The main challenger in Belarus’s disputed presidential election has fled to Lithuania after a second night of street clashes between police and opposition supporters left a protester dead.
Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who refused to concede her defeat against President Alexander Lukashenko in Sunday’s vote, had arrived in the neighbouring country and was safe, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius told the AFP news agency on Tuesday.
He did not provide any further details, but EU and NATO member Lithuania, which like Belarus was once part of the Soviet Union, has a history of granting refuge to Belarusian and Russian opposition figures.
Tikhanovskaya’s whereabouts had been unclear after campaign staff said they had lost contact with her and there had been concern for her safety.
Her surfacing in Lithuania came after thousands took to the streets of the capital, Minsk, for a second night on Monday, after authorities said longtime leader Lukashenko had secured a sixth term with 80 percent of the vote.
Tikhanovskaya, a political novice who has energised the opposition, came second with 10 percent and protesters are backing her claim to have won the election.
For the second consecutive night, police used rubber bullets, stun grenades and tear gas to disperse demonstrations, though protesters fought back with stones and fireworks and built makeshift barricades.
“Too many people are against Lukashenko,” Pavel, a 34-year-old protester, told AFP. “Our goal is to depose Lukashenko. He is not worthy of being president.”
Dozens of people have been injured in the violence and the first death was confirmed on Monday when police said a man died after an explosive device went off in his hand.
Tikhanovskaya’s staff had said earlier that she would not join demonstrations to avoid “provocations” and it was unclear how her sudden departure would affect the opposition.