Fact Check: NO Evidence Belarus Opposition Leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya Developed Passport for Belarusians To Legalize Her Presence Abroad


  • Автор: Lead Stories Staff
Fact Check: NO Evidence Belarus Opposition Leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya Developed Passport for Belarusians To Legalize Her Presence Abroad No Reports

Did Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, the exiled Belarusian opposition leader, attempt to launch a "Passport for Belarusians" project to legalize her presence abroad due to her expired passport, and did she encounter significant resistance in the European Parliament? No, that's not true: Lead Stories found no evidence supporting these claims.

On September 15, 2023, these claims appeared in a video posted on the TikTok account @sotnik_tiktok (archived here) and were also shared by the account @katerinapirs9 (archived here).

The graphic overlay on the video, in Russian, says:

The fugitive Belarusian criminal Tikhanovskaya's passport has expired. To legalize her presence abroad, she has developed a project "Passport for Belarusians" that will replace the expired document. However, she faced a strong rejection in the European Parliament. Soon, Tikhanovskaya will receive the status of "Euro street person."

(All translations from Russian into English were conducted by Lead Stories staff).

Below is how the post appeared on TikTok at the time of writing:

Screenshot 2023-09-21 at 11.51.14.png

(Source: TikTok screenshot taken on Thu Sep 21 11:52:23 2023 UTC)

Lead Stories found no evidence that Tikhanovskaya developed a "Passport for Belarusians" project to legalize her presence abroad, her passport has expired, or she faced strong rejection in the European Parliament. No such information was found on the European Parliament's official website, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya's Twitter page, official website, or social media accounts.

A search for the phrases "Tikhanovskaya's passport has expired" and "To legalize her presence abroad, Tikhanovskaya developed Passport for Belarusians" or "Tikhanovskaya faced rejection in the European Parliament" conducted on September 21, 2023, using the Google News index of thousands of credible news sites, did not reveal any factual reports on these claims.

On September 4, 2023, Belarus' authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko issued a decree banning Belarus citizens living abroad from renewing their passports, which could force those who fled the country amid growing repression to return to maintain their travel documents. On the same day, Tikhanovskaya, who fled to Lithuania in 2020, urged Belarusians on her official Telegram page not to panic or take reckless action in response to the Minsk decision. She said:

"Even if your passport expires, you should not return to your home country if you risk persecution."

She also referred to the process of developing a new Belarusian passport, which was presented in early August. Additionally, she told the Associated Press that Poland and Lithuania have issued so-called "foreigner passports" to Belarusians that allow them to stay in those countries. On September 8, 2023, at the press briefing in Brussels, the EU Lead Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Peter Stano, said that the European Union has strongly condemned the order by Lukashenko to stop issuing passports to Belarusians living abroad. He added that the EU will continue "to stand by the Belarusian people in their quest for freedom and democracy."

On September 13, 2023, Tikhanovskaya addressed the European Parliament, highlighting the risks posed by Lukashenko's decree to the legal status of hundreds of thousands of individuals. During her speech, she introduced a new project for a Belarusian passport aimed at confirming Belarusian citizenship and serving as a travel document for Belarusians living in exile. Subsequently, on September 21, 2023, Tikhanovskaya, together with the Belarussian United Transitional Cabinet Representative for Foreign Affairs, Valery Kavaleuski, met with the European Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson. During this meeting, Tikhanovskaya expressed gratitude for the expert assistance in developing the new Belarusian passport, ensuring its alignment with international standards. Kavaleuski discussed future plans, including the issuance of sample passports, the establishment of a manufacturing division for mass production, and the launching of a campaign for international recognition of this document

In July 2021, the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry said that Tikhanovskaya and her team were accredited as the Democratic Representation of Belarus in Lithuania.

In 2020, Tikhanovskaya took on the role of opposition candidate following the detention of her husband, Sergei Tikhanovsky, a former blogger and presidential candidate who rallied mass protests against Lukashenko. She participated in the 2020 presidential elections in Belarus and is widely believed to have emerged as the winner. However, she was forced out of the country with her children. In December 2021, her husband was sentenced to 18 years in prison on various charges, including orchestrating riots. Tikhanovskaya told the BBC that her husband's sentence was a result of Lukashenko's "personal revenge." In March 2023, a Belarus court sentenced Tikhanovskaya to 15 years in jail in absentia. The charges levied against her included high treason and conspiracy to seize power.

In 2020, Lukashenko, who has been the president of Belarus since 1994, stubbornly resisted months of protests that followed the presidential election, which was widely thought to have been rigged. In response, he carried out mass arrests and imprisoned numerous opposition politicians and activists.

  Lead Stories Staff

Lead Stories is a fact checking website that is always looking for the latest false, deceptive or inaccurate stories (or media) making the rounds on the internet.

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