The demonstrations in Belarus are the expression of a popular uprising against a dictator who has been in power for a long time, says Prime Minister Erna Solberg (H).
“There is no basis in the election result that he has been, in order to say he has been legitimately elected. It should be a new election,” she told NTB.
Solberg met on Tuesday with one of the Belarusian opposition leaders, Svetlana Tikhanovskaja, in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius.
The Norwegian Prime Minister says that a new free and fair election must now be held with the presence of international observers.
“This is the only thing that can determine who is legitimate to be able to govern,” she says.
Tikhanovskaja welcomed Erna Solberg to Vilnius, where she has been living in exile since 11 August. The backdrop to the meeting was dramatic: another opposition leader, Maria Kolesnikova, is now being held in her home country after being brought to the border with Ukraine on Tuesday night.
“The last couple of days events, with other leaders needing to leave or having disappeared, show that the opposition is being taken over more strongly. This puts a lot of pressure on the movement,” says Solberg.
“I find that this is a genuine grassroots movement, people who are not extremely trained in political life, but who want the country to be governed in a different way.
Svetlana Tikhanovskaja, 37, became a presidential candidate after her husband Sergei Tikhanovsky was arrested and refused entry to the elections.
The EU has called for the immediate release of several hundred demonstrators and opposition parties, and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has condemned what he describes as arbitrary arrests and abductions by opposition parties.
“Great place to stay”
Aleksandr Lukashenko has ruled the former Soviet republic between Russia and Poland with an iron fist since 1994. In an interview on Tuesday, he revealed that he may have been in power for too long, but also made it clear that he has no plans to resign now.
“Yes, maybe I have been sitting too long”, he should have said in the interview.
Tikhanovskaja called on Western countries to keep up the pressure on the Belarusian authorities in a speech to the parliamentary assembly of the European Council on the same day.
“My country, my nation, my people need help now. We need international pressure on the regime and on the person, who is desperately clinging to power,” he said.
“We need sanctions against those who issue and execute criminal orders, which violate international standards and human rights.
Not the East-West conflict
Erna Solberg is also concerned that the conflict in the country should not become a new conflict between the West and Russia, which is Belarus’ closest supporter both politically and economically.
“We are worried that this will not be interpreted as an East-West game. This is not the basis for this,” says Solberg.
She emphasizes that it is up to the Belarusian people to decide who will govern the country.
“My hope is that Russia will realize that it is also in Russia’s interest that the Belarusian people can decide for themselves and not experience this as an attack on Russia. It is not,” says Solberg.
But after the popular uprisings in the neighboring countries of Ukraine, Georgia, and Kyrgyzstan, there is no doubt that Russian President Vladimir Putin fears that the same will happen in his home country. Lukashenko himself came on Tuesday.
– Do you know what we came up with together with the establishment and the Russian leadership? If Belarus falls, Russia will stay out of it, he said on Tuesday.
© NTB Scanpix / #Norway Today