Lipavsky and Tsikhanouskaya Open Belarus Democrats Office in Prague

Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky and Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya opened an office of the Democratic Forces of Belarus in Prague yesterday. Speaking at the opening, Lipavsky said he hoped the office would contribute to supporting Belarusian democratic forces, independent media and political prisoners, and that it would serve as a bridge between Belarusian, Czech and European civil society.

Lipavsky also received a decoration from Tsikhanouskaya for helping the Belarusian people.

The opening of the office took place without the presence of the media. Tsikhanouskaya presented Lipavsky with the Good Neighbour Cross at the event, the minister wrote on social media. The award is given to personalities who have significantly helped the Belarusian people.

Lipavsky subsequently received Tsikhanouskaya in the Czernin Palace, the seat of the Foreign Ministry, and they discussed the situation in Belarus and Czech support for Belarusian democracy, including assistance to political prisoners and their families.

Tsikhanouskaya was also received yesterday by President Petr Pavel. According to a statement by the Presidential Office on social media, they discussed the situation in Belarus, which plays a significant role in the Russian aggression against Ukraine, and support for the Belarusian opposition. Pavel also asked about the fate of unjustly imprisoned political activists in Belarus.

Tsikhanouskaya discussed the idea of an office in the Czech Republic to assist the Belarusian opposition with then-President Milos Zeman during a visit to Prague in May 2022. Prime Minister Petr Fiala (ODS) gave his support to the idea during her next visit to the Czech Republic in November of that year.

Yesterday, Tsikhanouskaya met the speakers of the two chambers of parliament, and together with Senate Speaker Milos Vystrcil (ODS), she paid tribute to the memory of the Belarusian presidents-in-exile at Prague’s Olsany Cemetery.

Vystrcil said that Prague could become the seat of a new Belarusian government-in-exile 100 years later. The previous one was based in Czechoslovakia from 1923.

Tsikhanouskaya is on a four-day visit to Prague. On Saturday, she attended a conference of the Belarusian diaspora. On Sunday, she unveiled a plaque on Staroměstské náměstí in remembrance of the 16th-century Belarusian printer Francysk Skaryna, who also worked in Prague.

Tsikhanouskaya’s journey from her decision to run for Belarusian president in place of her imprisoned husband in 2020 to her forced exile in Lithuania has been captured in a documentary, which was screened in Prague’s Kino Lucerna yesterday as part of the One World human rights film festival.

The film documents the pro-democracy campaign that mobilised thousands of people, who took to the streets to demand change. The film also documents the police crackdown on the protesters, the formation of the Belarusian government in exile, and with it the consolidation of the role of Tsikhanouskaya on the world political scene.

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