Belarusian opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya has called on the country's law enforcement officers to join those taking part in ongoing protests against Alyaksandr Lukashenka, whose claim to power has not been recognized by Western governments.
In an October 20 statement on Telegram, Tsikhanouskaya said that orders by police commanders and other law enforcement structures to clamp down and use violence against protesters are "illegal."
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.
Tsikhanouskaya's statement came a week after she announced what she called the People's Ultimatum, which says Lukashenka must resign before October 25 or the ongoing protests and strikes will intensify across Belarus.
"The People's Ultimatum is your chance to take the side of Belarusians. If you do not agree to carry out criminal orders, do not do so. [Lukashenka’s] regime knows that it is dying and tries to share its end with all of you by muddying the honor of your uniform. Do not allow that.
"Those who personally committed crimes will be held responsible. Lustration will not touch everyone," Tsikhanouskaya's statement said, reminding law enforcement officers that "five days are left" to make a decision and "follow the oath they gave to the Belarusian people."
The European Union and the United States have refused to recognize Lukashenka as the legitimate president of Belarus after he claimed a landslide victory in an August election that has been widely criticized as fraudulent.
The results sparked weeks of mass protests and have been contested by Tsikhanouskaya, whose supporters claim won the vote, as well as opposition figures across the country.