French President Emmanuel Macron has met Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya in Lithuania on the second day of his visit to Baltic countries aimed at reassuring them about French commitment to their security.
Tsikhanouskaya said Macron promised her to help negotiate with the Belarus authorities and secure the release of political prisoners in the country.
Belarus has been gripped in mass protests since the disputed August 9 presidential election which both President Alexander Lukashenko and Tsikhanouskaya said they won.
“He promised us to do everything to help with negotiations, (during) this political crisis in our country … and he will do everything to help to release all the political prisoners,” Tsikhanouskaya said.
She fled Belarus after the August 9 election and has taken refuge in neighbouring Lithuania.
Macron has previously urged Belarus authorities to stop unlawful arrests, release protesters detained arbitrarily and respect election results.
On Sunday he urged Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko to go, hardening his stance as tens of thousands marched in Belarus for a seventh straight weekend to demand Lukashenko quit.
Macron is keen to reassure Baltic countries that his policy of “strategic dialogue” with Russia, initiated about a year ago, and his criticism of NATO, does not mean weaker French commitment to the security of eastern European countries.
EU countries that escaped Moscow’s orbit after the Cold War have criticised Macron’s stance towards Russia. They say little has changed to merit a thaw in relations that have been on ice since Russian intervention in Ukraine in 2014.
Australian Associated Press