British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday met with Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya in Downing Street, promising support to the exiled leader.
Tsikhanouskaya fled Belarus for Lithuania last year after losing a presidential election which Western governments say was rigged.
“We are very much on your side, very much in support of what you are doing,” Johnson told Tsikhanouskaya.
“We are committed to supporting human rights and civil society in Belarus.”
Johnson said the UK “strongly supports” Tsikhanouskaya and the Belarusian people, being one of the first countries to impose sanctions after the regime detained opposition journalist Roman Protasevich.
Tsikhanouskaya said it was “very important to understand that one of the most powerful countries in the world are [sic] supporting Belarus.”
When asked if she expects concrete support from the UK, Tsikhanouskaya told reporters outside Downing Street: “I am sure.”
Ahead of Tsikhanouskaya’s visit to Downing Street, Belarusians living in the UK and human rights campaigners demonstrated outside the Foreign Office in Westminster to support the opposition leader.
Ken McBain, a UK representative of the human rights organization Libereco, said the demonstration was about “highlighting what’s happening in Belarus in the last two days.”
“There’s been a lot going on with the Olympics and then with a Belarusian activist in Kyiv—murdered it looks [like],” he said.
“We’re trying to show the British government that more needs to be done. We cannot leave Lukashenko to do what he is doing to the country.”
Western countries have slapped several rounds of sanctions on Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, other officials, and industries after the election and after Lukashenko intercepted the flight on which Protasevich was on board.
Seemingly emboldened by support from Russian President Vladimir Putin, Belarusian authorities have ramped up the crackdown on journalists and oppositions and flew in migrants to overwhelm its border with neighboring Lithuania.
The focus on Belarus has heightened again this week after its Olympic team allegedly tried to forcibly remove sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya from Japan on Sunday, and after exiled activist Vitaly Shishov was found hanged near his home in Ukraine on Tuesday.
PA contributed to this report.