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Challenger to Lukashenko flees Belarus amid post-election unrest

More than 2,000 people in Belarus have been detained in violent anti-government protests over Sunday’s disputed election. Amid the crackdown, the top opposition candidate on Tuesday was forced to flee the country and urge her supporters to stop the unrest. Nick Schifrin reports.

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  • Nick Schifrin:

    On the streets of the capital, Minsk, a national uprising, after what demonstrators call a stolen election. In response, authorities arrested thousands and shot this protester in the back.

  • Man (through translator):

    How much longer will we tolerate this mess? I just don't understand at all.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    President Alexander Lukashenko says he won more than 80 percent of Sunday's vote. No international monitor agrees.

    But, overnight, opposition candidate Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya fled to Lithuania and, from the election commission's offices, recorded this video.

  • Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya (through translator):

    I ask you not to confront the police, not to go to the square.

  • Joerg Forbrig:

    Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya did not leave by her own free will. She was forced to leave.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Joerg Forbrig is the German Marshall Fund's director for Central and Eastern Europe. He says the protests will continue, even without an opposition leader, because they're born of Lukashenko's authoritarianism, years of stifling dissent, arbitrary arrests, and manipulated elections.

  • Joerg Forbrig:

    Belarusians by now are going — are taking to the streets, not because they are following Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya. They're defending their rights to determine the leadership of the country, which was taken away from them, clearly, on Sunday.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Today, the European Union blamed Lukashenko's government for the unrest.

  • Peter Stano:

    The incredible harassment and repression against the candidates, the brutal violence is unacceptable.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Tsikhanouskaya's forced departure led to a second, emotionally raw video.

  • Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya (through translator):

    I thought this whole campaign toughened me a lot and gave me so much strength that I can endure anything. But perhaps I am still a weak woman. Please, please be careful. No life is a worthwhile price for what is happening now.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Lukashenko seems to be willing to exact any price, and accused protesters of violence.

  • Alexander Lukashenko (through translator):

    The police were deliberately hit, so they responded. Why are you crying now? The response will be adequate. We will not allow you to tear the country apart.

  • Joerg Forbrig:

    If protests continue, if there's even more strikes on companies than we have seen already today, then basically the last resort for Alexander Lukashenko is some form of state of emergency or even martial law.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Lukashenko is now fighting for his survival. There's no telling how far he's willing to go.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Nick Schifrin.

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