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Belarus opposition leader says CNN report is ‘proof’ Lukashenko regime aided Russian aggression in Ukraine

<i>Julien de Rosa/AFP/Getty Images</i><br/>Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya
Julien de Rosa/AFP/Getty Images
Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya

By Eliza Mackintosh, CNN

An opposition leader in exile from Belarus has demanded that President Alexsandr Lukashenko be held to account for his regime’s complicity in the Ukraine war and for Russian soldiers to withdraw from Belarusian soil, after a CNN investigation revealed new evidence that the country provided medical assistance to injured Russian troops.

Russia used Belarus as a staging ground for its invasion of Ukraine in February, deploying troops and weaponry to its territory. A CNN report published Wednesday found that Belarus’ authoritarian government also provided medical aid to Russian military personnel, who were secretly ferried to several civilian hospitals in the southern Gomel region and treated by Belarusian doctors operating under harsh surveillance.

Opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who has lived in exile in Lithuania since 2020, said that Lukashenko’s regime had helped facilitate Russia’s aggression against Ukraine — in violation of international law — and that CNN’s investigation was further evidence of his complicity.

“This is important evidence of Lukashenka’s crimes and complicity in the war. These testimonies, collected by CNN journalists, will help in the future investigation and bring Lukashenka to the tribunal,” she said in a statement. “This is proof that the regime participated in and facilitated Russian aggression.”

“But this is also a testament to the courage of those Belarusian doctors. They, despite threats and terror, recorded the truth so that Belarusians and the world would learn what Putin and Lukashenka are actually doing in Ukraine,” she added.

In interviews with Belarusian doctors, members of the country’s medical diaspora, human rights activists, military analysts and security sources, CNN examined the role Belarus played in treating Russian casualties, while the Kremlin sought to conceal them. Their testimonies and documentation one doctor shared with CNN — dozens of X-rays revealing the injuries of Russian troops — shed new light on the Lukashenko regime’s support for Putin’s war.

Lukashenko has so far avoided deploying his own soldiers south into Ukraine, but as Russian President Vladimir Putin racks up losses and pressure mounts, there are growing fears that might change.

Russia has poured billions of dollars into propping up Lukashenko’s regime. After a rigged presidential election in 2020 cemented Lukashenko’s long reign, triggering widespread pro-democracy protests, he clung to power with the help of Putin.

Tsikhanouskaya went up against Lukashenko in the vote, and is widely believed to have won. But she was forced to flee Belarus amid the government’s brutal, Kremlin-backed crackdown.

In April, Tsikhanouskaya met with members of the US State Department in Washington, DC, handing over evidence of Lukashenko’s involvement in the war in Ukraine. The documents, seen by CNN, detail how Belarus provided key infrastructure to Russia, including missile launch positions, railway lines, and medical aid.

“I believe that Belarus should support Ukraine, all Russian troops should withdraw from our territory,” Tsikhanouskaya said, while underlining that regular Belarusian people should not be penalized for the regime’s actions.

“Lukashenka’s regime’s participation in Putin’s criminal war must not doom the Belarusian people to the role of pariah. There are many who continue their fight against aggressors, including partisans, military volunteers, cyber activists. Their brave actions show that Belarusians are not equal Lukashenka’s regime.”

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Article Topic Follows: CNN - Europe/Mideast/Africa

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