Masked men captured and took one of the leaders of the Belarusian opposition, Maria Kolesnikova, to an unknown destination, media reported. The politician’s associates confirm that it is not possible to get in touch with her. The law enforcement agencies of Belarus do not give any specific information. At the same time, Kolesnikova is the only one of the opposition trio who has not left the territory of the republic and recently announced the creation of a new party. In Minsk, one of the leaders of the Belarusian opposition, a member of the Coordinating Council for the transfer of power Maria Kolesnikova, was detained and taken to an unknown destination. According to the newspaper Tut.by, in the morning masked people put her in a minibus with the inscription “Link.”
“I saw people in civilian clothes and wearing masks pushing Maria into this van, her phone was flying, one of these people was picking up her phone, jumping into a minibus, and they were leaving,” an eyewitness of the abduction told the publication.
At present, Kolesnikova does not answer calls on her mobile phone, as confirmed by independent Belarusian media. In addition, there is no connection with the press secretary of the opposition council Anton Rodnenkov, as well as the executive secretary Ivan Kravtsov.
“Such methods are illegal and cannot lead to any other result other than the aggravation of the situation in the country, deepening the crisis and further escalating protests,” the Coordinating Council stressed.
Council members Maxim Sign and Gleb Herman confirmed to RBC that it is not yet possible to get in touch with all the missing. Lawyers are involved in their search, as well as the clarification of details. At the same time, the Interior Ministry of the Republic does not have information about the detention of Kolesnikova and her associates, the spokeswoman of the department Olga Chemodanova told TASS.
In addition, no data on the abduction could be provided to the Investigative Committee of Belarus and the KGB. Thus, it is not yet known whether Kolesnikova’s detention was a sanctioned action by the authorities or whether it was a real abduction.
The fall of the opposition trio
Kolesnikova’s possible arrest will be one of the landmark rounds of Minsk’s struggle against the opposition, which demands new elections and the resignation of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. In general, her detention fits well into the strategy of the authorities to put pressure on the president’s rivals. Moreover, all the members of the Coordinating Council are being held in a criminal case of attempted seizure of power.
We cannot rule out another scenario of the situation: in particular, Kolesnikova’s move to one of the neighboring countries, as was the case with the other two leaders of the Belarusian opposition – Olga Tsepkalo and Svetlana Tikhanovskaya. The first left the country even before the presidential elections, the results of which provoked mass protests.
But Tikhanovskaya left with the help of the official authorities, which was openly acknowledged by the head of state. However, if Lukashenko describes her decision as a voluntary step, the independent media point to pressure and threats against the ex-candidate. Tikhanovskaya was taken to Lithuania, where she tries to interact with her associates and use the fact that most of the protesters consider her the winner of the elections.
In turn, Tsepkalo and her husband Vitaly, who were not allowed to vote and persecuted in Belarus, are acting in the interests of the opposition abroad, trying to get the West to recognize Tikhanovskaya as the president of Belarus, which is still progressing with a big squeak.
Kolesnikova is currently the only representative of the “opposition trio” who did not leave Belarus and conducted an active political campaign.
The representative of the council attended rallies, communicated with people, spoke in the squares, and really could pose a danger to the authorities, as she was the closest to a spontaneous protest.
A separate point is worth mentioning that Kolesnikova in early September announced her intention to create a party “Spring” led by Victor Babariko, whose headquarters she represented in the elections. The politician himself is in jail, and he was not allowed to vote.
At the same time, the presence of some pressure on the opposition in Belarus cannot be denied, as the authorities regard them as provocateurs, behind which western puppeteers stand. Such language often applies to peaceful demonstrators.
How exactly the pressure is put on is a complex one. First, it is again a case of an attempt to seize power because of the creation of a coordinating council. Secondly, independent media have repeatedly written about threats to certain representatives of the opposition. However, it is impossible to talk about a clear attachment to the authorities. And thirdly, these are interrogations, harsh criticism from Lukashenko, as well as the dismissal of protesters from enterprises. In particular, in August, the former Minister of Culture of Belarus Pavel Latushko lost the post of director of the National Academic Theatre named After Yanka Kupala because of support for protests, joined the Coordinating Council, faced interrogation and persecution – eventually left the country.
As the oppositionist explained, he was faced with a choice: either leaving Belarus or a criminal case.
A similar story occurred with Tikhanovskaya’s confidant and Olga Kovalkova, a member of the presidium of the opposition council, who left the republic for Poland a few days before Kolesnikova’s “disappearance”. She explained her departure by the fact that she had been threatened with arrest in her homeland.
However, there is nothing sensational in this, as this is not the first time such a story has happened to Lukashenko’s competitors. As “Gazette” reminded. “In the 2010 elections, the “democracy rampage” ended before the polling stations closed: all candidates were promptly arrested before the voting was completed.
“The authorities are interested in “visible democracy” before the elections, and after the arrests and arrests begin,” the expert stressed.