Exiled Belarusian political opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya visited Cyprus on Wednesday, meeting with House president Annita Demetriou and the House foreign affairs committee.

Tsikhanouskaya rose to prominence in Belarus after her husband, long-time dissident of Alexander Lukashenko’s regime Sergei Tikhanovsky, was arrested on announcing his candidacy for the country’s 2020 presidential election.

She ran in his place, seeking constitutional reform, free and fair elections, and term limits.

Her campaign was defined by large rallies in the face of arrests of supporters and threats from the government. She claimed to have won the election, but Lukashenko, with the power of the Belarusian state behind him, declared he had won with 81 per cent of the vote.

She fled to Lithuania and founded a government in exile, known as the United Transitional Cabinet, while her husband was sentenced to 16 years in prison, where he remains to this day.

“We noted our concern about violations of human rights and civil liberties, as well as the eroding democracy in Belarus due to the actions of the authoritarian Lukashenko regime,” said Demetriou.

“We highlighted the active and decisive role that the European Union must play in confronting dictatorial regimes and antidemocratic practices, and that the erosion of democratic values is fuelling the rise of extremist elements and should concern the EU,” she added.

House foreign affairs committee chairman and Disy MP Harris Georgiades described Belarus as “a large, important European country which has experienced decades of brutal dictatorship.”

He added, “the struggle for freedom and democracy in Belarus is also our struggle.”

Tsikhanouskaya told the committee that “the people of Belarus are fighting for democratic changes.”

There is a “deep humanitarian crisis” going on in Belarus, she added, “as thousands of political prisoners have been taken hostage by this regime which has seized power and unleashed the most brutal terror for many years.”

“Belarus belongs historically to the European family of nations, and we want our country to return to this family,” she said.

She went on to thank Cyprus, President Nikos Christodoulides, and the parliament, “for holding a strong position on Lukashenko’s regime and supporting Belarusians in their fight for democratic changes.”

We share your values and we are fighting for the values you are enjoying every day. No fight can be won alone, we need solidarity, we need support from the democratic world. What I want to see is more decisiveness from the side of democracy,” she said.