Lucian Kim

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Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, the unlikely challenger to Belarus' five-term president, takes issue with being called an opposition leader.

"OK, first of all, if you don't mind, would you please not call us 'opposition'? Because we are not the opposition anymore, we are the majority," she told NPR in an interview from her exile in Lithuania.

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Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko appears to be regaining the upper hand after mass demonstrations against his reelection in an Aug. 9 vote criticized as neither free nor fair by the U.S. and the European Union.

For opposition supporters, a sense of dread is replacing the euphoria of some of the largest protests in Belarus since its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

As he faces the biggest domestic challenge to his 26-year rule, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko is looking for external enemies to blame — and foreign friends who can help.

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Belarus' scattered and improvised opposition is regaining its footing after five-term President Alexander Lukashenko unleashed his security forces on protesters during four nights of unprecedented violence.

Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, the main opposition candidate in Sunday's election, resurfaced on social media Friday after the authorities pressured her to leave for neighboring Lithuania earlier this week. Tikhanovskaya, a political novice, ran against Lukashenko after her husband was denied registration as a candidate and jailed.

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On Thursday, thousands of women, many dressed in white and carrying flowers, turned out in the streets across Belarus for a second day of protests. They're reacting to a violent crackdown on anti-government demonstrations triggered by a weekend election widely viewed as fraudulent.

Security forces have repeatedly clashed with protesters in recent nights, using batons, stun grenades, tear gas and rubber bullets. Belarusian authorities said they have arrested some 7,000 people.

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Russia's president, Vladimir Putin, announced today that Russia is the first country to register a vaccine against the coronavirus. But there is a lot of skepticism. Here's NPR's Lucian Kim in Moscow.

Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, the main opposition candidate in Sunday's presidential election in Belarus, is refusing to accept the landslide victory declared by the five-term incumbent, Alexander Lukashenko.

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