The opposition leader in Belarus, who is currently in exile in Lithuania, has told Euronews she will not run in new elections if they are held.
Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya was forced to flee Belarus following the disputed re-election of Alexander Lukashenko. Her husband, a former presidential candidate, had previously been barred from running and then jailed.
“I’m not going to run in new elections, I’m just like a transition president,” she told Euronews. “I and my team are going to organise fair and transparent elections where I am not going to be involved.”
There have been daily protests in the country since the re-election of Lukashenko on August 9, in an election that has been dismissed by many as rigged.
Protesters and the opposition want free and fair elections to be held, and for Lukashenko to stand down after 26 years as the country’s president.
In another interview with Euronews earlier this week, Tsikhanouskaya said: "Who is the current president of Belarus? I suppose I am," before quickly clarifying that her role is to facilitate free and fair elections.
Asked what message she would like to send to Lukashenko, Tsikhanouskaya said: “I would ask him to listen to his people, to listen to the will of his people, and to understand that we are not ready to live with him anymore, just step away and let the country exist without him, it is possible and it should be done for the sake of everybody in Belarus.”
Europe calls on Putin to refrain from intervening
Russian President Vladimir Putin announced earlier this week he would send forces to help Lukashenko if protests turned violent.
The EU has called on him to refrain from intervening, with foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell telling him to “respect the democratic choices” of the Belarusian people.
Tsikhanouskaya insists there will be no need for any Russian forces to enter the country.
“He didn’t offer to send the police, he said that his reserve of police people are ready to help if our so-called president will need it,” she said.
“But I don’t think it’s a threat for us because our protests are absolutely peaceful, so this Russian service will not have any reason to help Mr Lukashenko like this.”
Following the election results, which outside observers and the opposition in the country doubt the veracity of, unprecedented numbers of people took to the streets in protest.
They were met with repressive force by the authorities, with thousands detained and “mounting evidence” of widespread torture taking place, according to Amnesty International.
The Belarusian authorities have changed tack since then, although protests are still being dispersed with the use of force, and some demonstrators are being taken into custody.
The people of Belarus will not “forgive and forget” what has happened, insisted Tsikhanouskaya.
“We are sure that we will not stop until the authorities will step away because our society isn’t ready to obey the dictator anymore.
“Our society will not be able to forgive and forget all the crimes they have committed, and we will stand until we win.”