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Biden Backs 'Quest for Democracy, Human Rights' In Talks With Belarusian Opposition Leader


Belarusian opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya (left) meets with U.S. President Joe Biden at the White House on July 28.
Belarusian opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya (left) meets with U.S. President Joe Biden at the White House on July 28.

U.S. President Joe Biden has met with the self-exiled Belarusian opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya in Washington, declaring after their talks that the United States "stands with the people of Belarus in their quest for democracy and universal human rights."

In a statement on Twitter after his meeting with Tsikhanouskaya, Biden said he was "honored" to host her at the White House on the morning of July 28.

Tsikhanouskaya said in a Twitter statement that Biden had made "a powerful sign of solidarity with millions of fearless Belarusians who are peacefully fighting for their freedom."

"Today, Belarus is on the frontline of the battle between democracy and autocracy," she said. "The world stands with us. Belarus will be a success story."

Speaking after the meeting with Current Time, the Russian-language network led by RFE/RL in cooperation with VOA, Tsikhanouskaya said her talks with Biden had been short but very cordial.

"As President Biden's schedule is busy, we did not spend much time together -- about 15 minutes -- but it was a very warm meeting," Tsikhanouskaya said.

"I saw a person who is not indifferent," she said. "He is not indifferent to what is happening in Belarus. I brought to the president our messages: that the fight in Belarus is not geopolitical -- it is our fight against violence and lawlessness; that our values are the same."

Tsikhanouskaya also said that she left the White House "with confidence that the United States will be with Belarusians both now and then -- after a new election."

Tsikhanouskaya has been in the United States since July 18 in an attempt to rally support for her pro-democracy movement against Belarus's authoritarian ruler Alyaksandr Lukashenka.

Her schedule has included high-level meetings at the State Department and the White House -- including talks with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland as well as the U.S. national-security adviser, Jake Sullivan.

She has also met with members of the U.S. Congress from both the Democratic and Republican parties.

In those earlier meetings, Tsikhanouskaya urged the United States to guarantee the independence of her country and support the Belarusian opposition's calls for a fresh presidential election.

WATCH: Belarusian Opposition Leader: Biden 'Not Indifferent' To Belarus

Belarusian Opposition Leader: Biden 'Not Indifferent' To Belarus
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She has said that she has also asked U.S. officials to impose more sanctions on Belarusian companies in response to a brutal government crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in Belarus -- including sanctions in key economic sectors such as potash, oil, wood, and steel

Belarus has been mired in turmoil since a disputed presidential vote in August 2020 in which election officials declared that Lukashenka had won a sixth consecutive term in power.

Lukashenka, who maintains support from key ally and financial backer Russia, has since put down street protests and dissent over the vote with sometimes lethal force, jailing thousands of people and forcing most opposition leaders who haven't been imprisoned to leave the country.

The opposition says the vote was rigged and Tsikhanouskaya, who has been in exile since Lukashenka launched his crackdown, was the true winner.

The West refuses to recognize the official results of the election and does not consider Lukashenka to be the country's legitimate leader.

The European Union, the United States, and other countries have imposed several rounds of sanctions on the 66-year-old, some of his family members, other senior officials, and on key economic sectors.

With reporting by Reuters and AP
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