Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, Belarus presidential challenger flees to Lithuania.

Belarus presidential challenger Svetlana Tikhanovskaya said in a video Tuesday that she had left her country for Lithuania.

“I have made a very difficult decision,” a distressed-looking Tikhanovskaya said in a short address carried by tut.by, a Belarusian media outlet.

She indicated she had left Belarus to be with her two children, who had earlier been taken out of the authoritarian ex-Soviet country for their own safety. “Children are the most important thing we have in life,” said the 37-year-old.

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“You know I thought that this campaign had really steeled me and given me the strength to endure everything,” she said. “But I probably remained the weak woman I was at the beginning.”

President Alexander Lukashenko had previously belittled women politicians, saying a woman president “would collapse, poor thing.”

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“I know that many will understand me, many will judge me, and many will begin to hate me,” Tikhanovskaya said. “But God forbid anyone face the choice I had.”

“People please take care of yourselves,” she added. “What is happening now is not worth a single life.”

On Monday, Tikhanovskaya claimed victory over the authoritarian Lukashenko in Sunday’s vote and urged the 65-year-old strongman to hand over power peacefully.

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She decided to run for president after the authorities jailed her husband, popular blogger Sergei Tikhanovsky, and barred him from contesting.

Her campaign galvanized the opposition, presenting a historic challenge to former collective farm director Lukashenko, who has ruled Belarus since 1994, brooking no dissent and earning the nickname of “Europe’s last dictator”.

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