Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s regime brought new criminal charges against the jailed husband of Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the country’s exiled democratic opposition leader, on Monday. Syarhei Tsikhanouski is accused of violating prison rules while serving an 18-year sentence, investigators said.
According to a statement issued by Belarus’ Investigative Committee, a law enforcement agency, Tsikhanouski was supposedly “provoking conflicts” in prison, including with his cellmates, and systematically disobeyed the orders of the guards.
I was told that my husband Siarhei is facing a new charge. This time he is accused of disobeying the orders of the prison administration. I know that whatever they come up with, it won't break him & it won't break my will to fight for the freedom of all political prisoners. pic.twitter.com/JAPiuNPPSd
— Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya (@Tsihanouskaya) January 16, 2023
Tsikhanouski, a 44-year-old video blogger who was arrested during an attempt to run for president against veteran leader Alyaksander Lukashenka in 2020, could have another two years added to his jail term under the new charges.
He rose to prominence in Belarus after comparing the country’s dictator to a moustachioed cockroach from a children’s fairy tale and was arrested before the 2020 presidential vote that sparked mass protests when Lukashenka claimed victory despite allegations of electoral fraud.
His wife Sviatlana ran in the election in his stead. Officially published results handed the victory to the dictator, but numerous voting irregularities, including the comparison of the polling station protocols with pictures of the ballots submitted online by voters, indicate that the official results may be widely different.
Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya fled to Lithuania to escape the sweeping post-election crackdown that crushed the protests, while Syarhei Tsikhanouski was convicted in December 2021 on charges of organising mass unrest, apparently out of his prison cell, and fuelling social enmity.
Rights activists estimate that about 1,500 people are in jail in Belarus on politically motivated charges. Lukashenka, who has been holding onto power since 1994 by repeatedly changing the constitution and fixing the votes, is also a close ally of Russia’s dictator Vladimir Putin. Lukashenka allowed the Kremlin to use his country as a staging ground for the invasion of Ukraine in late February last year.