As part of a global picket of solidarity with Belarus called by the opposition, several hundred people gathered in Vilnius on Saturday to protest against the regime of Alexander Lukashenko.
Saturday marked the one year anniversary since Sergei Tikhanovsky, leader of the Country for Life movement in Belarus, was arrested. His wife Svetlana Tikhanovskaya then took over his bid for presidency and subsequently became the opposition’s frontrunner against Alexander Lukashenko.
“I was at home that day, simply watching his [Tikhanovsky's] arrest with my children. I was in shock, didn't know what to do next,” Tikhanovskaya told the rally on Lukiškių Square.
Mass protests began in Belarus after Lukashenko declared he had won his sixth term. Hundreds have been forced to flee to Lithuania and other neighbouring countries.
“In every meeting, every interview” he was raising awareness of the regime's oppression of nine million Belarusians, Tikhanovskaya said.
The protest in Vilnius kicked off at the central Lukiškės Square before proceeding to the Belarusian Embassy. Several Lithuanian MPs, Emanuelis Zingeris and Jurgita Sejonienė, addressed the crowd.
The rally has been organised by members and organisations of the Belarusian diaspora in Lithuania.
Protests and international outcry against the Belarusian regime intensified earlier this week after a Vilnius-bound Ryanair flight was intercepted over Belarus. The regime scrambled a military jet to lead the airliner into Minsk, where a Belarusian dissident journalist and his partner were arrested.
“This last week has been a catalyst for the entire world to react. Different countries are launching investigations, introducing sanctions against the regime, express support for plans to help Belarus,” said Tikhanovskaya at the rally.
The Baltic states called the incident a “hijacking” and a “state-backed terror attack”.