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‘I Was Threatened’: Belarus Opposition Leader Reveals What Happened After Disputed Election

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“I am just the same, unselfconfident person I was,” Svetlana Tikhanovskaya told Sky News in August last year. “But this is my mission. I have to overcome all these difficulties and bring our country to a free future and become a mother and wife again.”

That was shortly before a blatantly rigged election robbed her of what would most likely have been, had the votes been counted right, a resounding victory against Belarus’s long time autocratic leader, Alexander Lukashenko.

A day later she would appear in an emotional video recorded clearly under duress where she said she had over-estimated her strength, that she was “still the same weak woman that I was” and would be leaving Belarus.

“I was threatened with my children,” she tells Dermot Murnaghan in the Sky News Daily podcast. “They told me ‘we will jail you all, and your children will be abandoned, they will be put in an orphanage’.”

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“They know where to push.”

With her husband Sergei Tikhanovsky at the mercy of Lukashenko’s prison guards and her children already in Europe, she had little choice. But Svetlana Tikhanovskaya has never shown the slightest weakness either as a mother, a wife or as a leader.

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“They underestimated me, the Belarusian people and the will of the Belarusians for a better future,” she told Sky News last week.

As a wife, she has campaigned tirelessly for her husband’s freedom, running on his behalf as president when Mr Tikhanovsky, a popular video blogger, was barred from the race and jailed.

As a leader, she has grown in stature every step of the way – along the campaign trail and now in exile as she tours Western capitals, making sure Lukashenko’s brutalities are known and condemned while calling for tough western sanctions against him and his regime.

She wants the international community and the media to refer to him as Belarus’s ex-president, a leader de facto but not de jure.

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Sergei Tikhanovsky was barred from the presidential race and jailed

She calls him a threat to the security of Europe as he floods its borders with migrants lured into Belarus through tourist visas and the promise of easy EU entry.

She hopes that continued western sanctions will force this ‘ex-president’ to begin negotiations with the Belarusian people.

She is confident that the spirit of resistance is strong, both within the Belarusian community in exile and in Belarus itself.

“We are trying to build on the ground organisations to resist more centrally. The regime knows that people didn’t give up.”

Inside Belarus though, it’s hard to gauge that resistance. It is underground at best. Those who have stood up to the regime are jailed.

Tens of thousands have fled. Belarusians who oppose Lukashenko in their sitting rooms are cowed into submission, knowing the domestic intelligence service, still known by its Soviet name, the KGB, have feelers everywhere.

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Sky correspondent challenges Lukashenko

Now you can be jailed for the telegram channels you subscribe to. Human rights groups say they believe around 100 people were arrested in early October for social media comments condemning a shootout during a KGB raid on an IT specialist’s home, in which one KGB officer and the IT specialist were killed.

Those arrested for their comments in the ensuing social media storm could face up to twelve years behind bars for supposedly ‘inciting social enmity’.

Life in the capital Minsk is as normal as it can be given the circumstances. It is quieter perhaps, a little less full. Many of the bars and restaurants we journalists frequented around last year’s election and the subsequent protests are boarded up, their owners presumably starting afresh in Lithuania, Ukraine or Poland.

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September: Belarus opposition leader jailed

But others have sprung up, trendy eateries with glamorous clientele, people trying to carry on with their lives. Plus of course, there are the regime stalwarts, all those who participate in the heavy-handed apparatus of the state, who subjugate justice to their ends and who keep Lukashenko in power.

To all intents and purposes, despite what Mrs Tikhanovskaya says, the regime has won.

Her husband’s trial is a closed process in what passes for a courtroom in a prison in the city of Gomel. It started in June and there has been no verdict yet.

He is unlikely to be shown much mercy. Viktor Babariko, who like Mr Tikhanovsky ran for president, was jailed in June for 14 years on spurious embezzlement charges.

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Belarusian opposition politician Maria Kolesnikova has just started an eleven-year jail term

Maria Kolesnikova, who campaigned in his place alongside Mrs Tikhanovskaya, has just started an eleven-year term alongside her lawyer Maxim Znak.

“We don’t have the moral right to stop,” Mrs Tikhanovskaya says. “You are not thinking even about stopping because those people who are in jail, they sacrificed with freedom, some with their lives to give us the opportunity to fight further and to prove that what they were fighting for is extremely important for us as well.”

Thursday 27 November is the day of solidarity with political prisoners across former Soviet countries. Spare a thought for the 818 recognised as political prisoners in Belarus, and for the thousands more who are not recognised as such for various reasons.

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Source Here: news.sky.com

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A Historic Night for Barbados and the Role of the Royal Family

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The crowds were strictly restricted due to the COVID pandemic, and despite the efforts and enthusiasm of the bands and dancers the atmosphere seemed muted in National Heroes Square, once known as Trafalgar Square.

But as the ceremonial events got under way the significance was striking, a historic night for Barbados and the role of the Royal Family.

There was a series of symbolic moments: the Prince of Wales closing almost 400 years of royal history inspecting one last military march past; the standard lowered for the final time; and the new president, Dame Sandra Mason, stepping forward to take her new role just seconds after the clock struck midnight.

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Rihanna ‘national hero’ of Barbados

Barbados had made that final step out on its own, now a republic.

In the distance you could hear the crowds clapping as the president entered the square.

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There were a few cheers for Prince Charles as his car swept past them, but the loudest cheer was for Barbados’s biggest star Rihanna, as she tried to make a subtle appearance during the middle of the proceedings.

And with the cheering and the fireworks lighting up the sky you could be led to believe this was a moment of celebration for all Barbadians.

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Barbados becomes a republic ending 400 years of the British royal family as head of state

Yes, independence day always brings parties, but the move to a republic isn’t without controversy.

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‘Atrocity of slavery forever stains our history’

There was no referendum about it, and in the crowds it wasn’t difficult to find those who thought they should have had their say, others who don’t understand what this new status means for them, as well as those who for decades have fought to cut the colonial ties.

While it will remain a member of the Commonwealth, now it will be up to Prime Minister Mia Mottley to more forcefully take Barbados to the world stage, hammer home the need for greater support on the matters of COVID and the climate crisis.

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President Sandra Mason, singer Rihanna and Prince Charles during the transition ceremony

This is not a completely fresh slate, there are still matters around reparations and the legacy of the slave trade to deal with.

Prince Charles at least acknowledging the appalling ways hundreds of thousands of enslaved Africans were treated, going some would say further formally in his comments than any other member of his family in the past.

He too reiterated that message that this is a new chapter for Barbados. And it was encouraging to see that at the helm a female prime minister and a female president are now helping to write that future.

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Original Post: news.sky.com

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Rihanna Declared a ‘national Hero’ As Barbados Celebrates Becoming a Republic

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Barbadian singer and businesswoman Rihanna has been declared a national hero by the country’s prime minister.

The 33-year-old was awarded the honour by Mia Mottley during an event to celebrate the island nation becoming a republic.

“On behalf of a grateful nation, but an even prouder people, we therefore present to you the designee for national hero for Barbados, ambassador Robyn Rihanna Fenty,” the PM said to a jubilant crowd in the capital, Bridgetown.

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The singer was awarded the honour as the Caribbean island celebrated becoming a republic

“May you continue to shine like a diamond and bring honour to your nation by your works, by your actions.”

Rihanna was born in Saint Michael and raised in Bridgetown, before moving to the United States after she was discovered by New York-based music producer Evan Rogers.

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She has since gone on to become one of the biggest artists in the world, as well as starring in movies including Battleship and Ocean’s 8, and launching her own fashion brand, Fenty, in 2018.

Since 2018, Rihanna has had the honorary title of Ambassador for Culture and Youth in Barbados.

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Barbados: Prince Charles acknowledges ‘appalling’ history of slavery as island becomes a republic

Barbados becomes a republic ending 400 years of the British royal family as head of state

In 2008, former prime minister David Thompson declared 22 February “Rihanna Day” – and although it is not a bank holiday, Barbadians celebrate it every year.

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Prince Charles was invited to speak at the transition ceremony

The latest honour was awarded to the star from her homeland as it celebrated becoming a republic – 55 years after gaining independence from the UK.

In a message to the people of the Caribbean island, the Queen sent her “good wishes for your happiness, peace and prosperity in the future” and emphasised the importance of the “continuation of the friendship” with the UK as she ceased to be their monarch.

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Rihanna joined the ceremony in Bridgetown

Prince Charles was invited to speak at the transition ceremony formalising the move.

Speaking in front of a crowd in National Heroes Square in Bridgetown, once known as Trafalgar Square, he said: “From the darkest days of our past, and the appalling atrocity of slavery, which forever stains our histories, the people of this island forged their path with extraordinary fortitude.

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There was singing and dancing during the celebrations

“Emancipation, self-government and independence were your way-points. Freedom, justice and self-determination have been your guides.”

Dame Sandra Mason was sworn in as the island’s first-ever president.

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Source: news.sky.com

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Prince Charles Acknowledges ‘appalling’ History of Slavery As Barbados Becomes a Republic

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The Prince of Wales has formally acknowledged “the appalling atrocity of slavery” in the Caribbean, saying “it forever stains our history” at an event to mark Barbados becoming a republic.

Prince Charles was invited to speak at the transition ceremony formalising the Caribbean island’s decision to remove the Queen as its head of state.

Speaking in front of a crowd in National Heroes Square in Bridgetown, once known as Trafalgar Square, he said: “From the darkest days of our past, and the appalling atrocity of slavery, which forever stains our histories, the people of this island forged their path with extraordinary fortitude.

“Emancipation, self-government and independence were your way-points. Freedom, justice and self-determination have been your guides.”

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Prince Charles celebrated the UK’s relationship with Barbados in his speech

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Performers provide entertainment as part of the Presidential Inauguration Ceremony in Bridgetown

A 21-gun salute was fired just after midnight when the nation officially became a republic, marking a new chapter in the nation’s history.

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The prince, who described how “the creation of this republic offers a new beginning”, watched as the Queen’s standard was lowered for the final time.

He described how he felt “deeply touched” to be invited to the event, held on the nation’s 55th anniversary of independence from Britain, and spoke of his great personal respect for the people of Barbados.

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He added: “Tonight you write the next chapter of your nation’s story, adding to the treasury of past achievement, collective enterprise and personal courage which already fill its pages.

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Members of the Barbados armed forces carry the presidential colours

A new chapter

“The creation of this republic offers a new beginning, but it also marks a point on a continuum – a milestone on the long road you have not only travelled but which you have built.”

In a message to the people of the Caribbean island, the Queen sent her “good wishes for your happiness, peace and prosperity in the future” and emphasised the importance of the “continuation of the friendship” with the UK as she ceased to be their monarch.

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1:03

Rihanna ‘national hero’ of Barbados

Barbados’ decision to remove the Queen as head of state will be watched closely by other members of the Commonwealth, especially in the Caribbean region.

Prince Charles’ speech referenced the UK’s close relationship with Barbados and a continuing partnership between the two nations.

“As your constitutional status changes, it was important to me that I should join you to reaffirm those things which do not change,” Prince Charles said.

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Dame Sandra Mason is now president of Barbados

“For example, the close and trusted partnership between Barbados and the United Kingdom as vital members of the Commonwealth; our common determination to defend the values we both cherish and to pursue the goals we share; and the myriad connections between the people of our countries – through which flow admiration and affection, co-operation and opportunity – strengthening and enriching us all.”

After a dazzling display of Barbadian dance and music, Sandra Mason was sworn in as Barbados’ first ever president.

Prime Minister Mia Mottley, the leader of Barbados’ republican movement, helped lead the ceremony.

Barbadian singer Rihanna also attended the event and was declared a national hero.

“May you continue to shine like a diamond and bring honour to your nation by your works, by your actions,” Ms Mottley told Rihanna, a reference to her 2012 chart-topping single Diamonds.

The transition ceremony was watched in-person by a large crowd, and broadcast online and on screens across the island.

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Source: news.sky.com

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