“Both of our countries are facing the same enemy, who denies our right to exist as sovereign nations. And both of our countries see our future in Europe”, says Tsikhanouskaya who is expected to participate in the Delphi Economic Forum that will take place 10 – 13 of April in Delphi.

How did you feel when you heard that Alexei Navalny was dead?

I was shocked when I heard this news. I know how his wife must feel, since my husband is also a political prisoner. I know how it feels to live with this fear every day – for a year, I didn’t have any news from my husband. I don’t know if he is alive.

Navalny gave his life to transform his country. Because he believed in a different Russia. He will be remembered for his courage and the sacrifice that he made. I hope that his dream of a democratic Russia will come true one day.

Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya meets with Yulia Navalnaya, wife of late Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, on the day it was announced that Alexei Navalny is dead. Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya/Handout via REUTERS

Are you afraid for your life? We have seen many times that the Russian regime does not hesitate to kill people even outside Russian/Belarus territory and Lukashenka did not hesitate to hijack a western plane to arrest Protasevich and Sapega.

I understand that my work for democratic change has a risk, as Putin and Lukashenka have already murdered many opponents, but I am not worried about my own life. I am worried for all those who are held as hostages by the regime, and who are being tortured every day. Putin has just murdered one of his biggest opponents in prison. If the world doesn’t react, Lukashenka may feel emboldened to do the same.

Do you believe that the fate of Ukraine and Belarus is interconnected?

I am absolutely convinced that the fate of our countries is intertwined. There won’t be freedom for Belarus without victory for Ukraine, and Ukraine will never be safe unless we have a free and democratic Belarus. Both of our countries are facing the same enemy, who denies our right to exist as sovereign nations. And both of our countries see our future in Europe. But I also want to add that changes in Belarus don’t have to wait for Ukraine’s victory; if we remove Lukashenka, it will be the best support for Ukraine and the most effective sanction against Russia. Without the aid of Lukashenka, Russia would not have been able to launch the full-scale invasion 2 years ago.

Alexander Lukashenka’s new law bars exiled opposition leaders from standing in presidential elections and grants him lifelong immunity from criminal prosecution. What does that mean for you and your struggle for democracy?

The regime has no legitimacy, so any laws, constitutional changes or international agreements that they sign should be considered invalid. You can’t even talk about elections when political parties have been disbanded – except those loyal to regime – and their leaders imprisoned or force into exile. The recent so-called elections are just a sham. They even removed curtains from the voting booths. It was carried out like a military operation. Because it is clear that for the dictator, the enemy is – our people. So this law and his attempt to give himself immunity won’t help him. We will make sure that Lukashenka will be held accountable for all his crimes.

Are you disappointed by what the West, EU, US are doing or not doing regarding the situation in Belarus? Did you expect more from our liberal democracies?

While I am grateful for the support that the West, the European Union, and the United States have extended to the Belarusian people and the democratic movement, there are areas where I hoped for more decisive and robust actions. The situation in Belarus calls for a unified and strong international response. Given the values of freedom, democracy, and human rights that underpin liberal democracies, I expected a more forceful stance. We need more effective sanctions against the regime, support for civil society and free media and we must make every effort for the release of political prisoners.

Has the world lost interest in Belarus? And can you tell us what is the situation now in Belarus?

While it may seem at times that the world’s focus has shifted away from Belarus, especially with the ongoing war in Ukraine and other global challenges, many international supporters, activists, and democratic nations continue to stand with the Belarusian people. However, it is true that media attention and international discourse sometimes move in cycles, and there’s a risk that prolonged crises become normalized in the eyes of the global public.

The Lukashenka regime continues its harsh crackdown on any form of dissent, with thousands of political prisoners languishing in jails under inhumane conditions. Repression is still increasing all the time. Detentions continue on a daily basis. Free media and civil society has been destroyed or forced into exile. But Belarusians continue to resist and they didn’t give up. The resistance moved underground, but it never stopped. Although there may be moments when it feels like the world has turned its attention elsewhere, the struggle for a free and democratic Belarus continues. It is up to us, with the support of the international community, to ensure that this fight is not forgotten.