Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, the opposition leader in Belarus who was forced into exile following the presidential election in August, has been awarded the EU”s Sakharov Prize.
Collecting the award at the European Parliament, the exiled presidential candidate who has demanded the resignation of president Alexander Lukashenko declared: “We are bound to win, and we will win.”
David Sassoli, the European Parliament president, presenting the prize, paid tribute to Tsikhanouskaya and the Belarusian opposition.
“Over the last months you have showed the world what it means not to give up, you have defended your rights and you have not given up the struggle,” he said, at the ceremony in the EU Parliament chamber.
“The strength of your spirit has shown the way to revolution, which has taken power in the country in 2020 and we pay tribute to you and to your resistance and to your perseverance.”
Belarus has been rocked by ongoing unprecedented political demonstrations against the regime of Alexander Lukashenko, who is accused of rigging the presidential elections.
Every major opposition figure has either been jailed by the regime, or forced into exile since the election.
Receiving the award, Tikhanovskaya, who stood for president in the elections after the arrest of her husband who was a previous candidate, said: “I’m one of the thousands of Belarusians who used to be afraid. An invisible wall of fear was built around us. This wall of fear held us back for almost three decades. But this year everything has changed.”
“I want every Belarusian who is now in jail, or was forced to live in exile, to return home,” she told the chamber.
“Every country has its own path to democracy, and this is ours”
The Sakharov Prize is awarded each year to those recognised for defending human rights and freedom of thought.