Belarus protest leader Kolesnikova detained at Ukraine border

World Tuesday 08/September/2020 16:32 PM
By: Times News Service
Belarus protest leader Kolesnikova detained at Ukraine border

Belarusian opposition figure Maria Kolesnikova was held in Belarus on Tuesday after resisting a forced deportation to Ukraine, according to officials in Kyiv.

Kolesnikova disappeared in Minsk on Monday after she was seen being bundled into a minibus.

Two of her aides were also seized, the opposition Coordination Council said. They were press secretary, Anton Rodnenkov, and executive secretary, Ivan Kravtsov.

Early Tuesday, the trio were driven to the Ukrainian border, where authorities told them to cross into Ukraine. Her aides went to Ukraine, but Kolesnikova remained in the custody of Belarusian authorities.

Anton Bychovsky, spokesman for Belarus' Border Guard Committee, confirmed that Kolesnikova is still in Belarus.

Ukrainian officials also confirmed that Kravtsov and Rodnenkov had crossed the border, and that Kolesnikova had resisted. Ukraine's Deputy Interior Minister Anton Gerashchenko said on Facebook that Kolesnikova had successfully prevented a "forcible expulsion from her native country."

"This was not a voluntary departure," Gerashchenko wrote.

He also said that Kolesnikova "took actions" to prevent her departure from Belarus. The Interfax-Ukraine news agency reported that she tore up her passport at the border so that Ukrainian border officials would not be able to let her through.

"Maria Kolesnikova was not able to be deported from Belarus as this brave woman took steps to prevent herself from being moved across the border. She remained on the territory of the republic of Belarus. Alexander Lukashenko is personally responsible for her life and health," said Gerashchenko.

Who are the opposition figures in question?

Kolesnikova is a campaign partner of opposition candidate Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who ran against President Alexander Lukashaenko in the August 9 presidential election.

Protesters dispute the official election results, that saw Lukashenko claim a sixth term in office. Tens of thousands of people marched against the president once again on Sunday.

Authorities arrested more than 600 people at the weekend as anti-government took place protests across the country.

EU demands release of detained proresters

On Monday, the EU's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell had called on authorities in Belarus to release all opposition figures and protesters.

He warned that EU would impose sanctions on "individuals responsible for violence, repression and falsification of election results."

"It is clear that the State authorities in Belarus continue to intimidate or allow intimidation of its citizens in an increasingly lawless way and crudely violate both their own domestic laws and international obligations," Borrell said.

EU sanctions are expected to be in place by mid-September. They will include travel bans and asset freezes.

The protests in Belarus

Protesters, human rights activists, and observers accuse Belarusian riot police of brutally suppressing peaceful marches in the former Soviet republic.

The government has denied those claims, defending its security forces.

"They talk about the cruelty of Belarusian police, and I would like to say this: there are no police anywhere in the world that are more humane (and) moderate," Interior Minster Yuri Karayev told state television on Monday.