Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, the presidential candidate and wife of jailed vlogger Sergei Tikhanovsky, who was propelled into politics following the arrest of her husband in May, is currently holding a big rally-concert in Minsk.
As darkness fell, those who came to the rally lit flashlights on their phones. At about 10 pm people, as well as prisoner transport vehicles, buses and police cars parked nearby began to disperse.
According to the deregistered human rights center Viasna, at least 63,000 people visited Svetlana Tikhanovskaya’s rally on 30 July.
At 9 pm Veronika Tsepkalo, campaign head for her husband, Valery Tsepkalo, who was turfed out of the race and fled the country with their children to Moscow, went on scene. As well as Svetlana Tikhanovskaya and Maria Kolesnikova, she also told three personal stories: about her mother, children and a woman she met during her husband’s campaign tour around the country.
An addition, on the eve of the president’s adress to the people and parliament, Veronica Tsepkalo had a list of questions for the incumbent president:
- Why has Belarus, which had the greatest potential in the CIS 25 years ago, turned into the second poorest region?
- Why are pensions and salaries in Belarus lower than in other countries?
- Why do so many people leave Belarus every year?
- Why is the birth rate falling? In 2019, Belarus broke another anti-record – the same number of children were born as in 1945.
- Why are the most expensive and attractive pieces of land given free to foreign investors?
- Why are basic human rights violated: the right to rallies, and most importantly, the right to fair and democratic elections?
- Why is it always “someone else is to blame” for our troubles – Rospotrebnadzor, the State Department – everyone except ourselves?
- Why is our country falling into an economic abyss, and people are getting poorer and poorer?
“Dear President, we gave you 26 years to make the lives of our people better and richer, but you failed. And now we want changes! Do you want changes?” Veronika Tsepkalo said.
“Changes! Changes!” The crowd chanted in response.
She also urged people to come to the elections on 9 August (in the afternoon) and vote for Svetlana Tikhanovskaya and register as election observers.
According to the deregistered human rights center Viasna, 34,000 people gathered at the park by 8.30 pm.
Tikhanovskaya handed over the microphone to Maria Kolesnikova, the head of the presidential campaign for another opposition politician, Viktor Babariko, also barred from the elections and jailed.
“I am a musician, I have taught for many years, arranged musical events. Three months ago, I was absolutely happy with my life. Am I satisfied now? No, I’m happy. I am happy to be here, to see your burning eyes, to change the country together. Three months ago I lived for myself, now I belong to you and my country,” she said.
Svetlana started her speech in the Belarusian language at 8.10 pm. She said she was running for president for her husband and ordinary Belarusians.
People are supporting the candidate clapping and chanting “Freedom”, “Long Live Belarus”, “We love, we can, we will win” and other slogans.
According to human rights activists, no less than 25,000 people gathered in the park. People are waiting for Svetlana Tikhanovskaya to come and give a speech. The presidential candidate got stuck in a traffic jam for some time before arriving to the venue.
Due to the situation with the detention of the “Russian mercenaries”, increased security measures were taken and the place for holding a campaign rally in Družby Narodaŭ Park was surrounded by metal fences. All coming to the event are undergoing screening and physical security checks.
The concert has started at 6.30 pm, besides the performances of Belarusian bands and singers, presidential candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, Veronika Tsepkalo, Maria Kolesnikova, lawyer and proxy of Viktor Babariko Maxim Znak are expected to give speeches.