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Husband of main Belarusian opponent jailed for 18 years

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The 43-year-old video blogger was sentenced to 18 years in prison for massive unrest organizations, incitement to hatred in society, disturbances to public order and obstruction of the Election Commission.

Another major opposition figure, Mikola Statkevich, 65, a former 2010 presidential candidate who had already spent several years in prison, was sentenced to 14 years in prison.

Other co-defendants, Artiom Sakov and Dmitri Popov, who worked for Mr. Tikhanovski, will have to spend 16 years behind bars. Power critic Vladimir Tsyganovich and Igor Lossik, a 29-year-old opposition journalist, each receive 15 years in prison.

Forced into exile since the summer of 2020 for having inspired an unprecedented wave of protest in her country, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, 39, immediately denounced this very heavy verdict.

My husband, Sergei Tikhanovsky, is sentenced to 18 years in prison. The dictator (Mr. Lukashenko) takes public revenge on his strongest opponents.

A quote from Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, on Twitter

Then she promised to continue her fight. We will not stop, she warned, noting that the whole world is watching the repression orchestrated in Belarus.

A few hours before the sentence, she had published a video, sitting in front of a wall decorated with children’s drawings and a portrait of her husband.

I will continue to defend this man I love and who has become a leader for millions of Belarusians, she underlined, saying she was ready to the impossible to speed up the time of their reunion.

Four men in a cage, in a courtroom.  Police officers watch them.

Opponents of Alexander Lukashenko were placed in a cage pending their verdict. From left to right, Igor Lossik, Vladimir Tsyganovich, Sergei Tikhanovsky and Mikola Statkevich

Photo: Getty Images / AFP / Belta / SERGEI KHOLODILIN

Sergei Tikhanovsky was a prominent YouTuber for his backbreaking videos of Alexander Lukashenko, which he called cockroach to be crushed. He was arrested in May 2020, while planning to run for the presidential election in August.

His wife Svetlana, with no political experience, had replaced him at short notice by love, mobilizing to the general surprise of crowds never seen against Alexander Lukashenko, a protest that the Belarusian regime has repressed with batons, heavy prison terms and forced exile.

A crowd of demonstrators under a flag in Minsk.

Protesters wave an ancient giant Belarusian flag, used in opposition to the government, during a demonstration in central Minsk on August 16, 2020, a week after the announcement of Alexander Lukashenko’s presidential victory.

Photo: afp via getty images / SERGEI GAPON

Junk courts

Mr. Tikhanovski and his co-defendants had been on trial since June behind closed doors. Almost no information has filtered out about this trial. Defense lawyers have been banned from speaking on pain of losing the right to practice.

I believe that (these accusations) are imaginary and politically motivated, said Mr. Tikhanovski in a letter at the end of May to the German media Deutsche Welle.

I refused to participate in this “trial” aimed at meMikola Statkevich said in a letter to his wife.

In 2021, Belarusian justice had already condemned two major opponents: the former banker and presidential candidate Viktor Babaryko and his campaign manager, Maria Kolesnikova, who were respectively 14 and 11 years in prison.

Close-up of Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya.

Svetlana Tikhanovskaya went into exile in Lithuania in the days following the announcement of Alexander Lukashenko’s victory. She never recognized this result.

Photo: Associated Press / Mindaugas Kulbis

Among the leading opposition figures, Mr. Tikhanovski therefore received the heaviest sentence.

According to the NGO Viasna, Belarus currently has 912 political prisoners.

Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, a former English teacher, has become the face of critics of Mr. Lukashenko, against whom she campaigned during the 2020 presidential election.

But soon after, the regime forced her into exile and since then she has traveled the world, received by Western heads of state and government, to increase the pressure on the Belarusian president.

To denounce the repression, the European Union, the United States and other Western countries have taken several series of sanctions against personalities and companies linked to the regime, which has drawn closer in return for Moscow, its main ally.

Alexander Lukashenko wears a white shirt and speaks outside a building.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has ruled Belarus with an iron fist since 1994.

Photo: AFP / SIARHEI LESKIEC

At the beginning of December, the West again sanctioned Minsk, accused despite its denials of having orchestrated a migration crisis on its border with Poland to take revenge and attempt to destabilize the European Union.

Mr. Lukashenko can pride himself on the support of his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.

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