Belarus's opposition says it is preparing to stage a “new phase” of active protests against authoritarian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka, who has faced renewed international pressure over the country's diversion of a civilian airliner and arrest of a dissident journalist who was a passenger on the flight.
In a joint statement on May 26, exiled opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the Coordinating Council that was set up by opposition leaders following a disputed presidential election last year, and other pro-democracy groups said that they “are united in assessing that Belarus has become a ‘black spot’ on the world map as a result of the reckless actions of the illegitimate regime."
Crisis In Belarus
Read our coverage as Belarusian strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka continues his brutal crackdown on NGOs, activists, and independent media following the August 2020 presidential election.
Emphasizing that "the regime is on the verge of total isolation as never before," the statement said "there's nothing more to wait for -- we have to stop the terror once and for all."
The announcement comes three days after Belarus forced a Ryanair flight traveling between EU members Greece and Lithuania to land in the capital, Minsk, and detained journalist and opposition activist Raman Pratasevich and his girlfriend.
The moves have triggered international condemnation, with Western leaders demanding the release of Pratasevich and Sofia Sapega and the EU cutting air links with the increasingly isolated Eastern European nation.
The EU, United States, and other Western nations have already imposed sanctions against the regime of Lukashenka, who has led a violent crackdown on dissent in the country since mass protests broke out over the disputed results of the August 2020 presidential election.
The Belarusian opposition and the West say the election was fraudulent and don’t recognize the result. The opposition says Tsikhanouskaya was the true winner of the vote.