FIRST Minister Humza Yousaf has become the first leader of any world government to adopt a political prisoner of the Belarus regime, the Scottish Government has said.

It comes after the SNP leader met with the president-elect of Belarus, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, "to discuss human rights abuses and political repression" in the country.

Dictator and Vladimir Putin ally Alexander Lukashenko rules Belarus, with Tsikhanouskaya living in exile in Lithuania since the fraudulent elections the country held in 2020. In Lithuania, she is considered the true head of the Belarusian state.

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Yousaf said: “Politicians who rage against democracy never prevail. I watched aghast as Lukashenko stole the election in Belarus in 2020, and the brutal crackdown on those who disagreed with him that followed.

“As the first head of a government anywhere in the world to sponsor a political prisoner of the Belarus regime, I encourage others to join Scotland in unequivocally condemning the abuses carried out by the Lukashenko regime against the Belarusian people.”

The First Minister is the 400th politician and the first head of government to take part in the #WeStandBYyou campaign, which is organised by the human rights group Libereco.

The campaign sees political prisoners “adopted” as part of an initiative to amplify the voices of those suffering human rights abuses in Belarus.

Yousaf has taken “godparenthood” over Dzmitryi Halavacz, a musician from the rock band TOR who was charged with offences including “insulting the President of the Republic of Belarus” and “discrediting Belarus” and sentenced to nine years in prison in October 2023.

The First Minister said: “Dzmitryi has been handed a nine-year prison sentence – simply for exercising his freedom to speak out, and protest.

“I hope that by shining a light on what him and others are facing in Belarus, I and the government I lead can raise awareness of and support for him, and for the thousands of other political prisoners.”

Four other Scottish Government ministers are taking part in the scheme: External Affairs Secretary Angus Robertson, Energy Secretary Neil Gray, Europe Minister Christina McKelvie, and Equalities Minister Emma Roddick.

Robertson is supporting Eduard Babaryka, the son of a candidate in the 2020 presidential elections who has been sentenced to eight years in prison.

Gray is supporting Siarhai Vaitsiuk, who was convicted of wanting to volunteer in Ukraine and given two and a half years in prison.

McKelvie is backing Natallja Dulina, an associate professor at the Minsk State Linguistic University who was accused of “extremist activities” and given three-and-a-half years in prison.

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Roddick is supporting Volha Tserakh, who was arrested for hanging Ukrainian and Belarusian flags from a building in Minsk, classified as an extremist, and given five years in prison.

Robertson said: "The Scottish Government stands with those who suffer injustices, and we will use our platform to advocate for change.

“By participating in the Libereco 'godparenting' scheme, we hope to bring further international attention to the human rights situation in Belarus and we stand united with those who seek fairness, equality and justice."

Earlier in January, Belarusian leader Lukashenko signed a new law that gives him lifelong immunity from criminal prosecution and prevents opposition leaders living abroad from running in future presidential elections.

Tsikhanouskaya said on social media on Tuesday: "The #Belarus regime's so-called elections are yet another attempt to deceive the world. But this time, no one will be fooled; we urge Belarusians to reject and not participate in this sham.

"It has nothing to do with a democratic process and only serves the dictator's own interests."