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Tsikhanouskaya Meets Blinken, Senior U.S. Officials, Calls For Support For 'Repressed' Belarusians


Belarusian opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya meets with supporters in Washington on July 18.

Belarusian opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya has held high-level talks in Washington on the second day of a U.S. trip aimed at rallying support for the pro-democracy movement against authoritarian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka.

Tsikhanouskaya met with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland, and other senior U.S. officials on July 19.

"Together with @SecBlinken, @UnderSecStateP, @derekchollet, & @USAmbBelarus we discussed further joint actions on the international arena, how to make Belarus Democracy Act more effective, provide emergency support for free media in Belarus after the regime's crackdown on them," Tsikhanouskaya said on Twitter, referring to the meeting attended by Blinken, Nuland, State Department Counselor Derek Chollet, and U.S. Ambassador to Belarus Julie Fisher.

Fisher has been unable to take up her post in Minsk because the Belarusian government has denied her a visa.

In a separate tweet, Tsikhanouskaya said that during a separate meeting with Blinken she called on the United States to "strengthen help for our civil society, economically & politically pressure the [Lukashenka] regime, & appeal to Russia to play a constructive role in the crisis resolution.

Tsikhanouskaya's team has said she will hold talks at the White House the next day.

The exiled opposition leader is to meet with members of Congress from both parties and attend the opening of the first Friends of Belarus congressional caucus group aimed at supporting the democratic movement in the country.

Also on the agenda are talks with USAID head Samantha Power as Washington pledges support for the Belarusian opposition and civil society.

Tsikhanouskaya's U.S. visit comes as Belarusian security forces in recent weeks have ramped up repression against media and human rights organizations, drawing even greater criticism from Western countries that have already slapped several rounds of sanctions on Lukashenka's regime.

Belarus has been mired in turmoil since a disputed presidential election in August 2020 that gave Lukashenka his sixth consecutive term in power.

The West and opposition say the vote was rigged and Tsikhanouskaya was the true winner.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Belarus Service
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