Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya is the leader of the Belarusian democratic movement who independent observers agree won the presidential election on August 9, 2020, against the autocratic President Aliaksandr Lukashenka.
As the leader of the Belarusian democratic movement, she has visited 26 countries, gathering support and advocating for the release of more than 1000 of political prisoners and a peaceful transition of power through free and fair elections. In meetings with President Biden, Chancellor Merkel, President Macron, President von der Leyen, President Charles Michel, and other world leaders, Tsikhanouskaya emphasized the need for a braver response to the actions of the Belarusian dictatorship
Tsikhanouskaya’s story began when she entered the race after her husband Siarhei Tsikhanousky was arrested for voicing his presidential aspirations. Lukashenka publicly dismissed her as a “housewife,” saying that a woman cannot become president. Nonetheless, Tsikhanouskaya united and successfully led the democratic coalition along with two other leaders, Maria Kalesnikava and Veranika Tsapkala. Following her forced exile, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya inspired unprecedented peaceful protests in Belarus, with some rallies numbering at least 200,000 people.
In 2020–2022, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya became a symbol of the peaceful struggle for democracy and strong female leadership. Among dozens of distinctions, she is a recipient of the Sakharov Prize awarded by the European Parliament, 2022 International Four Freedoms Award, and Charlemagne Prize. In 2021 and 2022, she was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda and Members of the Norwegian Parliament respectively. Tsikhanouskaya has been recognized in Bloomberg’s Top 50 Most Influential People, Financial Times’ Top 12 Most Influential Women, and Politico’s Top 28 Most Influential Europeans.