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Svetlana Tsikhanouskaya Alamy Stock Photo
Svetlana Tsikhanouskaya

Belarus' exiled opposition leader Tsikhanouskaya to be awarded for Tipperary Peace Award

Tikhanovskaya was sentenced for spearheading historic protests against Alexander Lukashenko’s regime.

BELARUS’ EXILED OPPOSITION leader Svetlana Tsikhanouskaya has been announced as the recipient of the 2022 Tipperary (Ireland) International Peace Award. 

Tsikhanouskaya was forced to exile to Lithuania in summer 2020 after challenging Belarus president Alexander Lukashenko’s nearly three decades in power in a presidential election. 

Belarus on Monday sentenced Tsikhanouskaya in absentia to 15 years in prison for spearheading historic protests against the former Soviet country’s authoritarian leader.

The honorary secretary of Tipperary Peace Convention, Martin Quinn, has said the award of the Tipperary (Ireland) International Peace Award to Tsikhanouskaya is a statement of support for the rights of freedom of expression, freedom of association and freedom of assembly in Belarus. 

“The torture and ill treatment of men, women and children in Belarus, along with the system of unfair and closed trials and the imprisonment of those that speak out against the regime, as brought to prominence by Tsikhanouskaya, has highlighted the brutality of the Lukashenka regime and its crackdown on protesters and those who speak out against them,” Quinn said. 

The 2002 award will be presented to Tsikhanouskaya at a ceremony in Tipperary in May.

The Belarusian leader is very familiar with Co Tipperary having spent many summers in Roscrea, since she was 12 years old, as part of a programme for children affected by the Chernobyl disaster.

Responding to the news of her selection Tsikhanouskaya said that it is a great honour to become the recipient of the Tipperary International Peace Award for 2022 and to be amongst the great people who received the award before her.

“This award is not only given to me, it is given to millions of free people of Belarus, who have been fearlessly and selflessly resisting tyranny for the past three years. I’m proud of them and I thank the Tipperary Peace Committee and Ireland for this recognition,” Tsikhanouskaya said.

“Ireland has always been a friend to Belarus and to me personally,” she said. 

“As a child, I came to Ireland under the Chernobyl children’s programme and I lived with the warmest family in this very region of Co Tipperary. This family showed me what a big heart Irish people have and I’m happy that I still keep in touch with them,” she added.

“Despite the distance the people of Ireland and Belarus remain close friends as we have so much in common and we understand each other. Belarus is also a country of warm and modest people and like Irish people, Belarusians know how to fight for their land, their culture and their traditions and to defend is what makes us a nation,” Tsikhanouskaya said.

“I’m sure that the friendship between Belarus and Ireland will remain forever and this award is what confirms these ties between us. It is an incredible support for the democratic movement of Belarus and for the hundreds of thousands of activists who resist tyranny on the ground. This provides hope for the thousands of political prisoners who suffer in Belarusian prisons for their truth and for their thirst for freedom and commitment to democratic values.”

Past recipients of the award include former South African President Nelson Mandela, former President Mary McAleese and her husband Senator Martin McAleese, Pakistani school girl Malala Yousafzai and the former Colombian President, Juan Manuel Santos.

Tipperary Peace Convention has also announced that it is to recognise the Irish Defence Forces for 65 years service on peacekeeping missions in different parts of the world since 1958.

A special presentation to honour their service and contribution to peacekeeping will be made on the occasion of the presentation of the Tipperary International Peace Award in May.

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