Belarus opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya pushed Tuesday for the United States to apply pressure to the government of President Alexander Lukashenko, including through the use of sanctions.
“Sanctions is not silver bullet, but they can help to stop violence in Belarus and to make representatives of the regime to start dialogue with civil society,” Tsikhanouskaya told VOA.
She spoke outside the White House after talks with U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan, one of a series of meetings this week with officials from the Biden administration and the U.S. Congress.
“I asked the U.S. to be the guarantors of our independence, that they will stand for our independence if it is under the threat. Because our independence is the highest value for Belarusians,” Tsikhanouskaya told VOA.
She said she asked that the United States provide more support for civil society groups in Belarus, and that it is up to democratic countries to “support those who are fighting now.”
Tsikhanouskaya was the main challenger to Lukashenko in an August 2020 election that the opposition and many Western governments considered rigged. Lukashenko denies the allegation. She fled the country after the election as Lukashenko’s government cracked down on protests.
“The United States, together with partners and allies, will continue to hold the Lukashenka regime accountable for its actions, including through the imposition of sanctions,” U.S. National Security Council spokesperson Emily Horne said in a statement about Tuesday’s meeting.
State Department spokesman Ned Price, speaking to reporters at a Tuesday briefing, said sanctions are “a powerful tool,” and that the United States supports the aspirations of the people of Belarus “for a democratic, free and prosperous future.”
“We are committed to close coordination with likeminded allies and partners on next steps, just as we have been in demonstrating our response to the crackdown, to the outrageous actions in recent weeks of the Lukashenko regime,” Price said. “We support international efforts to independently look into Belarus’s flawed election, its human rights abuses surrounding the election, and the crackdown that followed.”
VOA Russian service’s Mykhailo Komadovsky contributed to the report.