Exiled Belarusian opposition candidate calls on 32 world leaders — but not Vladimir Putin — to support campaign against Lukashenko
Valery Tsepkalo (Valeryy Tsapkala), one of two leading Belarusian oppositionists who’s been denied candidacy in the country’s upcoming presidential election, has addressed a letter to 32 heads of state calling on them to support “free and fair presidential elections in Belarus.” The news agencies Dozhd and Interfax have published excerpts from Tsepkalo’s text.
“The authorities in Belarus are actively impeding free and fair presidential elections and exerting coercive pressure on everyone who wants fairness and transparency in the electoral process,” Tsepkalo wrote in his letter, calling on world leaders to draw attention to repressive government policies in Belarus. He also urged foreign states to organize an international election monitoring campaign and ensure transparent voting by Belarusian nationals on their territory.
According to Tsepkalo, the Belarusian opposition seeks to replace President Alexander Lukashenko (Alyaksandr Lukashenka) with Svetlana Tikhanovskaya (Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya), who will promptly free all political prisoners and call a new free and fair presidential election within three to six months, allowing all opposition candidates to participate in the race.
She’s running for president in place of her husband, a popular blogger who was arrested on multiple felony charges after election officials rejected his presidential candidacy.
Tsepkalo sent his letter to the presidents and prime ministers of the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Germany, France, Ukraine, Armenia, Bulgaria, Hungary, Georgia, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and other nations. He did not send the letter to Vladimir Putin or any Russian leader.
In voting on August 9, Lukashenko will seek a sixth consecutive presidential term. The country’s Central Election Commission previously barred his two main competitors: — Valery Tsepkalo and Victor Babariko (Viktar Babaryka). Babariko was charged with money laundering, tax evasion, and bribery. Fearing arrest, Tsepkalo fled Belarus, first to Moscow and then to Kyiv.
Since Babariko’s arrest and election officials’ refusal to register Lukashenko’s main rivals, Belarus has witnessed mass protests, including some violent clashes with riot police, who have arrested several hundred demonstrators.