The new US ambassador to Belarus met with the country’s exiled opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya on Wednesday in a provocative message to Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.
The meeting took place in Lithuania, where Tsikhanouskaya has been living since she fled Belarus after losing the controversial presidential election last August. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko won the vote by a wide margin according to official numbers, but fraud was alleged, and the US and EU have slapped sanctions on Belarusian officials since.
“Today’s action sends a clear signal that the US stands with the Belarusian people,” US Ambassador Julie Fisher said of her meeting with Tsikhanouskaya. “As US Ambassador to Belarus, my priority is to embody that support.”
Fisher is the first person to be appointed as US ambassador to Belarus since 2008 and has not been officially welcomed in the role by Minsk. US State Department spokesman Ned Price said Fisher wouldn’t be sent to Belarus anytime soon.
“Being able to return an ambassador to Minsk would send a powerful signal. But as long as what we have seen in Belarus continues, the human rights violations, the repression, there can be no business as usual,” Price said.
The meeting comes after Lukashenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin alleged US involvement in a foiled coup and assassination plot against the Belarusian president. On Saturday, Russian authorities said they arrested two men in Moscow that planned to assassinate Lukashenko.
According to the Russian news agency Tass, Lukashenko and Putin discussed the alleged involvement of US intelligence in the plot.