Moscow (CNN)The main opposition candidate in Belarus' Sunday presidential election went into hiding the night before challenging longtime leader Alexander Lukashenko, who is seeking his sixth term.
Main opposition candidate goes into hiding on eve of crucial presidential vote in Belarus
Svetlana Tikhanovskaya's campaign said she fled her apartment due to safety reasons after police detained several of its senior staffers, in what critics called an attempt to intimidate the opposition ahead of the crucial vote.
Meanwhile, her adviser Veronika Tsepkalo fled Belarus for Moscow for safety reasons, the campaign told CNN on Sunday.
Tsepkalo's husband, former Belarusian ambassador to the US, Valery Tsepkalo, was not allowed to register as a candidate and had previously gone to Russia with their children, fearing for their safety after receiving threats of arrest.
The main candidate, Tikhanovskaya, has previously said in interviews she had to send her children abroad after receiving threats they will be placed in an orphanage.
"She [Tikhanovskaya] won't spend the night at home so that she is not alone," Tikhanovskaya's campaign said. "But she is not fleeing Minsk, she will remain in the city."
Tikhanovskaya, a former English tutor, became an unexpected rival and face of the opposition in the past two months after taking over from her husband, Sergey Tikhanovskiy, a popular YouTube blogger and former candidate who has been jailed since May.
Tikhanovskaya joined forces with two women who ran other opposition campaigns after their candidates were also either barred from running or jailed.
Her campaign rallies saw big turnouts even in small Belarussian towns that are not known for their protest activity. The largest event in the capital of Minsk this July gathered around 63,000 people, making it the biggest demonstration in the past decade.
On the eve of the vote, Tikhanovskaya's campaign manager Maria Kolesnikova was briefly detained and taken to a police station for questioning. A day before that, campaign manager Maria Moroz was also briefly detained.