Belarusí opposition figure Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya leaves the presidential palace in Bratislava, Slovakia, on October 8, 2020. (Photo by AFP)
Belarusí opposition figure Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya has threatened to call a country-wide strike unless President Alexander Lukashenko resigns.
Tsikhanouskaya said in a statement on Tuesday that the strike would happen unless Lukashenko announced his resignation and the government halted what she called violence and released political prisoners by October 25.
"If our demands are not met by Oct. 25, the whole country will be out on the streets, peacefully," Tsikhanouskaya said from exile in Lithuaniaís capital, Vilnius.
"On Oct. 26, all enterprises will begin a strike, all roads will be blocked, state-owned stores will no longer have any sales," she said.
Belarus has been experiencing unrest since the August presidential election, which Lukashenko won. Tsikhanouskaya, Lukashenkoís main political opponent, rejected the official results of the vote and claimed there had been voter fraud. Western governments came out in her support, repeating the allegations of vote rigging.
The European Union (EU) has imposed sanctions against 40 Belarusian officials, but not Lukashenko himself, over the allegations of vote rigging and a purported crackdown on dissent.
During rallies on Monday, police fired tear gas and stun grenades to disperse a crowd of opposition supporters and pensioners who had gathered in the capital, Minsk, for a demonstration against Lukashenko. The Interior Ministry said that opposition protests had turned radical and thus law enforcement forces would be allowed to use live ammunition in the streets if needed.
Lukashenko, who has introduced plans for constitutional reforms aimed at creating a political system less reliant on the president, on Sunday visited detained opposition leaders and political activists at a jail in Minsk to discuss those plans.
Lukashenko has rejected allegations that his government tampered with votes. The drafting of a new constitution is meant to soothe the opposition.
The president has warned that Western countries seek to destabilize Belarus by inciting protests against his re-election.
Tsikhanouskaya, meanwhile, has been meeting with European officials and rallying Western support for herself.