War in Ukraine: Exiled Belarus pro-democracy leader asks Nicola Sturgeon to set up internship scheme

The exiled pro-democracy leader of Belarus has asked First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to set up an internship scheme at the Scottish Parliament for Belarusians.

On a visit to Scotland this week, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who is widely believed to have won the 2020 elections against dictator Alexander Lukashenko, an ally of Russian president Vladimir Putin, also requested the creation of a cross-party working group of MSPs who support a democratic Belarus.

Tsikhanouskaya, who was forced to flee to exile in Lithuania, wants an internship scheme in Scotland to help her build a team of people experienced in a democratic parliament that would be ready to take over from the country's dictator

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She told Scotland on Sunday: "We will ask for internships or scholarships for Belarusian students. In Belarus, people lived under the dictatorship for many years and now are studying how it is to live in a democracy, because it is not easy just being able to switch. “e have a lack of people who know a lot about this [democracy].

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the leader of the Belarussian Democratic Movement, speaks at an event in Scotland alongside Cabinet secretary Angus Robertson. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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"An internship scheme in the Scottish Parliament would be crucial for a new Belarus.”

Ms Sturgeon said: “It was a pleasure to meet Svietlana Tsikhanouskaya and discuss in-depth how to support Belarusian civil society and Belarusians in Scotland. We will remain in contact and consider how Scotland can continue to support democratic voices in Belarus.

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“Her bravery in standing up to Lukashenko’s regime, despite the personal costs, are an inspiration. Just as we stand with the people of Ukraine, it is vital we maintain support for the people of Belarus as they seek a democratic future.”

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