Police in Belarus jail Maria Kolesnikova, the last opposition leader who was still free and in the country




Belarusian police have jailed opposition leader Maria Kolesnikova (Maryia Kalesnikava) at a detention facility in Minsk, her father told the publication Tut.by. “The head of the Investigative Committee’s Central Criminal Investigations Directorate, Vasilyuk, called and informed me that she’s been jailed. He suggested that I bring her a care package,” Kolesnikov Sr. told reporters.



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Maria Kolesnikova: Prominent Belarus opposition leader detained on Ukraine border | World News


One of Belarus’s most prominent opposition leaders, Maria Kolesnikova, has been detained by state security at the border between Belarus and Ukraine almost 24 hours after she was abducted from the centre of Minsk by masked men.

According to news agency Interfax Ukraine, Ms Kolesnikova ripped up her passport to prevent herself from being forcibly ejected from the country.

Two of her team members, who also went missing on Monday – opposition co-ordination council spokesman Anton Rodnenkov and executive secretary Ivan Kravtsov – did cross over into Ukraine, the country’s border service said.

In a Facebook post, Ukraine’s deputy interior minister, Anton Gerashchenko, said it was not a voluntary trip but a “violent discharge from their native country with the aim of compromising the opposition”.







Forceful arrests as Belarus activists rally

The aim of the Belarusian authorities, Mr Gerashchenko said, was to “present everything as though opposition leaders throw hundreds of thousands of protesters into the hands of the Lukashenko regime and then flee to cozy Ukraine”.

It is the latest development in the unrest the country has been experiencing since a disputed presidential election last month.

President Alexander Lukashenko, who has been dubbed Europe’s last dictator, won more than 80% of the vote, according to officials.



Image of opposition campaigners allegedly fleeing Belarus



Video ‘shows’ opposition activists fleeing Belarus

But opponents claim the ballot was rigged to disguise his loss of public support. He has been in power since 1994.

Another opposition politician, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who was forced to flee to Lithuania after running against President Alexander Lukashenko in the disputed elections, demanded Ms Kolesnikova’s immediate release.

“You can’t keep people hostage,” she said in a statement, adding: “(By) abducting people in broad daylight, Lukashenko demonstrates his own weakness and inadequacy.”

Maria Kolesnikova
Image:
Ms Kolesnikova was apparently abducted on Monday morning

She also called for the release of all political prisoners.

Ms Tikhanovskaya’s husband, Sergei Tikhanovsky, was jailed shortly before the presidential elections in which he had hoped to run.

Ms Kolesnikova worked as the campaign manager for a jailed candidate, Viktor Babariko, until she decided to campaign behind Ms Tikhanovskaya on his behalf.

Ms Kolesnikova was apparently abducted on Monday morning. An eyewitness told the Tut.by news website she saw her being bundled into the back of a black van at around 10am near the National Art Museum.

Alexander Lukashenko
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Alexander Lukashenko reportedly said he ‘may have overstayed as president a bit’

President Lukashenko was cited on Russian news agencies as saying Ms Kolesnikova had been detained for violating border controls.

Roman Babayan, editor in chief of the Govorit Moskva radio station, who spoke to him in Minsk, wrote on Telegram that Mr Lukashenko admitted he “may have overstayed as president a bit”, but could not leave immediately.

“I’ve been building up Belarus for a quarter of a century,” Mr Babayan cited Mr Lukashenko as saying. “I won’t give all that up just like that. Besides, if I go, my supporters will be massacred.”

President Lukashenko is due to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow in the coming days.

Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov said today he did not believe there were any political prisoners in Belarus, but that he hoped the situation around Ms Kolesnikova would be cleared up.



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Belarus protests: Maria Kolesnikova ‘detained at Ukraine border’


image copyrightGetty Images

image captionMaria Kolesnikova told BBC Russian last month that “to understand exactly what’s going on, you really have to be here”

A Belarus opposition leader has reportedly been detained at the border with Ukraine the day after her disappearance.

State media report that Maria Kolesnikova was held at the border early on Tuesday morning.

It comes the day after witnesses reportedly saw masked men bundle her into a minibus.

She is one of three women who joined forces to challenge President Alexander Lukashenko in August’s election.

Mass protests followed his re-election amid allegations of vote-rigging. Authorities said

more than 600 people were arrested on Sunday on the fourth consecutive weekend of anti-government demonstrations.

Mr Lukashenko has ruled his country since 1994. He has accused Western powers of interference.

But he has been supported by President Vladimir Putin of Russia and is expected to visit Moscow “in the coming days”.

The EU demanded the release of all political prisoners on Monday and said it was planning to impose sanctions.

What’s happened to Ms Kolesnikova?

There are conflicting reports about the opposition figure’s whereabouts. As yet officials have not confirmed what has happened to her, and it is unclear exactly what happened at the border crossing.

A Belarus border official reportedly said Ms Kolesnikova was detained at the Ukrainian border early on Tuesday. Two other opposition members, Anton Rodnenkov and Ivan Kravtsov, crossed the border.

The three were in a BMW, the official said. At the crossing, the car “accelerated sharply”, and Ms Kolesnikova “found herself outside the vehicle”. The official said she was “pushed out of it” and it continued to move towards Ukraine. She is now in detention, he added.

Ukraine has confirmed that only the two men had arrived. Anton Geraschenko, Ukraine’s deputy internal affairs minister, described the two men’s departure as “forcible expulsion”.

“Maria Kolesnikova could not be expelled from Belarus, because this brave woman took action to prevent her movement across the border,” he wrote in a Facebook post. “She remained on the territory of the Republic of Belarus.”

She is reported to have torn up her passport at the border so she could not enter Ukraine, according to Interfax-Ukraine news agency which is citing “informed sources”.

On Monday, eyewitnesses saw masked men seize Ms Kolesnikova on the street in central Belarus and push her into a minibus.

The Co-ordination Council – a body set up by the opposition to oversee a transfer of power after the disputed election – later said it had no idea of her whereabouts. It added that press secretary Mr Rodnenkov and executive secretary Mr Kravtsov had also disappeared.

The interior ministry said it had no information about any of the council members being detained.

media captionWhat lies behind the Belarus protests?

Who are the three women?

Ms Kolesnikova is the last of the three women who joined forces against Mr Lukashenko to remain inside Belarus.

She was initially the campaign manager for presidential candidate Viktor Barbaryko before his arrest in June, when she decided to work with Veronika Tsepkalo and Svetlana Tikhanovskaya,

Ms Tikhanovskaya stood against Mr Lukashenko in the election on 9 August. She only decided to run after her husband was arrested and barred from standing, and is now in Lithuania after she was forced to leave Belarus following the vote.

Ms Tsepkalo has travelled to Poland with her husband Valery and children. Mr Tsepkalo, the former ambassador to the US for Belarus, was also barred from standing against President Lukashenko.

Another female activist, Olga Kovalkova, announced on Saturday she had fled to Poland amid threats of imprisonment.

“I’m the only one of the three of us who is still here,” Ms Kolesnikova told BBC Russian in an interview last month. “To understand exactly what’s going on, you really have to be here.”

Ms Kolesnikova described the recent demonstrations as “not a struggle for power” but “a struggle for human dignity and self-respect”. She said she and her team had decided against using bodyguards.

“No number of guards would be of any use if a bus full of riot police stopped us,” she said. “We all know what a police state is capable of.”

media captionA 73-year-old great-grandmother has turned into an unlikely hero for demonstrators in Belarus

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  • Belarus
  • Ukraine



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Coordination Council member Maria Kolesnikova detained at the border – World



MINSK, September 8. /TASS/. Member of the Belarusian opposition’s Coordination Council Maria Kolesnikova has been detained at the border with Ukraine, the Belarus-1 TV channel reported on its Telegram channel.

“Members of the Coordination Council for the seizure of power Anton Rodnenkov and Ivan Kravtsov fled abroad last night. Their colleague Maria Kolesnikova tried to flee Belarus illegally but was detained at the border,” the report said.



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Belarus protests: Maria Kolesnikova ‘detained by masked men’


image copyrightReuters

image captionAs yet there is no confirmation of the detention of Maria Kolesnikova

Unidentified masked men have detained a leading opposition figure in Belarus, according to local media.

Witnesses reportedly saw Maria Kolesnikova being bundled into a minibus in Minsk and driven away.

She was one of three women who joined forces ahead of August’s presidential election to challenge incumbent Alexander Lukashenko.

Mass unrest has followed his re-election amid allegations of vote-rigging.

The interior ministry said it detained 633 people on Sunday after a fourth consecutive weekend of protests. At least four people have died and hundreds have been injured as authorities have tried to crush dissent in the country.

EU leaders do not recognise the results of the election and have agreed to impose sanctions on Belarus.

But Mr Lukashenko – who has been in power since 1994 – has blamed Western nations for interfering in his country. On Monday, the Kremlin announced he would visit Moscow for talks “in the coming days”.

Russia is a close ally of Mr Lukashenko’s.

What happened to Maria Kolesnikova?

An eyewitness told Belarus news outlet Tut.by that she saw masked men take Ms Kolesnikova’s mobile phone and push her into a minibus on Monday morning.

Police in the capital, Minsk, have not yet commented on the reports.

Ms Kolesnikova was a member of the Co-ordination Council set up by the opposition to ensure a transfer of power. Government authorities have launched a criminal case against opposition leaders, saying the “creation and activity of the Co-ordination Council are aimed at the seizure of state power, and at harming national security”.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionLast week, Ms Kolesnikova announced she was forming a new political party

She is the last of the three women who joined forces against Mr Lukashenko to remain inside Belarus. Veronika Tsepkalo and presidential candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya left the country soon after the vote.

“I’m the only one of the three of us who is still here,” Ms Kolesnikova told BBC Russian in an interview last month. “To understand exactly what’s going on, you really have to be here.”

Describing the demonstrations as “not a struggle for power”, but “a struggle for human dignity and self-respect”, she said she was not afraid for herself, but worried about further violence. She also said she and her team had decided against using bodyguards because there would be “no point”.

“I am aware that no number of guards would be of any use if a bus full of riot police stopped us,” she said. “We all know what a police state is capable of.”

Another female activist, Olga Kovalkova, announced on Saturday she had fled to Poland amid threats of imprisonment.

What happened on Sunday?

Her arrest follows further demonstrations on Sunday – a key day for street demonstrations since the rallies began.

Eyewitnesses told Russia’s Interfax news agency that police began to make arrests in Minsk after the unsanctioned rally ended and people were going home. Video footage on Sunday shows men in plain clothes beating peaceful protesters with batons.

media captionProtesters took to the streets of Minsk and demonstrated outside President Lukashenko’s palace

The interior ministry confirmed at least 633 arrests had been made across the republic. It said some 363 people had been sent to detention centres pending court hearings.

Internal Affairs Minister Yuri Karayev defended the actions of the security forces.

“They talk about the brutality of the Belarusian police, and I want to say this: there are no more humane, restrained and cool-headed police anywhere in the world,” he was quoted as saying by the official Belta news agency.

In recent days, the security forces have targeted university students as they returned from their holidays, dragging some from the streets and university buildings into unmarked minivans.
image copyrightEPA
image captionSunday marked the fourth consecutive weekend of demonstrations in Belarus

One protester in Minsk, who gave her name as Lyudmila, told the BBC earlier that the demonstrators were undeterred by the security forces.

“We are definitely not ready to get back to the life we had for many years now,” she said.

“We finally feel like we matter because we’ve been living in apathy for way too long, and now we just have this feeling of solidarity and we actually think that – well, I feel personally that – changes already are happening, so that’s definitely not the time to give up.”

Protests have also been reported in other Belarusian cities and towns including Grodno, Mogilev and Gomel.

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  • Minsk

  • Belarus



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