Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. World
  2. Europe
17 November 2021updated 19 Nov 2021 9:22am

Exclusive: Svetlana Tikhanovskaya calls for tougher EU sanctions on Belarus

In an interview with the New Statesman, the exiled opposition leader says that recognising Lukashenko’s leadership would be giving into blackmail.

By Ido Vock

Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, the exiled Belarusian opposition leader widely believed to have won the country’s 2020 presidential election, has called for EU sanctions on the regime of Alexander Lukashenko to be strengthened.

In an interview with the New Statesman, Tikhanovskaya, who lives in exile in Lithuania, said that she worried the migrant crisis at Belarus’s borders with Lithuania and Poland was drawing attention away from the effects of Lukashenko’s rule on Belarusians. 

“I think that much more could be done and I hope that stronger sanctions will be imposed on the Lukashenko regime,” Tikhanovskaya said. “I understand that the fifth package [of EU sanctions] that is going to be imposed will be only about the migrant crisis. But I have to say that the migrant crisis cannot be discussed in separation from the political crisis [within Belarus].

“We are asking for stronger sanctions that do not take into consideration only the migration crisis, but also that there are millions of people suffering because of this dictatorship,” Tikhanovskaya said. 

The Estonian foreign minister, Eva-Maria Liimets, has said that Lukashenko suggested he could end the migrant crisis in return for EU countries lifting sanctions on his regime and recognising him, rather than Tikhanovskaya, as the legitimate president of Belarus. 

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. A handy, three-minute glance at the week ahead in companies, markets, regulation and investment, landing in your inbox every Monday morning. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.

For Tikhanovskaya, this suggestion is a non-starter. “You can’t recognise Lukashenko; you can’t talk to him… Western countries are strong enough not to allow a dictator to blackmail them.” 

She added that the continuation of the Lukashenko regime is the root cause of the various crises Belarus has experienced over the past year, from the crackdown on the opposition that forced Tikhanovskaya to flee the country, to the grounding of a Ryanair flight and subsequent arrest of the blogger Roman Protasevich and his girlfriend. 

Content from our partners
The shrinking road to net zero
The tree-planting misconception
Is your business ready for corporate climate reporting?

“If only the migration crisis is solved, the regime will soon invent another means to pressure and blackmail the EU,” Tikhanovskaya said.

[see also: The West must confront Russia and Belarus to avert catastrophe]