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“What would you do for love? The man I love was trying to topple a dictator. And then he went to jail for it. So I did what any loyal wife would do. I ran in his place. I have no interest in politics. My dream is just to be a good mother and a great wife. And now I’m leading a revolution against Europe’s last dictator.” [MUSIC PLAYING] ”(CHANTING) Sveta! Sveta!” [GUNFIRE] “My name is Svetlana Tikhanovskaya. And I’m from Belarus. We are run by a dictator, Alexander Lukashenko. He’s oppressive tyrant who has been in power for 26 years.” Europe’s closest equivalent to North Korea. Accused of human rights abuses, stifling dissent, and running sham elections. “A lot of people who disagree with him just disappeared.” The president had ordered his assassination. DW News has spoken with a man who says that he was a member of the death squads. “When COVID came, he asked, ‘Do you see this COVID around? I don’t see it. So it doesn’t exist.’” Belarus has one of Europe’s highest per capita infection rates. “Thousands of people died because of it.” – [SPEAKING RUSSIAN] “Our president doesn’t respect his people at all. My husband went around the country just talking to usual people, asking how they were living.” – [SPEAKING RUSSIAN] “He was touched by ordinary people who didn’t have good conditions for working.” – [SPEAKING RUSSIAN] “And it became so important for him.” – [SPEAKING RUSSIAN] “He was showing all these videos on his YouTube channel, ‘A Country for Life.’ His subscribers started to ask him to run for presidency because he knew all the problems from inside.” – [SPEAKING RUSSIAN] “I was sitting at home with my children. And I was worrying about him. Authorities knew that he will be a serious opponent for Mr. Lukashenko. And he was jailed. So I collected documents for myself and brought these documents to Election Commission. At that moment, I didn’t think about country. Maybe it sounds wrong. But, at very that moment, I was thinking only about my husband, to support him. But I was sure that they know who I was. And they will never, never allow me to be registered. And it was great surprise when they did. I’m sure that they did this just to laugh at me. They were sure that people will never vote for a woman, for unknown person, for housewife. We went around Belarus. I’ve never talked to such amount of people. I was afraid that I will forget all the words. I understood how dangerous, in our country, to run for presidency because you’re like a bug in front of tractor.” Hundreds of opposition activists have reportedly been arrested, among them the president’s main challengers. “I understood that I’m not ready to lead the country because I’m not economist. I’m not a politician. So I promised that I will be president no more than half a year, just to organize new elections, that’s it.” [SPEAKING RUSSIAN] “During all this election campaign, I had a lot of moments when I wanted to step away because I was frightened.” – [SPEAKING RUSSIAN] “I got telephone call from unknown person who told me that, if I continue to run this campaign, I will be jailed and my children will be put in orphanage. And the next city, it was Minsk. About 60,000 people came. And, at that very moment, I understood that I can’t step away.” ”(CHANTING) Sveta! Sveta! Sveta! Sveta! Sveta!” [SPEAKING RUSSIAN] “So many people just came to show that they are with me. They are tired to live under pressure. They don’t want this dictator anymore. We had a lot of observers at every polling station. And we saw that the majority voted with me. Till the end, there was a tiny hope that they will count honestly. But it was so tiny that it just disappeared.” NARRATOR: [SPEAKING RUSSIAN] “Official result was 80% for Mr. Lukashenko and 10% for me. He stole all the people’s voices. 100,000 of Belarusian people went out for peaceful demonstrations.” [GUNFIRE] “Police just was going around and beating and beated and beated all of them. People were just beaten so hard. Thousands have been imprisoned, beaten, and tortured.” NARRATOR: [SPEAKING RUSSIAN] – [SPEAKING RUSSIAN] – [SPEAKING RUSSIAN] “This footage was recorded by a Belarusian journalist who was beaten on the streets and then became a patient in this hospital in Minsk. The ward is full of so many different people with the exact same injuries and very similar stories.” – [SPEAKING RUSSIAN] – [SPEAKING RUSSIAN] – [SPEAKING RUSSIAN] “And some of these patients were not even protesters. One patient was just going to buy vinegar at his local shop. Even worse, some protesters said they were raped.” – [SPEAKING RUSSIAN] “This is what Lukashenko does to his own people.” [MUSIC PLAYING] “After the elections, I had to leave Belarus.” Belarusian opposition leader has been filmed speaking under duress. Tikhanovskaya was forced to flee the country. “At that moment, I had to think about family, about husband. I was ready to step away because it was difficult to accept this violence. So I really was ready to give up. Only, Belarusian people didn’t give me chance to step away. I became like a symbol of freedom.” ”(CHANTING) Sveta! Sveta! Sveta!” “I started to meet with the leaders of different countries.” “Honorable members of the European Parliament—” “It is very important that people around the world are talking about us.” “We wish you all strength and persistence in the struggle for democracy.” “Authorities were sure that such violence will calm down people. But vice versa happened.” [? [CROWDS CHANTING] ?] – [CHANTING IN RUSSIAN] “There were people of different professions, of different ages.” – [SPEAKING RUSSIAN] – [SPEAKING RUSSIAN] “Old people, usually, is considered to be electorate of Mr. Lukashenko. But, at last, they understood. Even those people who were still apolitical— workers who work in factories, they are usually apolitical— they started strikes.” – [PROTESTING IN RUSSIAN] “It’s unbelievable for Belarus. I always considered myself to be a weak woman. But when my fate laughed at me, when it put me in such obstacles that I had to look for the strength, maybe this strength already was inside of me. You know, the same as me, I’m sure every person has strength in himself or herself. They just didn’t know they have this strength because we were so frightened by one person. But now they woke up. This revolution is not over. To the international community, we need new and fair elections. They can be run by the OSCE. And we need an investigation into the human rights abuses to my people who have been on the streets for weeks.” [SPEAKING RUSSIAN] “Our revolution is not geopolitical. It’s not a pro-Russian revolution nor [? pro-European-Union ?] revolution. It is a democratic revolution. And I want my husband back.” [MUSIC PLAYING]

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