Fact Check: NO Evidence Svetlana Tikhanovskaya's Foreign Affairs Representative Has Been Expelled From Lithuania

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  • Автор: Lead Stories Staff
Fact Check: NO Evidence Svetlana Tikhanovskaya's Foreign Affairs Representative Has Been Expelled From Lithuania No Evidence

Has Valery Kavaleuski, a former diplomat from Belarus and the foreign affairs representative of Svetlana Tikhanovskaya's exiled opposition government, been expelled from Lithuania due to his residence permit expiring? No, that's not true: Kavaleuski stated to Lead Stories that "it is absolutely not correct to say that he was expelled," and Lead Stories also found no evidence supporting such a claim.

The claim appeared in a video (archived here) on the TikTok account @sotniktiktok on December 19, 2023.

The text overlay on the video (translated from Russian to English by Lead Stories staff) reads:

The assistant of the 'Belarusian' criminal is being expelled from Lithuania. Valery Kavaleuski, a 'Belarusian' criminal who is fed from the hands of his owner Tikhanovskaya, is being expelled from Lithuania upon the expiration of his residence permit. Although Kavaleuski does not acknowledge the fact of expulsion from the country, the government holds a different view.

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

Screenshot 2023-12-21 at 10.27.41.png

(Source: TikTok screenshot taken on Thu Dec 20 11:22:31 2023 UTC)

On December 19, 2023, the Belarusian online news outlet Наша Ніва (archived here) announced that Valery Kavaleuski was relocating from Lithuania to Warsaw, Poland. This decision allegedly came amidst heightened stringency in Lithuania's treatment of Belarusian migrants, with reports indicating a halt in the issuance of new residence permits and non-extension of existing ones for individuals with prior service in Belarusian state or law enforcement agencies. According to the outlet, Kavaleuski shared the following details with them (as translated):

My move to Warsaw is not related to documents, although it coincided with the expiration of my Lithuanian residence permit. Three years of work in Vilnius is a typical term for a diplomat in one capital. In Warsaw, the majority of cabinet representatives are located, and being in the same city will contribute to the efficiency of our collaborative work. The city is changing, but my responsibilities remain unchanged.

On December 21, 2023, in correspondence with Lead Stories on Facebook, Kavaleuski confirmed the authenticity of this quote and also said it was not correct to say that he was expelled. He wrote:

The move had been planned for some time, and I was in touch with Lithuanian authorities on this well in advance.

Additionally, no credible reports exist that Kavaleuski, the foreign affairs representative of the exiled opposition leader Tikhanovskaya's government in exile, the United Transitional Cabinet of Belarus, has been expelled from Lithuania or that he is a criminal. A search for the phrases "Valery Kavaleuski has been expelled from Lithuania," (archived here) and "Valery Kavaleuski is a criminal" (archived here) or "Valery Kavaleuski was convicted" (archived here) conducted on December 21, 2023, using Google News' index of credible news sites did not yield any evidence-based reports on these claims. Lead Stories has also contacted Tikhanovskaya's Press Service and the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry for comment and will update the article when a reply is received.

In July 2021, the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry said that Tikhanovskaya and her team were accredited as the Democratic Representation of Belarus in Lithuania. On September 11, 2023, after Belarus' authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko issued a decree banning Belarusian citizens living abroad from renewing their passports, the Lithuanian Interior Ministry said Lithuania would issue special passports to Belarus citizens who are staying there legally but do not have a passport or a corresponding travel document. 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 and referred to the process of developing a new Belarusian passport, which was presented in early August.

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.

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