an infringement on the country's sovereignty.[1] She has also pledged to set a referendum on returning to the original draft of the 1994 Belarusian constitution, reinstating a limit of two terms for the president.[7][14] She has said that her main goal is to establish free and fair elections. She views the current election as illegitimate due to the government's refusal to register Lukashenko's main political opponents as candidates. She has pledged to deliver a plan for transparent and accountable elections within six months of taking office.[15]

Tsikhanouskaya's economic platform emphasizes increasing the importance of small and medium sized businesses in the Belarusian economy. She plans to offer interest free loans to small and medium sized businesses, cancel state inspections of private entities and provide legal protection for foreign investors. Tsikhanouskaya intends to allow profitable state owned enterprises to continue to operate, while requiring unprofitable state owned enterprises to get help from outside professionals.[16]

Supporters[edit]

Tsikhanouskaya at a rally in Vitebsk on 24 July 2020

Though running as an independent candidate, Tsikhanouskaya attracted support from across the spectrum of Belarus's political opposition. Vital Rymašeŭski, co-leader of Belarusian Christian Democracy, announced his party's support, as did the Belarusian Social Democratic Party (Assembly), United Civic Party of Belarus and Belarusian Women's Party "Nadzieja".[17][18] She also received support from 2010 presidential candidate Mikola Statkevich.[18] Ivonka Survilla, president of the Rada of the Belarusian People's Republic expressed her support for Tsikhanouskaya.[19]

Rallies in support of Tsikhanouskaya and in opposition to Lukashenko have been the largest in the history of post-Soviet Belarus, attracting crowds of 20,000 in Brest and 60,000 in Minsk.[1]

Official results[edit]

The official results published by the Central Election Commission of Belarus[20][21] gave Tsikhanouskaya 588,622 votes, or 10.12% of the vote, to Lukashenko's 80.10%. However, allegations of wide-spread fraud were immediately made public, including a formal complaint to the Central Election Commission (CEC) by Tsikhanouskaya.[22]

Election aftermath[edit]

Exile[edit]

Tsikhanouskaya addresses Members of the European Parliament in November 2021

After Belarusian state television released an exit poll showed Lukashenko winning by an overwhelming margin, Tsikhanouskaya said that she didn't trust that poll, saying, "I believe my eyes, and I see that the majority is with us."[23] She filed a formal complaint with the Central Election Commission on election night, but was detained for seven hours in retaliation. After her release from detention, Tsikhanouskaya chose to flee to Lithuania in fear of repercussions, which could have possibly affected her children. She was escorted to the Lithuanian border by Belarusian security forces, reportedly a condition of a deal securing the release of her campaign manager, Maria Moroz.[24][25]

Tsikhanouskaya with US President Joe Biden at the White House in July 2021

On 11 August, 2020 Lithuanian foreign minister Linas Linkevičius announced that Tsikhanouskaya was "safe" in Lithuania while also acknowledging that she had "few options".[26] Also on 11 August, the State Security Committee of Belarus announced that an attempt was being made on Tsikhanouskaya's life, saying that the protesters needed a "sacred sacrifice".[27] Later that night, state television released a video message from Tsikhanouskaya in which she seemingly conceded defeat and urged the end of protests. However, the stark change in demeanor and message led allies to claim that the video had been coerced, with some going as far as to liken it to a hostage video.[24][28]

The Polish government allotted a residence for Tsikhanouskaya and other members of the Belarusian opposition in the Praga-Południe district of Warsaw. She opened the residence along with the Belarusian House in Warsaw during a visit to Warsaw a couple days later[when?] where she met with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.[29] Her fellow opposition activist Valery Tsepkalo has also moved to Poland from Ukraine.[30] On 20 July 2021, Tsikhanouskaya said that she had asked officials of the US Biden administration to impose further sanctions on Belarusian companies of potash, oil, wood and steel sectors, during a visit to Washington, D.C.[31]

Work with Coordination Council[edit]

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya and Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg in Vienna in October 2020

On 14 August, 2020 Tsikhanouskaya released a video in which she claimed to have defeated Lukashenko in the first round by a decisive margin, with as little as 60% of the vote and as much as 70%.[32][33] She appealed to the international community to recognise her as the winner.[34] Tsikhanouskaya also announced the establishment of a Coordination Council to handle the transfer of power from Lukashenko.[33] Applications for membership in the council were open to any Belarusian citizen who recognised the election as having been falsified, and who was trusted by a social group by being an authoritative figure such as a doctor, a teacher, a business leader, an author or a sportsperson.[35]

On 17 August, 2020 Tsikhanouskaya released a video where she stated that she was ready to head a transitional government[36][37] and organise a new, free and fair presidential election.[38]

On 20 August, 2020 Lithuanian prime minister Saulius Skvernelis invited Tsikhanouskaya to his office and publicly referred to her as "the national leader of Belarus".[39] On 31 August, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya was invited to address the United Nations Security Council.[40]

On 8 September, 2020 Tsikhanouskaya addressed the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. She called for sanctions against Lukashenko, and "stated that Lukashenko doesn't have any legitimacy after stealing the vote, warning other countries against making any deals with the Belarussian government", and said that "He does not represent Belarus any more."[41]

On 9 September, 2020 Tsikhanouskaya said that the Belarusian opposition wants to have good relations with all nations, including Russia: "We cannot turn away from Russia because it will always be our neighbor, and we need to have good relations with them."[42]

On 10 September, 2020 a law was passed by the Lithuanian Parliament which recognises Tsikhanouskaya as the "elected leader of the people of Belarus" and the Coordination Council as the "only legitimate representatives of the Belarusian people". The resolution also declares that Lukashenko is an "illegitimate leader".[43]

On 17 September 2020, the European Parliament recognised the coordination council as the "interim representation of the people demanding democratic change" in Belarus.[44] On the same day, she released a black list of OMON officers, dubbed "Taraikovsky's List" after Alexander Taraikovsky who was killed by the OMON.[45]

Office of Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya[edit]

The Office of Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya continues its work in exile and as of March 2021 consists of:[46]

  • Alexander Dabravolski, Advisor to Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, Head of the Internal Policy Department
  • Anna Krasulina, Press Secretary
  • Anastasiya Rahatko, Head of the Communications Department
  • Anastasiya Kostyugova, Strategic Communications Officer
  • Jana Paliashchuk, International Communications Officer
  • Alexandra Logvinova, Head of Public Outreach
  • Alina Herashchanka, Volunteer Program Coordinator
  • Franak Viačorka, Senior Advisor to Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, Head of the Foreign Policy Department
  • Dzianis Kuchynski, Senior Foreign Affairs Officer
  • Alexander Shlyk, Special Representative on Elections
  • Valery Kavaleuski, Head of the Cabinet, Representative on Foreign Affairs
  • Tatiana Shchyttsova, Representative on Education and Science
  • Aleś Alaсhnovič, Representative on Economic Reforms
  • Kristina Rikhter, Acting Representative on Legal Affairs
  • Anatoly Lebedko, Representative for the Constitutional Reform and Parliamentary Cooperation
  • Alana Gebremariam, Representative for Youth and Student Affairs (currently imprisoned)

Post-election activity[edit]

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya was the first speaker at the Helmut Schmidt Lecture of the Bundeskanzler-Helmut-Schmidt-Stiftung on 10 November 2021, which took place under the title "Living Democracy!" and in cooperation with the Global Public Policy Institute (GPPi) in Berlin.[47]

2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine[edit]

On 26 February 2022, in response to the Belarus participation in the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, Tsikhanouskaya posted a tweet stating "…I declared myself as the national leader of Belarus to protect the sovereignty & independence of our country, represent it in security negotiations & crisis management in the region", and mentioned that she "will create a transitional cabinet", after claiming that "Belarus has lost its independence" and alleged President "Lukashenka committed high treason" in the video in the tweet.[48][49]

On 2 March 2022 Tsihanouskaya announced anti-war mobilisation and posted a manifesto of the anti-war movement calling Belarusians to oppose Russian invasion in Ukraine and imploring Belarusian soldiers to refuse to participate in the war.[50]

On 11 March 2022 Tsikhanouskaya endorsed the creation of the Belarusian volunteer battalion fighting in Ukraine Kastuś Kalinoŭski Battalion, she noted that "more and more people from Belarus join to help Ukrainians defend their country".[51][52]

Creation of an alternative cabinet[edit]

On August 9, 2022, Tsikhanouskaya declared at a conference held in Vilnius, Lithuania, the declaration of "a united interim government". It consists of Pavel Latushko (responsible for the transition of power), Alyaksandr Azarau, (responsible for the restoration of law and order), Valer Kavaleuski, (foreign affairs), and Valer Sakhashchyk (defense and national security).[53]

Awards[edit]

Tsikhanouskaya addresses the European Parliament in 2021

Tsikhanouskaya was on the list of the BBC's 100 Women announced on 23 November 2020.[54] and was included in the 2020 edition of The Bloomberg 50.[55]

Tsikhanouskaya and other Belarus leaders of the country's democratic opposition were awarded the European Parliament's 2020 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in a ceremony on December 16 in Brussels.[56][57] In 2021, she was nominated for the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize by President of Lithuania Gitanas Nausėda and multiple Norwegian members of parliament.[58][59][60] She and other Belarus leaders of the country's democratic opposition won the 2022 Charlemagne Prize.[61]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ also Śviatłana Hieorhijeŭna Cichanoŭskaja in the Belarusian Latin alphabet and Svetlana Georgyevna Tikhanovskaya in Russian
  2. ^ Belarusian: Святлана Георгіеўна Ціханоўская, née Піліпчук, pronounced [sʲvʲaˈtlana ɣʲɛˈɔrɣʲijɛwna t͡sʲixaˈnɔwskaja], née [pʲilʲipˈt͡ʂuk]; Russian: Светлана Георгиевна Тихановская, née Пилипчук, romanizedSvetlana Georgiyevna Tikhanovskaya, née Pilipchuk, pronounced [svʲɪˈtlanə ɡʲɪˈorɡʲɪ(j)ɪvnə tʲɪxɐˈnofskəjə], née [pʲɪlʲɪpˈtɕuk]

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  50. ^ "Светлана Тихановская on Instagram: "Я объявляю антивоенную мобилизацию. Вот Манифест Антивоенного движения Противостояние войне в Украине и борьба за демократию – это теперь две цели одного большого Движения. Мобилизация уже идет полным ходом. Но если нужно, чтобы я, взяв на себя ответственность национального лидера, сказала это официально, то я говорю. Я объявляю антивоенную мобилизацию. В ближайшую неделю все наши действия должны привести к двум результатам: Беларусов перестают воспринимать как агрессоров. Беларусские военные отказываются участвовать в войне или сразу переходят на сторону украинцев. Прямо сейчас мы должны: Первое. Работать с информационным фронтом, распространять правду и бороться с пропагандой – чтобы мешать информационной войне, которую ведут диктаторы. Второе. Мобилизовать матерей, чтобы помешать отправке их сыновей, братьев и мужей воевать против украинцев. Оказывать давление на органы власти и военкоматы – требовать информации о местоположении ваших мужчин и прекращения отправки на фронт. Третье. Делать всё, чтобы мешать режиму воевать. Проявлять неповиновение, готовить забастовку, выводить из строя технику и замедлять её работу. Парализовать работу государственной инфраструктуры, не вредя здоровью и жизням людей. Четвертое. Усилить экономическое сопротивление. Забирать вклады, обналичивать счета, лишать режим денег. Пятое. Формировать беларусский корпус из добровольцев, которые готовы защищать Украинские города, быть медиками или логистами на стороне Украины. Ссылки на все организации — в моём телеграм-канале, фейсбуке, одноклассниках, ютубе под таким же видео. Переходите и присоединяйтесь. Вот план. И он сработает, когда каждый возьмет на себя ответственность за его исполнение."". Instagram.com. Retrieved 4 August 2022.
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