Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya and Franak Viačorka and the Crisis in Belarus

November 16, 2020

Tom Zoellner and co-host Aida Baghernejad interview the woman who is the rightful Belarussian president-elect Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya and journalist and activist Franak Viačorka on the political crisis in Belarus. Tsikhanouskaya is in exile in Lithuania as "the last dictator in Europe," Alexander Lukashenko, clings to power after a decisive loss in the election.

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya is a Belarusian human rights activist and politician who ran for the 2020 Belarusian presidential election as the main opposition candidate. She is married to activist Sergei Tikhanovsky, who was a candidate for the same election until his arrest on 29 May 2020; she subsequently announced her intention to run in his place. The incumbent Alexander Lukashenko was officially declared the victor in a contest marred by allegations of widespread electoral fraud. Subsequently, Tsikhanouskaya claimed to have received between 60 and 70% of the vote and has appealed to Western countries to recognize her as the winner, although instead they called for a re-run and no longer recognize Lukashenko as President. Tsikhanouskaya fled to Lithuania in fear of repercussions and is currently in exile.


Franak Viačorka is a journalist from Belarus, Vice President of the Digital Communication Network and consultant for the U.S. Agency for Global Media. Recently he researched Kremlin-backed Media, think-tanks, NGOs abroad, and the role of the Russian Orthodox church. He has served as a consultant for the U.S. Department of Defense, Freedom House, and the Broadcasting Board of Governors. He also coordinated the project on mapping digital influencers, conducted by Digital Communication Network. He is a frequent speaker and an advocate for democracy and personal freedom.


Tom Zoellner (host) is the New York Times bestselling author of eight nonfiction books, including Island on Fire, Uranium Train, and The Heartless Stone. He teaches at Chapman University and Dartmouth College. A former reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle, he is the politics editor at the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Aida Baghernejad (co-host) is a (pop) culture and food journalist based in Berlin. Her work has appeared in a number of regional, national and international media outlets, among them the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the San Francisco Chronicle, tipBerlinIntro MagazineSpex and Deutschlandfunk Kultur. She has previously taught at King’s College London and the Humboldt Universität Berlin.