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Belarusian opposition leader urges Austria to do more to counter Lukashenko

Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya travels to Warsaw, where she meets the Belarusian diaspora in Warsaw, Poland on October 6, 2021. Dawid Zuchowski / Agencja Gazeta via REUTERS

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VIENNA, November 21 (Reuters) – Exiled Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanouskaya urged the Austrian government and Austrian companies in Belarus to do more to help her allies against President Alexander Lukashenko in remarks released on Sunday .

His comments in a joint interview with the Austrian newspapers Kleine Zeitung and Die Presse come on the eve of a videoconference organized by Austria in support of Belarusian civil society in the face of the repression of the opposition by the Lukashenko government. Tikhanouskaya helped organize the conference.

Austrian companies are among the most important European Union companies in Belarus. Raiffeisen Bank International’s Priorbank (RBIV.VI) is the country’s fourth largest bank in terms of lending, and the telephone operator A1 Telekom Austria (TELA.VI) has a share of around 42% of its mobile market.

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“We understand that big companies like A1 don’t want to give up doing business in our country,” Tikhanouskaya said.

“However, they could make their presence subject to certain conditions and specify that their employees cannot be thrown in jail simply because they have a different opinion from Lukashenko’s.”

Austria could accommodate students expelled from university in Belarus, she added.

Lukashenko won a resounding victory in last year’s presidential election despite the widely held view that the vote was fraudulent. Various opposition groups say Tikhanouskaya won.

The resulting crackdown involved hundreds of people thrown in jail, allegations that opposition activists were tortured and spurred a lively opposition movement in countries like Latvia, Lithuania and the United States. Germany where many Belarusians live.

In the last confrontation between the EU and Minsk since the elections, Europe accuses Belarus of bringing thousands of people from the Middle East by plane and pushing them to cross the Polish border into the country. EU. Read more

Monday’s conference, which has moved to a virtual format because Austria enters a COVID-19 lockdown on that day, is due to bring together foreign ministers from Germany, Finland, Latvia, Estonia, from Slovenia and Slovakia. The Belarusian government refused to participate.

The aim is to seek “constructive approaches for a peaceful and dialogue-based solution” in Belarus, according to Austria.

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Report by François Murphy Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky

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