One evening last week, a stylized image of the Belarusian opposition leader, Maria Kolenikova, was projected on the wall of the Minsk apartment block.
Surprised to look like the famous Soviet war poster The Motherland Calls, an image created by Anna Redko shows Kolnikova heroically holding a torn passport – a reference to her actions on the border with Ukraine on Tuesday when Alexander Lamashenko’s The security services tried to deport him. .
“He decided on a powerful gesture. Therefore, he is one of the leaders of the opposition and I am the press secretary, ”Ivan Kravtsov, who was one of the two others along with Kolnikova, who was deported, told reporters in Kiev the next day.
Kolenikova is now in a KGB prison in Minsk, and her determination not to go into exile was the most influential act of defiance at a revolutionary moment, which has been led and defined by women from the beginning. On Saturday afternoon, women holding flowers and posters gathered in Minsk to protest – some were detained by masked people in green uniforms. Saturday demonstrations before the main Sunday protests in the city center have become a regular event where, for the last four weekends, more than 100,000 people have gathered.
Where are they now Belarusian women who opposed Lukashenko
Initially a stand-in for her husband, a popular blogger who was barred from running and jailed by the authorities, Svetlana Takhanovskaya, as the main opposition candidate for Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko, of an all-female opposition campaign As part of it was prepared by Maria herself. Kolenikova and Veronika Tsepalko.
She fled to neighboring Lithuania in early August, from where she posted a video indicating that she had encountered an ultimatum involving her family.
In September, in a video appearance in front of the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, he vowed that the country’s movement for democratic change would not give up, even in the face of fear and violence perpetuated by Lukasenko’s rule. .
A former Microsoft employee, she was the campaign chief for her husband Valerie Tsepelko, as she was forced to flee to Moscow with the couple’s children before the election. After campaigning with Tikankovskaya and Kolenikova, she went there on election day.
Apart from a one-day halt in Belarus, she has been in exile in Moscow when she says she was threatened with prison. She told a radio interviewer in early August “I think I can do more in Moscow, being independent, and being able to speak for the people of Belarus in the international community.”
Kolenikova was the head of the presidential campaign for another opposition politician, Victor Babrico, who also abstained from elections and was jailed by the government. She was one of three women living in Belarus after the controversial August election.
On 7 September, it was reported that he was kidnapped by unknown masked people from the road in the capital Minsk. Kolsnikova’s press aide, Anton Rodnakov, confirmed her abduction to the media, then allegedly vanished herself about 40 minutes later. According to a Ukrainian minister, Kolesnikova then snatched her passport on the Belarus-Ukraine border to thwart attempts to deport her. He is currently being held in Minsk.
It announced on 31 August that it was forming a new political party together.
It was a female candidate who backed against Lukashenko before last month’s elections. The autocratic leader jailed or exiled the men who wanted to stand against him, but thinking that a woman could not pose a real challenge, he allowed the wife of one of his rivals, Svetlana Tikhanovsna, to vote. Along with Kolsnikova and Veronica Tsepalko, the wife of another candidate, who fled to Belarus after being threatened, the three women traveled to the country and won support for their simple message of facilitating political change.
Lukashenko’s misogynist rhetoric also serves as a mobilization force. “The loyalty with which the current president expressed himself about her and her role has insulted a lot of women,” Kolisnikova said in an interview at a campaign headquarters in central Minsk last month.
It was also the women who gave momentum to the rejuvenation of the protest movement after the horrific violence on the protesters, declaring a demonstrative victory after Lucasenko.
After three evenings of vandalism from the riot police, 250 women, white and adorned with flowers, stood by the roadside in central Minsk. The police left them untouched and the next day there were several rows of women waving flowers all over the city.
In recent weeks, as most of its leaders have been driven out of Belarus, Kolnikova has become the visible face of the movement, appearing fearless and cheerful despite obstacles against protesters, regularly appearing at rallies when Unless it is a kidnapping-style arrest. Week.
Last month it said that its role was to show people that it is possible to demand political change. He said: “The West will not help Russia – we can only help ourselves. In this way it turned out that female faces became a sign for women, and also men, that every man should take responsibility. “