Missing Belarusian protest leader detained for attempting to enter Ukraine: border service

(Reuters) – Belarusian protest leader Maria Kolenikova was detained in the early hours of Tuesday morning while trying to enter Ukraine, a Belarusian border official told Reuters, a day after her colleagues said she had Masked people were caught by the road.

FILE PHOTO: Politician and Coordinating Council Representative Maria Kolanikova attends a news conference on August 24, 2020 in Minsk, Belarus, for members of the Belarusian opposition.

The circumstances of her visit to Ukraine were not immediately clear, with some media reports initially suggesting that she had crossed it across the border, with some border guards on both sides later denying it.

On Monday, the opposition movement said that masked people had detained Kolnikova in central Minsk and locked her in a van, while two other activists later disappeared.

Those two allies successfully crossed into Ukraine in the early hours of Tuesday morning, the Ukrainian Border Service said.

“Kolnikova is now taken into custody, but I cannot say where she is, but she has been detained,” Anton Bychkowski, a representative of the Belarusian Border Service, told Reuters by phone.

“He was detained in relation to the circumstances under which they (the group) left the territory of Belarus,” he said.

The official Belta news agency said that she was traveling with two other activists who had made it to Ukraine. Kolsnikova could not immediately be reached for comment.

Belta reported that Kolenikova’s car accelerated after being confronted by border guards.

“Kolenikova was outside the vehicle. In fact, it was pushed by it and it continued to move towards the Ukrainian side, ”Belta quoted the border service as saying.

Reuters could not confirm account details.

Police in Minsk were quoted on Monday by Russia’s Interfax news agency as saying that they had not detained Kolnikova.

Kolsnikova, a member of the Opposition Coordination Council, was the last of three female politicians left in Belarus who joined forces before the August 9 presidential election to try to challenge Alexander Lukashenko.

A vocal critic of Lukashenko, he has played an important role in the weeks of mass demonstrations and attacks by protesters who accused Lukashenko of rigging his re-election.

Lukashenko, who has been in power for the last 26 years, has denied that charge and accused foreign powers of trying to topple him in a revolution. He has responded with reprimand that some people said involved torture and beatings.

Reporting by Maria Kislyeva, Vladimir Soldkin and Alexander Marrow in Moscow and Pavel Polituk in Kiev; Written by Mathias Williams; Editing by Andrew Osborne

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