Lukashenko speaks to imprisoned opposition leaders

Belarusian President Lukashenko has visited a KGB Secret Service prison to speak with imprisoned opposition members. According to the press service of the president the conversation lasted more than 4.5 hours and the content is confidential. It is unclear under what circumstances the conversation took place.

According to state media, Lukashenko wanted to hear the opinions of his opponents. “You will understand that you cannot write a constitution on the street,” the president said in a declassified clip of the conversation.

One of the interlocutors was the former presidential candidate Viktor Babariko, who two months before the election was pinned. His campaign manager Maria Kolesnikova subsequently became one of the three defining opposition leaders, but she too is locked up. The other members of Babariko’s team say they have been attacked by the meeting.

Sign of weakness

The meeting in prison is striking, as Lukashenko has repeatedly said that there are no political prisoners in Belarus. All imprisoned opposition members have committed a crime.

According to former Culture Minister Latushko, who has joined the Opposition Coordination Council, Lukashenko acknowledges with today’s meeting that there are indeed political prisoners in Belarus. In a statement he writes: “Entering into a dialogue with people you have captured yourself is a sign of weakness.”

It has been troubled for months in Belarus, where there are demonstrations against the fraudulent presidential elections. These were officially won by Lukashenko, he would have received more than 80 percent of the vote.

In massive protests thousands of Belarusians have already been arrested and some have been killed. Lukashenko’s main rival, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, is out of the country, she is staying in Lithuania.

Phone call after 134 days

Tikhanovskaya calls Lukashenko’s talk the result of months of pressure on the government. She calls on the president to release the prisoners if he sincerely wants a dialogue. The action is a stunt, she says. “He’s talking about constitutional changes, but he’s only doing it to weaken the protests.”

Tichanovskaja herself was suddenly allowed to call her husband, the incarcerated blogger Sergei Tichanovski, today. It was the first conversation in 134 days, the opposition leader writes on the social network Telegram, where she shared part of the conversation. She told her husband that she is fighting for his freedom and that she tells the children that their father is on a business trip.

Today, like every Saturday, a women’s march passed through the streets of major Belarusian cities. In at least 25 countries Solidarity marches of Belarusians were held abroad.

Tikhanovskaya walked a march in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius. Tomorrow will be the general demonstration in the capital Minsk, in which about 100,000 people participate every week.

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