War in Ukraine: 'A prison cell looks like a soccer field', says political prisoner husband of exiled Belarusian leader released from two months of solitary confinement
Siarhai Tsikhanovsky, who was originally intended to stand against Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko in the 2020 presidential elections, but was replaced by his wife Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya after being jailed by the Belarusian authorities, said a cup of Starbucks coffee brought to him in his new prison was “something incredible”.
Mr Tsikhanovsky has been in solitary confinement in Zhodzina Prison since August.
On a visit to Scotland in September, Ms Tskihanuskaya, who lives in exile in Lithuania with the couple’s two children, told The Scotsman how her husband, who is two years into an 18-year sentence, was forced to sleep on bare tiles on the floor of the unheated isolation cell. Her husband had to wake up to exercise every two hours during the night to ensure his body temperature did not drop dangerously low.
In his message to his wife, Mr Tsikhanovsky said: "After a long deprivation, you realise what a blessing it is to feel indoor temperature. And a cup of ‘Starbucks coffee’ is something incredible.
“A thin prison mattress made of rags spread out on iron bunks feels like a feather bed, and a prison cell looks like a soccer field. It even made me dizzy when I walked outside.”
He added: “Thanks to all Belarusians, my wife, foreign politicians, @amnesty and everyone who supported me."
Posting the message on Twitter, Ms Tsikhanovsky said: “I want to share a message from my husband Siarhei. After two months in the punishment cell, his conditions in Zhodzina prison changed.”
Ms Tsikhanovsky was widely believed to have won at least 60 per cent of the vote, but was ousted by dictator and Russian ally Mr Lukashenko, who claimed victory, forcing her to flee into exile,. She has now set up an alternative Belarusian leadership.
The 2020 elections sparked widespread protests in Belarus, lasting months, during which time protesters faced human rights abuses and violence from the authorities. Thousands of people were imprisoned for taking part in the demonstrations and campaigners believe up to 11 people were killed. More than 1,300 people are still behind bars.
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