Dutch PM discusses Belarus sanctions with opposition leader Tikhanovskaya
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Foreign Affairs Minister Sigrid Kaag met the leader of the Belarusian opposition, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, in The Hague on Friday. The meeting happened in the wake of an incident in which Belarus forced a Ryanair plane to land so it could arrest an opposition journalist, causing international outrage.
In response, European leaders agreed to impose a fresh round of sanctions on Belarus. European airliners were asked to avoid Belarusian airspace, Belarusian planes were forbidden from entering the airspace of many European countries, and more economic and individual sanctions are pending.
"Everyone always says that people suffer under sanctions, but people are suffering now," Tikhanovskaya said.
Rutte said on behalf of the Netherlands that the country will do whatever it can to help. He previously stated that the economic sanctions were crucial in dealing with the regime of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. He emphasized that the upcoming sanctions must target state-owned companies while avoiding citizens as much as possible.
Tikhanovskaya fled her country shortly after the elections last year and has been in exile in Lithuania since then. The recent elections there were officially won by Lukashenko, but Tikhanovskaya also claimed victory. She said yesterday that not enough has been done so far to stop the Belarus regime and that more pressure should be put on President Lukashenko.
The 38-year old was also slated to tape an episode of College Tour on Friday. She will discuss her role in last year’s mass demonstrations against Lukashenko’s regime with host Twan Huys. The interview program, held in front of an audience of higher education students, will first air on Saturday at 8:35 p.m. on NPO 2.
Rutte expressed his appreciation for Tikhanovskaya's efforts and said that he was hopeful they would also be able to meet in Minsk one day. Tikhanovskaya also thanked Rutte for his "firm" response to developments in Belarus.