Major opposition figure in Belarus disappears after weekend of mass protests

Maria Kolenikova is a central figure of protests in Belarus.

LONDON – A prominent opposition leader from Belarus, after another weekend in the country’s capital Minsk, has disappeared after massive protests against the regime of President Alexander Lukashenko.

According to the independent Belarusian news outlet Tut.By, inside the Eastern European nation, the central opposition, Maria Kolnikova, was seen being carried by men in the field in a vehicle. Koelenikova’s press representative, Gleib Jarman, confirmed to ABC News that her team had “no contact” with Monday. His whereabouts as well as two other leaders in the opposition’s coordination council, Anton Ronenkov and Ivan Kravstov, are unknown and, according to his lawyer Jarman, are searching for him.

The Belarus Ministry of Internal Affairs said that they had no information about the alleged disappearance, according to Russian news agency Interfax.

Residing in neighboring Lithuania, along with Belarus’s main opposition leader, Svetlana Takhankovse, has become a highly visible figure in the ongoing protests against Kolešnikova Lukashenko, known as “Europe’s last dictator”, 26 Serving as President for years. Protests erupted in the wake of the country’s election last month, in which Tikankowski went against Lukashenko and the autocratic president claimed 80% of the vote.

For several weekends in a row, thousands of Belarusians took to the streets demanding Lukashenko to step down. Kolsnikova has been regularly seen out in the open during demonstrations, who are in the process talking to several media outlets, including ABC News.

“We won’t stop as long as there is a win,” he told Alden News in a recent protest. “We are ready for victory and it takes a lot of time and energy, but we are ready.”

Kolsnikova’s disappearance has raised serious concerns about the safety of opposition activists inside Belarus. Hundreds more arrests were made over the weekend by Belarusian security forces, and foreign media outlets have been banned from working in the country.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, an ally of the distressed president of Belarus, has created a “reserve” force to use in the neighboring country, but has said at the moment that there is no reason for Lukashenko to intervene. Journalists from Russian state media have already been sent to the Belarus state television service to replace Belarusian workers, and several top Russian ministers met this week with their Belarusian counterparts.

German doctors came to know that Kolnikova’s disappearance is reported less than a week after she poisoned Russian doctor leader Alexey Navalny with a Novichok nerve agent developed as part of a secret Soviet chemical weapons program . Navalny, one of Putin’s avid critics, was recently evicted from a medically induced coma at a hospital in Berlin, after falling ill in a plane in Siberia two weeks earlier.

The security force of Belarus, still known as the KGB, has in recent times increased its hold on the leading figures of the protest movement.