VILNIUS - Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who challenged authoritarian Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, has called her compatriots to unite as the 2nd anniversary of the presidential election in Belarus is marked.
"One person is not enough to handle this responsibility," the Belarusian opposition leader said, addressing participants of the New Belarus Conference. "One person cannot be a military general and a symbol of change; a diplomat and a resistance leader; a defender of political prisoners and a minister of finance. That's why I need all the people who gathered here, who are watching and listening to this, just like they need each other and all Belarusians need them."
Tsikhanouskaya says she's aware that the people who voted for her in the presidential election did so primarily to express their disapproval of Lukashenko. However, she stressed, she was the one who received an important mandate to lead the people of Belarus.
"And the mandate you entrusted to me two years ago only works if I have someone to hold my hand – and if we stand side by side, not opposite to each other," she said.
"Therefore, it depends only on us, whether we will stab each other in the back, or strengthen each other – so that in the future the people of Belarus can vote for you, the new democratic leaders, without any doubts," the opposition figure said.
Stressing that she would talk about calling on the opposition to unite for a common plan, not to argue, Tsikhanouskaya said that calling her a housewife or an agent would not affect the rest of the people of Belarus.
She also responded to criticism that she was not doing enough, saying that miscalculated action could hurt people and she was not going to put them in danger for the sake of results.
"Now we don't have to agree with each other on everything – it is normal in a democracy to argue, convince, speak in different voices. What we really need is to trust each other, focus on a common goal, and be willing to forgive personal grievances for the sake of the common cause," the opposition politician said.
Conference participants are discussing ways to achieve Alexander Lukashenko's exit, to get through a transitional period with the least economic damage to the country, and who should be responsible for this.
Conference participants are united by the common goal of removing the illegitimate regime, freeing and rehabilitating all political prisoners, defending the country's independence and withdrawing foreign troops, holding fair elections, and restoring democracy, according to the statement released by Tsikhanouskaya's office.
The conference is taking place on Monday and Tuesday.