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Belarus opposition leader sees inspiration in fallen Berlin wall

Belarus opposition leader Svetlana Tsikhanouskaya poses in front of remains of the Berlin Wall at Potsdamer Platz which were repainted by Belarus activists during a rally to protest against police violence and to reject Belarus' presidential election results, in Berlin, Germany, October 6, 2020. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

BERLIN (Reuters) - Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tsikhanouskaya visited a fragment of the Berlin Wall ahead of a meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday, saying she saw in it a symbol of the transformation she wanted to bring about in her own country.

Tsikhanouskaya, who says she won Belarus’s presidential election two months ago and accuses long-standing President Alexander Lukashenko of hanging on to power only via massive electoral fraud, is in Berlin to drum up support.

Hundreds of thousands have protested in the streets of Belarus’s cities since the election, defying brutal police crackdowns and widespread violence to demand Lukahsenko clear the way for a fresh vote.

“The first thing I did in Berlin was come to look at the Berlin Wall,” she said of the structure thrown up by East Germany’s Communist regime in 1961 to stop East Germans fleeing their Soviet-backed government to democratic West Germany.

Fragments of the wall remain dotted around the city, many of them decorated, as they were on the West Berlin side in the 28 years during which the city was divided, with political graffiti.

After speaking to reporters she went to one piece, on Berlin’s central Potsdamer Platz, which activists had painted in Belarus’s national colours red and white in support of the protests.

“I was shown a picture of people from the eastern side standing on the wall,” she said, referring to the scenes from after the collapse of the East German regime in 1989. “It’s the same in Belarus: we are on this wall and we are going to tear it down.”

Reporting by Thomas Escritt; Editing by Alexandra Hudson