US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will meet Monday with Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya in a show of support for the self-exiled candidate who says she won last year's elections.
Blinken will join a meeting between Tikhanovskaya and State Department number three Victoria Nuland, known as a forceful critic of Moscow, a day before the Belarusian opposition chief holds meetings at the White House, according to the top US diplomat's public schedule.
President Joe Biden has vowed to ramp up pressure on President Alexander Lukashenko, an ally of Moscow who has been in power for nearly three decades and whose security forces have put down mass protests following the announcement that he secured a sixth term.
Tikhanovskaya, until then a stay-at-home mother, ran in place of her husband who was detained before the election and claimed to have easily won.
"The world has been inspired by the Belarusian people -- including the Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya -- who continue to bravely demand a meaningful voice in their country's future in the face of cruel repression," a US official said last week when announcing her visit.
The United States, European Union, Britain and Canada last month jointly imposed new sanctions on Belarus after a Ryanair passenger flight was grounded in Minsk on the pretext of a security threat, with authorities arresting an opposition activist and his girlfriend who were on board.