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Belarus Protest Movement Faces Turning Point as Opposition Leader Leaves Country

MOSCOW—Belarus’s growing protest movement is at a turning point after opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya left for Lithuania, saying she had to consider the future of her two children following the country’s disputed presidential elections and a worsening crackdown against her supporters.

Many of her backers have promised to continue demonstrations against Belarus’s veteran leader, President Alexander Lukashenko, who claimed 80% of the vote in Sunday’s poll despite growing anger over his handling of the country’s stagnating economy and his increasingly heavy-handed rule.

Some suggested Ms. Tikhanovskaya had been coerced into leaving the country and telling people on Tuesday to end the protests, pointing out that she only stepped into role of opposition candidate after husband, popular YouTuber Sergei Tikhanovsky, was barred after being detained in May for allegedly inciting unrest. He remains in detention.

Staff on Ms. Tikhanovskaya’s campaign team also released a statement later Tuesday supporting the protests that have been taking place in the Belarus capital Minsk and other cities. They urged authorities to avoid violence and instead begin discussions on what they called a peaceful transfer of power to the people.

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