The Belarusian President’s rival takes refuge in Lithuania

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VILNIUS | Belarusian opposition presidential candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who is contesting the re-election of President Alexander Lukashenko, has fled to Lithuania, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius told AFP on Tuesday.

“She has arrived in Lithuania and is safe,” Linkevicius said, as protests against the victory of Belarusian president, elected for a sixth term, were dispersed by police for the second night in a row. He provided no further details.

Lithuania, a member of the European Union and NATO, belonged to the Soviet Union. It has frequently given refuge to Belarusian and Russian opposition figures.

Since Monday evening, the location of Ms. Tikhanovskaïa remained unknown after her visit to the Election Commission for three hours to demand a new count of the votes. Mr. Linkevicius then expressed his “concern”, explaining to AFP: “I tried to reach her for several hours, but we do not know where she is since she went to the Electoral Commission” .

This newbie in politics, main rival of Mr. Lukashenko and credited with around 10% of the vote by the Election Commission, declared to consider herself victorious in the ballot. She had decided not to take part in the demonstrations to avoid “provocations”.

A protester was killed Monday night in Belarus as thousands of opposition supporters took to the streets in Minsk and other cities across the country to challenge the official results giving Lukashenko the winner with 80.08% of vote for a sixth term.

The protesters faced large police forces who brutally kicked and bludgeoned protesters.

A witness interviewed by AFP and several Russian and Belarusian media reported the use of tear gas, the firing of rubber bullets and stun grenades by the police.

Barricades were erected overnight in Minsk and several explosions were heard, according to AFP journalists.

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