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World News

'All I could do was fear for my life', says Belarus singer who fled to Kyiv

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KYIV, (Reuters) - Belarusian electro-folk singer Rusia Shukiurava fled Minsk in early September but every sight of a police officer or sound of a car with a siren still makes “everything squeeze” inside her.

Shukiurava left for Ukraine’s capital Kyiv with her 1.5-year-old daughter and mother in the aftermath of Belarus’ disputed Aug. 9 presidential election, saying fear for her safety paralysed her in both her personal and professional life.

The 40-year-old had been working as a voice trainer for opposition politicians, including Viktor Babariko, a key figure who was later arrested, and worried her professional activity would make her a target for persecution by the authorities.

The Freedom Belarus movement, which unites anti-government Belarusian artists, also used one of Shukiurava’s songs for a music video featuring women wearing white throwing truncheons, arms and protective equipment into a grave.

“I was not able to do anything. All I could do was fear for my life, read news, attend rallies. I was not able to be a proper mother, a proper singer,” Shukiurava told Reuters.

“I was not able to be a proper person either because of that powerful fear.”

Mass protests have rocked Belarus and represent the gravest threat to President Alexander Lukashenko’s rule since he took power 26 years ago. Protesters, who were detained, said they were beaten by security forces, authorities deny any wrongdoing.

Shukiurava said she also left because of the obstacles to her career in Belarus and because she sees more opportunities in Ukraine. Trying to negotiate all of the bans in Belarus was like a flower trying to grow through asphalt, she said.

Shukiurava had visited Kyiv with music tours and had friends there. Relocation to the city was the safest and quickest solution and she was welcomed and helped by locals, she added.

Editing by Alexandra Hudson

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