Support 110 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. 

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.

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. 

“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]

Content from our partners
What you need to know about private markets
Work isn't working: how to boost the nation's health and happiness
The dementia crisis: a call for action