In a lengthy press conference in the Ukrainian capital, activists Ivan Kravtsov and Anton Rodnankov gave their own version of his disappearance. It began, he said, with a visit to investigate on the security of his colleague Maria Kolenikova, a prominent anti-government activist who has been detained by Belarus Border Control.
The trio are members of the Belarus Coordination Council, the country’s major political opposition group that seeks to coordinate a peaceful change of power in the wake of the disputed elections in August.
Rodnekov said that she and Kravtsov went to Kolenikova’s house in Minsk on Monday after hearing reports that she was missing.
When both of them arrived at his house, he was pushed into a bus by unknown people and questioned, he told reporters. He was later stationed separately in a convoy of five or six cars – including Kravtsov’s BMW – and operated to the Belarusian border with Ukraine.
“Maria appeared at that moment,” Rodankov said.
Kolsonnikova was “forcibly pushed” into the backseat of the car with him, he said, but resisted being sent to Ukraine. Seeing his passport, he tore it to pieces and “threw them out of the window to unknown people who were surrounded by cars,” Rodankov said.
Kollenikova then exited the car window, and started walking back towards the Belarusian border, he said. Belarusian authorities confirmed on state television on Tuesday that she had been detained by border controls.
Meanwhile, Rodankov “hit the gas pedal” and set it off for Ukraine.
According to the men, the Belarusian authorities gave chase and tried to block their way with a bus, but they managed to reach the security of the Ukrainian side of the border where they were greeted by “very accommodating and sensible troops of Ukrainian border control Was given. ” ”
CNN cannot confirm all details of their experience. However, Belarusian Border Control has confirmed that Kravtsov and Rodnekov entered Ukraine at 4 am on Tuesday.
He is currently the last person to see Kolenikova since Monday.
America has reported kidnapping
All three were missing this week after the end of the fourth consecutive week of anti-government protests in the country. Unrest broke out in Belarus soon after President Alexander Lukashenko claimed victory in the August 9 election, which was neither independently nor impartially criticized by observers.
Lukashenko, who has ruled for 26 years and is often described as Europe’s last dictator, remains disenchanted despite mass demonstrations.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement released Tuesday evening that the US is “concerned with the alleged kidnapping” of Kolešnikova, Rodnenkau and Krautso, and has “attempted extortion” on Ukraine’s border.
He added that the US was considering additional targeted sanctions and stressed that officials in Belarus are responsible for the safety of Kolnikova and that “all of them have been improperly detained.”
He said, “We call on the Belarusian authorities to end violence against our own people, release all those who have been improperly detained, including the American citizen Vitaly Shakalirov, and the Belarusian society.” Engage in meaningful dialogue with real representatives, ”he said.
The European Union on Monday condemned Kolesnikova and all political activists in Belarus, criticizing the “intimidation” of Belarusian citizens.
EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Joseph Borel called for the release of Kolenikova and all political activists, including 633 anti-government protesters, who were arrested after a peaceful march on Sunday.
“It is clear that state officials in Belarus have threatened to intimidate their citizens and violate their domestic laws and international obligations,” Burrell said.
Russia, by contrast, has refused to accept the presence of political prisoners in Belarus.
Speaking on a conference call with reporters, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Tuesday, “We do not yet have detailed information about what happened to (Maria Kolenikova)” and warned against leaping to conclusions .
“In the whole case, we are not ready to accept the existence of political prisoners in Belarus,” Peskov said.
Reporting by Ana Chernova in Moscow.