Belarus protest: Maria Kolenikova ‘detained by masked men’


Image copyrightReuters

image CaptionThere is no confirmation of Maria Kolenikova being detained yet

Masked people have apparently detained a prominent opposition figure in Belarus.

Witnesses saw that Maria Kolenikova was tied up in a minibus in Minsk and turned away by local media reports.

She was one of three women who joined the military before the August presidential election to challenge Alexander Lukashenko.

Large-scale unrest followed his re-election amid allegations of vote-rigging.

Hundreds more people were arrested on Sunday.

At least four people have died and hundreds have been injured as authorities have tried to crush discontent in the country.

EU leaders do not recognize the results of the election and have agreed to ban Belarus.

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

Russia is a close associate of Mr. Lukashenko.

What happened to Maria Kolenikova?

An eyewitness told Belarus news outlet Tut.by that she saw the masked men taking Ms. Kolnikova’s mobile phone on Monday morning and pushing her into a minibus.

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

Ms. Kolenikova was a member of the Coordinating Council formed by the opposition to ensure the transfer of power. Government officials have initiated a criminal case against opposition leaders, stating that “the creation and activity of the coordination council is aimed at the seizure of state power, and is harming national security”.

Image copyrightGetty Images
image CaptionLast week, Ms. Kolenikova announced that she was forming a new political party

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

“I am the only one of the three of us who is still here,” Ms Kolenikova told BBC Russian in an interview last month. “You really need to be here to understand what’s going on.”

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

“I know that no guard would be of any use if a bus filled with riot police stopped us.” “We all know what a police state is capable of.”

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

What happened on sunday?

His arrest came on Sunday, after further demonstrations – an important day of street demonstrations since rallies began.

Eyewitnesses told Russia’s Interfax news agency that police began arrests after the unscheduled rally in Minsk and people were on their way home. Video footage on Sunday showed men in plain clothes performing peaceful demonstrations beating their poles.

Media captionThe protesters took to the streets of Minsk and demonstrated outside President Lukashenko’s palace

The Interior Ministry confirmed that at least 633 arrests had been made throughout the republic. The court said that some 363 people were detained for the court hearing.

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

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

In recent times, security forces have targeted university students as they returned from their vacations, pulled from some streets and university buildings in unmarked minivans.
Image copyrightEPA
image CaptionPerformances in Belarus for the fourth consecutive weekend on Sunday

A demonstrator in Minsk, who gave his name as Lyudmila, told the BBC earlier that the demonstrators were unspecified by security forces.

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

“We finally feel like we talk because we’ve been living in apathy for a very long time, and now we just have this feeling of togetherness and we really think that – well, I personally think Is that – changes are already happening, so this is definitely not the time to leave. “

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

Related topics

  • Minsk

  • Belarus

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