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MOSCOW – Belarus’s main opposition candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya announced on Tuesday she has fled the country after challenging the results of the country’s presidential elections.

Tikhanovskaya has gone into exile in neighboring Lithuania and called on her supporters to end violent protests that have gripped the country since the vote on Sunday. She and her formation have rejected the victory declared by Alexander Lukashenko and called on the long-time leader to surrender power within two weeks.

Tikhanovskaya said in a YouTube video that she decided to leave her country for the sake of her young children.

“Not one life is worth what is happening now,” she added. “Children are the most important things in our lives.”

Her decision was a setback and a surprise to her supporters as only hours earlier she said she had no reason to leave Belarus. This changed after she went to the headquarters of the Central Election Commission in Minsk on Monday to contest the results, during which time her team said she was uncontactable for several hours.

“Tikhanovskaya spent three hours in the office of (CEC head Lidia) Yermoshina with two senior members of the security forces,” her campaign partner Maria Kolesnikova said in an apparent allusion to the Belarusian KGB.

Shortly after communicating her whereabouts, Tikhanovskaya broadcast another video in which she appeared unsettled and read from a document. She asked demonstrators not to confront the police and not to go out onto the streets “so as not to put their lives in danger.”

One person has died in violent clashes in a bid by authorities to suppress post-election protests in the country.

Lithuanian foreign minister Linas Linkevicius said Tikhanovskaya had arrived in the Baltic country following pressure from Belarusian authorities. Analysts believe her exile will not affect the momentum of the protests as their goal remains unchanged.

Lukashenko has said the demonstrations were sponsored by countries such as the Czech Republic, Poland or by groups from neighboring Ukraine or Russia.

“Lukashenko complains that the protests are sponsored from outside, but what he doesn’t understand is that we are the ones who organize ourselves,” Veronika Tsepkalo, the third main member of Tikhanovskaya’s team who is in exile in Moscow, told EFE.

“The Belarusians know that he falsified the elections and they will not endure another five years of dictatorship,” she added.

Security forces have been following Lukashenko’s orders and harshly repressing the rallies, which took place in more than 20 cities on Monday.

“I had to leave, as they wanted to arrest me. What is happening in Minsk is terrible. We are witnessing bloodshed on Lukashenko’s orders,” Tsepkalo said.

More than 5,000 people have…

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