Lithuania has granted the Belarusian pro-democratic opposition led by Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya official status in the EU country.
"Today, the Belarusian democratic representation in Lithuania is an accredited institution," Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said in Vilnius on July 5.
"We hope that this will help representatives of the democratic forces of Belarus to be heard in foreign countries," he added.
Tsikhanouskaya and much of the Belarusian opposition has been in exile in Lithuania since authoritarian Belarusian ruler Alyaksandr Lukashenka launched a crackdown following the disputed August 2020 presidential election.
Lithuania has been one of the loudest critics of Lukashenka, calling for a robust EU response against his regime.
Crisis In Belarus
Read our ongoing coverage as Belarusian strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka continues his brutal crackdown on NGOs, activists, and independent media following the August 2020 presidential election, widely seen as fraudulent.
The democracy movement views Tsikhanouskaya as the true winner of the election, and the West has refused to recognize the official results of the vote and does not consider Lukashenka to be the country's legitimate leader.
Landsbergis said Tsikhanouskaya's team had been accredited against the "backdrop of the illegitimate Lukashenka regime's ongoing repression and violence against the people of Belarus, who are fighting for their rights and freedoms, and a democratic future of their country."
Although not a full diplomatic mission with full rights and privileges granted to a state, the official status of the opposition gives it additional legitimacy.
Tsikhanouskaya said on Telegram that Lithuania's move "launched a new stage in the delegitimization of the regime."
"This is the first EU country to take this step, and work is already under way to open representations of the people of Belarus in other countries," she said.