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Opposition Candidate Flees Belarus: I Had No Choice

'Many will hate me, but God forbid you will ever have to face the choice that I had to face'
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 11, 2020 11:54 AM CDT

(Newser) – The opposition candidate in Belarus' disputed presidential election is no longer in the country, and a rep claims she was forced out. Svetlana Tikhanovskaya appeared Tuesday in a short video saying she'd opted to reunite with her children, who moved abroad after receiving threats during the campaign. "I know many people will understand me, many will judge me, and many will hate me but God forbid you will ever have to face the choice that I had to face," the 37-year-old said, per CNN. Lithuania's foreign minister confirmed she was in the country opposite Belarus' northwest border. A second video was then shared by a pro-government channel on the messaging app Telegram, showing Tikhanovskaya reading from a piece of paper. She called for an end to protests—which have resulted in 3,000 arrests, per NBC News—saying "the nation has made its choice."

That immediately led to concern about her situation. A day earlier, the candidate had filed an official complaint disputing the report that she'd received just 10% of the vote, compared to 80% for President Alexander Lukashenko. Lukashenko is accused of ballot stuffing, and he also controls the vote count. The result will give him his sixth term since 1994. A rep for Tikhanovskaya claims she "had no choice" but to leave the country as team members were being "held hostage," per CNN. Nine people with ties to the campaign are said to have been arrested. The rep says Svetlana's move allowed for the release of campaign manager Maria Moroz, who left the country with Tikhanovskaya. "It is important that she is free and alive," the rep adds. Tikhanovskaya's husband, a political blogger who'd hoped to run for president, has been in detention since May. (Read more Belarus stories.)

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