Lithuania has granted official status to Belarus’ pro-democratic opposition led by Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya.
‘Today, the democratic representative of Belarus in Lithuania is an accredited entity,’ Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis stated in Vilnius on July 5.
‘We hope that this will assist representatives of Belarus’ democratic forces in gaining recognition in other countries,’ he added.
Tsikhanouskaya and a sizable portion of Belarus’ opposition have been living in exile in Lithuania since autocratic Belarusian ruler Alyaksandr Lukashenka initiated a crackdown following the contested August 2020 presidential election.
Lithuania has been one of the most outspoken critics of Lukashenka, urging the EU to take a strong stance against his dictatorship.
Read our coverage as Belarusians continue to call for Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s resignation in the face of a harsh crackdown on protestors. The West has refused to acknowledge him as the country’s rightful leader following a disputed August 9 election.
The democratic movement regards Tsikhanouskaya as the actual winner of the election, while the West has refused to acknowledge the official results of the ballot, claiming that Lukashenka is not the country’s legal leader.
Landsbergis stated that Tsikhanouskaya’s team was accredited against the ‘backdrop of the illegitimate Lukashenka regime’s continued repression and violence against the Belarusian people, who are struggling for their rights and freedoms, as well as a democratic future for their country.’
While this is not a full diplomatic mission with all the rights and benefits accorded to a state, the opposition’s official status lends it extra legitimacy.
Tsikhanouskaya stated on Telegram that Lithuania’s move’marked a new phase in the regime’s delegitimization.’
‘This is the first EU member state to take this step, and efforts are already on to establish representations for the Belarusian people in other countries,’ she said.