After the Olympic defection, the American sanctions, the leader of the Belarusian revolt declares: “the boat is sinking”

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As the United States imposes new sanctions on Belarus – and its authoritarian president, Alexander Lukashenko – the exiled opposition leader says he is ready for a revolution.

“This moment can come at any second,” Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya told Fox News. “The Soviet Union collapsed in six days. Nobody knows what may be the trigger.”

Speaking from Lithuania, where she lives in voluntary exile after running for president last year, Tsikhanouskaya pointed to the recent defection of a Belarusian Olympian as evidence of a broad crackdown on dissent.

BELARUS SPRINTER FEEL SECURE AND LOOKING TO THE FUTURE IN POLAND

Sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya fled to Poland after publicly falling out with Belarusian team leaders at the Games in Tokyo. She said she was warned she faced unspecified punishment at home.

“The situation with Krystsina shows that no one is safe,” Tsikhanouskaya said. “Even if you are not in politics – if you have never participated in demonstrations or [the] opposition movement – you are also under attack. If you dare to say a word against this regime, you will surely be in jail. “

BELARUS SPRINTER SAYS PUNISHMENT WAITING FOR HIS RETURN HOME

The United States, Britain and Canada announced coordinated sanctions against Belarus on Monday, marking a year since the country’s presidential election and a violent crackdown on street protests that followed. Alexander Lukashenko was re-elected for a sixth term, but the United States called the election “fraudulent”.

President Biden said the sanctions were punishment for “a brutal crackdown aimed at stifling dissent” and accused Lukashenko of “an illegitimate effort to retain power at all costs”.

Lukashenko, who has ruled Belarus since independence from the Soviet Union in 1994 and is called “Europe’s last dictator” by critics, has publicly dismissed the sanctions. He said Britain could “choke” on his measures.

But Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya – who met President Biden at the White House last month – told us her team had contacts with businessmen close to Lukashenko who are affected by the sanctions.

BIDEN PUSHES SANCTIONS AGAINST BELRUS ‘LUKASHENKO REGIME

“The sanctions that have been imposed by democratic countries are very painful for the businesses around it,” she said, adding that some businessmen “were looking for a way out of the situation.”

She also insisted that dissent is not limited to the general population, but extends to members of the ruling elite.

“Lukashenko’s boat is sinking, and they have to choose whether they want to sink with it or build a new country. We want to show them [an] alternative.”

Until last year, Tsikhanouskaya, 38, was a stay-at-home mom. Her children, aged 11 and 5, are with her in Lithuania.

She was thrown into the political spotlight when her husband, Sergei – a blogger who had joined the presidential race – was jailed.

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In praising American support, Tsikhanouskaya echoed President Biden’s recent assertion that Western democracies are in a race to compete with autocratic governments.

“Belarus is at the forefront of this fight,” she said.

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