Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya told viewers that she was “angry” but sees “light in the darkness: you,” in an slick New Year’s address released on YouTube (with English subtitles) to see out a year of frustration and repression for her country.
“We thought it shouldn’t be so long, so difficult, there shouldn’t be so many losses. We wanted a new country and a new future,” Tikhanovskaya said in a high quality and professionally produced clip. “And I am also angry that in response to this, Belarusians received revenge, violence and crisis.”
She went on to pay tribute to those that had lost their lives as a result of the brutal repression unleashed by Belarus' President Alexander Lukashenko, who claimed a landslide victory in last August 9 presidential elections that are widely seen as massively falsified.
“I am also scared: what if the regime takes another life? What if we don't have enough strength? What if our kids have to start all over again? What if all this path, in which so much work, love and faith is invested, does not lead to victory?” Tikhanovskaya asked, addressing the frustrations and fears of many after a year and half of protest that has brought the opposition no nearer to ousting Lukashenko.
However, she appealed to the people to remain firm in their resolve to change the political system and lauded the people as the strength of the country.
“All this time, even on the darkest days, I see the light – because I look at you,” the former housewife turned revolutionary said as the lights on the set rose to reveal several other leading figures in the opposition movement, including Pavel Latushko, a former Culture Minister in Lukashenko’s government turned rebel and now in exile. “To those who say "this is our land and we will not go anywhere”.”
She praised the Belarusian people for their creativity and ability to endure and flourish even in harsh conditions.
“Now our victory is no longer a matter of chance or luck. It is a matter of our determination,” Tikhanovskaya said. “Willingness to take the fate of the homeland into their own hands and every day to go to the new Belarus, which we all dream of. "
Tikhanovskaya's speech was in stark contrast to Lukashenko's own New Year’s message that played on the economic chaos of the 90s and the stability he brought to the country by creating a neo-Soviet system, for which many Belarusians remain grateful.
“This is how our sovereign state has been built and prospered for 30 years, painstakingly, day after day. And agree, looking back to the early 90s, we have something to be proud of. We have built a modern, stable and successful country,” Lukashenko said.