VILNIUS – Lithuania’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Monday accredited the Belarusian Democratic Representation thus granting an official status to the Vilnius-based team of Belarus' exiled opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya.
The ministry described the accreditation as a symbolic step in the legal recognition of Belarusian civil society and its aspirations to implement democratic changes in its country. It stressed, however, that the accredited institution would not be considered as a diplomatic representation with its usual rights and privileges.
“Starting from today, the Belarusian Democratic Representation in Lithuania is an accredited institution,” Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis told reporters after presenting a respective note to Tsikhanouskaya.
“Lithuania recognizes the democratic will expressed by Belarusian people, which is like a choice that has not been fully realized. We provide an opportunity for that choice and its representatives to work in Lithuania and operate in our country until that democratic will is rightly and fully expressed in their country,” he added.
The representation will be led by Tsikhanouskaya.
“We recognize people’s democratic will and not a state or an international organization,” Landsbergis stressed.
Tsikhanouskaya, a former presidential candidate, fled to Lithuanian after the August 9 presidential election and the declaration of Alexander Lukashenko, ruling Belarus since 1994, as the winner.
However, the Belarusian opposition and Western countries refuse to recognize Lukashenko as a legitimate president.
Following her arrival in Lithuania, Tsikhanouskaya set up an office in Vilnius.
She said that the status granted to the office by the Foreign Ministry was an “important step in delegitimizing Lukashenko’s regime and reiterating new Belarusian majority”.
“This status means that the people of Belarus now have a representation in an EU country,” the leader of the Belarusian opposition said.
“Last but not least, it is a yet another great example of Lithuania’s solidarity and fraternity,” she added.
Landsbergis, in his turn, expressed hope that the accreditation of the representation would help “spread the word about the struggle of Belarusian people for democracy, free and fair elections”.