Belarus opposition leader vows victory over Lukashenko at EU prize ceremony
Belarus opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya on Wednesday vowed the protest movement against the regime of Alexander Lukashenko would prevail despite a brutal crackdown by Minsk authorities, as she received the EU's top rights prize.
"We are bound to win and we will win," the exiled former presidential candidate said in Brussels, accepting the Sakharov Prize on behalf of the opposition movement.
Belarus has been gripped by four months of unprecedented anti-government demonstrations that erupted after a disputed presidential election in August which saw Lukashenko claim a sixth term in office.
His opponents say the polls were rigged and that political novice Tikhanovskaya, who ran in place of her jailed husband was the true winner.
Belarusian security forces have unleashed a harsh crackdown against the protests, detaining demonstators and pushing opposition leaders into exile.
"I have only one wish this year, I want every Belarusian who is now in jail or was forced to live in exile to return home," Tikhanovskaya, who is currently based in Lithuania, told the European Parliament.
Tikhanovskaya demanded a tougher response from Europe against Lukashenko's regime, as the strongman clings to power after more than a quarter of a century in charge.
"We call on Europe to be braver in their decisions and support the people of Belarus now -- not tomorrow and not somewhen in the future," Tikhanovskaya said. "It is actions that matter."
The EU has slapped sanctions on over 50 officials, including Lukashenko and his son, and European ambassadors in Brussels on Wednesday agreed to add more names to the blacklist.