The de facto leaders of the Belarus opposition movement, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya and other female figures, have been awarded this year’s prize for Freedom of Thought by the European Parliament.

The others are Maryia Kalesnikova, currently in jail, Nobel laureate Svetlana Alexievich, Volha Kavalkoa, and Veranika Tsapkala.

European Parliament President David Sassoli said the award recognised the initiative of brave women. He said they embody the defence of freedom of thought that the prize represents.

The president of Belarus is generally believed to have stolen the presidential election on August 9. Alexander Lukashenko had jailed many male leaders of the opposition to his 26-year rule, but had allowed Mrs Tikhanovskaya on to the ballot because he believed a woman posed no threat to his authoritarian rule.

FILE PHOTO: Nobel laureate Svetlana Alexievich Reuters