On February 15, 2021, the Belarusian government sentenced Svetlana Tikhanovskaya’s husband, Sergei Tikhanovsky, to 15 years in prison. Tikhanovsky is the founder of the influential video channel “Country for Life,” which was instrumental in documenting the Belarusian uprising against President Alexander Lukashenko. His sentencing is the latest move by the dictatorship to silence the opposition and maintain control over the country.

The trial, held in the Belarusian capital, Minsk, was widely criticized as a sham. Tikhanovsky was charged with sedition, incitement to violence, and plotting to overthrow the government. His arrest took place just weeks before the August 2020 presidential election, which saw Lukashenko declare himself the winner in a widely disputed outcome.

Tikhanovsky’s sentencing is a clear message to the opposition that the government has no tolerance for dissent. The Belarusian authorities have been accused of using force and intimidation to suppress peaceful protests and silence criticism of Lukashenko’s regime.

The trial was held in a closed-door session, and details of the verdict are unclear. However, Tikhanovsky’s lawyer confirmed that he was given the maximum sentence of 15 years in a high-security prison. This sentencing is the latest example of how the Belarusian government is using the judiciary to punish political dissidents and create a climate of fear in the country.

Tikhanovsky’s wife, Svetlana, was also a presidential candidate in the 2020 elections. She fled to Lithuania following the elections due to threats against her safety. Since then, she has become a leading opposition figure and has been calling for democratic changes in the nation. Her husband’s sentencing is yet another blow to her efforts to bring change to Belarus.

International condemnation of the sentencing was swift, with several Western countries calling on the Belarusian government to release Tikhanovsky immediately. However, Lukashenko’s regime has shown little regard for international pressure, and it remains to be seen if these calls for a release will have any effect.

The Belarusian government’s actions have received significant pushback from the international community. The European Union and the United States have imposed economic sanctions on Belarus, targeting key individuals and sectors of the country’s economy. These sanctions have created some economic pressure on Lukashenko’s government, but it remains to be seen if they will be enough to force change.

The situation in Belarus is a reminder of the importance of democratic values and the rule of law. The Belarusian government’s assault on political opposition and civil society is deplorable and goes against fundamental human rights principles. Tikhanovsky’s sentencing is an example of how authoritarian regimes can use the judicial system to silence dissidents and create a climate of fear.

It is critical that the international community continues to hold the Belarusian government accountable for its actions. The European Union and United States must continue to impose sanctions on the Lukashenko regime until they release political prisoners and allow for democratic reforms in the country. Additionally, it is crucial that media and civil society organizations continue to report on the injustices occurring in Belarus.

Belarusians must be given the opportunity to choose their own leaders through free and fair elections. The international community must support those who are fighting for democracy in Belarus and hold those who are violating human rights accountable. The country for Life movement, which Tikhanovsky founded, continues to call for free and fair elections in the country. They deserve our support and solidarity.

In conclusion, Sergei Tikhanovsky’s sentencing to 15 years in prison is a stark reminder of the challenges faced by the Belarusian opposition. The Belarusian government’s suppression of dissent and assault on civil society must be met with strong condemnation and international pressure to support democratic change. Belarusians must be given the right to choose their own leaders, free from intimidation and harassment. The sentencing of Sergei Tikhanovsky must not be allowed to stand, and the international community must continue to stand with the Belarusian people in their struggle for democracy.