Updated at 10:32,27-07-2021

Tsikhanouskaya Urges U.S. To 'Stand With Belarus' Ahead Of White House Talks

By RFE/RL's Belarus Service

Tsikhanouskaya Urges U.S. To 'Stand With Belarus' Ahead Of White House Talks
Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya
Belarusian opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya is expected to meet White House officials and U.S. senators on July 20 as she continues to rally support for the pro-democracy movement against authoritarian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka.

Tsikhanouskaya said she planned to hold talks with U.S. national-security adviser Jake Sullivan at the White House and visit the Senate for meetings with lawmakers from both parties.

A day earlier, she told CNN that more help was needed from the United States, which she said "has a moral obligation to be with us."

"I ask the U.S.A. to help civil society survive," the exiled opposition leader said. "Stand with Belarus."

Tsikhanouskaya has already met with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland, and State Department Counselor Derek Chollet.

The State Department said in a statement that the discussion focused on “the need for the ongoing Lukashenka regime crackdown to end, along with the unconditional release of all political prisoners in Belarus, and an inclusive political dialogue and new presidential elections under international observation.”

“Further, they emphasized the United States’ enduring support for the Belarusian people’s democratic aspirations,” it added.

In a tweet, Tsikhanouskaya said that during a separate meeting with Blinken she called on the United States to "strengthen help for our civil society, economically & politically pressure the [Lukashenka] regime, & appeal to Russia to play a constructive role in the crisis resolution."

Belarus has been mired in turmoil since a disputed presidential election in August 2020 that gave Lukashenka his sixth consecutive term in power.

Lukashenka 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 in Lithuania 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 against the 66-year-old, some of his family members, other senior officials, and on key economic sectors.

Meanwhile, Lukashenka maintains support from key ally and financial backer Russia.