The Belarus opposition leader reappeared in neighbouring Lithuania after challenging its election result. Reports say she left as a deal to get her chief of staff out of jail.

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Svetlana Tikhanovskaya campaigns ahead of the Belarusian presidential elections on July 19, 2020 in Minsk, Belarus. Tanya Kapitonova/Getty Images
  • The main challenger to Belarus’ longtime president reappeared in neighbouring Lithuania after disputed results showed her losing the election.
  • Official results show incumbent president Alexander Lukashenko, called “Europe’s last dictator,” receiving 80% of the vote. The results sparked widespread protests.
  • Multiple reports say Svetlana Tikhanovskaya was escorted from Belarus by authorities as part of a deal to free her campaign manager, who was detained.
  • Her main election promise was free and fair elections in Belarus.
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The main opposition figure in Belarus’ election has left the country and gone to neighbouring Lithuania as protests over the disputed results continue.

According to multiple reports, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya left Belarus as part of a deal with authorities to free her campaign manager, who had been detained.

Tikhanovskaya vanished after lodging an official complaint with Belarus election authorities over the results. For a time on Monday her own campaign officials said they did not know where she had gone.

The official results showed her losing the election to incumbent President Alexander Lukashenko, who received 80% of the vote on Sunday night.

Lukashenko is the only president of modern Belarus, and has been in charge since 1994.

Many have criticised the official figures, which sparked huge protests taking in place in Belarus two nights in a row. Tikhanovskaya said she did not accept the result and vowed to challenge it.

Linas Linkevicius, Lithuania’s foreign minister, tweeted on Tuesday morning that Tikhanovskaya was now in Lithuania and was “safe.”

He also said on Lithuanian radio that Tikhanovskaya had been detained for seven hours in Belarus, but did not say why or by whom, the BBC reported.

Belarus news outlet Tut.By reported that Tikhanovskaya had agreed to be taken out of Belarus by authorities so that her campaign manager, Maria Moroz, could be released after she was detained.

Tikhanovskaya and Moroz left Belarus together, the outlet reported.

The BBC reported a similar account, and said that Tikhanovskaya had been escorted from the country by Belarus authorities.

Belarus protest
Protesters in Minsk, Belarus after the election results on August 10, 2020. Marina Serebryakova/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

In a YouTube video that was recorded before she left Belarus but posted on Tuesday, Tikhanovskaya said she left Belarus to be with her children.

She previously said that she had to send her children abroad because she was getting threats that they would be sent to orphanages during her campaign.

According to a translation from the BBC, she said in the video: “I thought that this campaign had really steeled me and given me so much strength that I could cope with anything.”

“But I guess I’m still the same weak woman that I was.”

She said her decision was “very difficult” and that she took it “completely independently,” though many people would “condemn” or “hate” her for it.

“No one life is worth what is happening now,” she said. “Children are the most important things in our lives.”

Lukashenko has led Belarus for 26 years, and has the moniker of “Europe’s last dictator.”

FILE PHOTO: Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko attends a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi, Russia February 7, 2020. Sputnik/Mikhail Klimentyev/Kremlin via REUTERS
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. Reuters

According to the BBC, he has called Tikhanovskaya a “poor little girl” and claimed she was being manipulated by foreign “puppet masters.”

One person has died and hundreds have been injured in the protests over the election results, where police have used rubber bullets, tear gas, and stun grenades.

Tikhanovskaya’s campaign team said she was not taking part in the protests because of “possible provocations,” the BBC reported.

She went into hiding on Saturday night, the eve of the vote,CNN reported.

Her main campaign promise was free and open elections in Belarus.

Her campaigned began after her husband, who intended to run instead, was arrested. She stepped in to take his place.

Belarus protest
Police officers and participants in a protest against the results of the 2020 Belarusian presidential election. Natalia FedosenkoTASS via Getty Images

She said at a campaign rally in Minsk on Thursday, according to NPR: “I don’t need power, but my husband is behind bars.”

“I’ve had to hide my children. I’m tired of putting up with it. I’m tired of being silent. I’m tired of being afraid.”