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Belarus opposition leader flees abroad with sons ahead of election

“We were left with no choice,” Tsepkalo’s wife Veronika, who stayed behind to campaign against Lukashenko, told a crowd of hundreds of people at a rally.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has been in charge for 26 years.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has been in charge for 26 years.Credit:AP

“I was called by concerned people and they said: ‘We do not want to sign these papers, but they force us [to sign], they collect something bad against you and the next step is to deprive you of parental rights, that you are a bad mother, do not take care of the children’.”

The office denied authorities visited the school. “The prosecutor’s office did not take any actions aimed at depriving Valery or Veronika Tsepkalo of parental rights,” it said in a statement.

The Tsepkalos have not disclosed the age of the children.

Valery Tsepkalo’s move abroad comes days after another opposition candidate, Svetlana Tikhanouskaya, moved her two children to an undisclosed location in the European Union. She received anonymous threats of her children being taken away.

Veronika Tsepkalo has joined forces with Tikhanouskaya and a third woman representing another candidate, now in prison, to campaign jointly against Lukashenko.

Valery Tsepkalo was barred from standing after the central election commission voided some signatures he needed to collect to become a candidate.

Police officers detain protesters during a protest rally against the removal of opposition candidates from the presidential elections in Minsk on July 14.

Police officers detain protesters during a protest rally against the removal of opposition candidates from the presidential elections in Minsk on July 14.Credit:AP

Tikhanouskaya launched her campaign after her husband, a popular blogger who planned to run against the President, was arrested in May.

Protests in support of opposition candidates are the biggest challenge in years to Lukashenko, amid anger over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and grievances over the economy and human rights.

Reuters

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