Free elections should be held in Belarus under international supervision and the country should remain a close ally of Russia. That’s according to Valery Tsepkalo, one of three high-profile men barred from last month’s election
Along with Viktor Babariko and Sergei Tikhanovsky, Tsepkalo tried to run for president, in opposition to the long-time incumbent Alexander Lukashenko, but authorities prevented his nomination.
Eventually Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, Sergei’s wife, made it onto the ballot paper and her campaign was assisted by Tsepkalo’s spouse, Veronika, and Babariko’s campaign manager, Maria Kolesnikova.
According to Tsepkalo, it is important for the Belarusian opposition to ensure that the Russian government “does not try to show Belarusians that it opposes the expectations of the entire Belarusian people,” given that many residents of the republic want “Lukashenko to step down.” “Because we want to have a democratic country that will have excellent relations with Russia,” he said.
“Political prisoners must be released, normal free elections should be held in Belarus under the supervision of the entire international community, including Russia,” he added. “These are the basic principles that, I am certain, unite all those who want the development of Belarus, who want changes, who want to see our country democratic and prosperous.”
Belarus held its presidential election on August 9. According to the Central Election Commission’s data, incumbent Lukashenko won 80.10 percent of the vote, whereas Tikhanovskaya, who ended up as his key rival, garnered 10.12 percent of the ballot. She subsequently refused to recognize the outcome of the polls.
After the results of exit polls were announced late on August 9, mass protests flared up in downtown Minsk and other cities. In the early days they were accompanied by clashes between protesters and police. The authorities have called for an end to illegal rallies, while the Coordination Council set up by the opposition demands more protests.
Tsepkalo, who was denied registration as a presidential candidate, fled Belarus at the end of July after receiving information about his impending detention. He first went to Russia and eventually moved on to Poland.