Belarus opposition leader detained after resisting forced exile to Ukraine

09 Septembre, 2020, 20:52 | Auteur: Anatole Charbonneau

The claims are unsubstantiated and dismissive of Belarus' growing, internal, and organic opposition movement that is seeking change from the autocratic regime in Minsk, although Lukashenko accused what he described as a class of "young bourgeois" in Belarus who "want power" of stirring up trouble, as well.

Exiled Belarus opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya has called the situation in her country "absolutely unacceptable" and pleaded for worldwide pressure to dislodge embattled President Alexander Lukashenko who she said no longer represents Belarus.

Belarus tried to expel Kalesnikava and two colleagues, according to opposition activists and Ukrainian officials. However, she had launched several global projects promoting cultural exchange among Belarus, Russia, Ukraine and Germany.

© Photographer: Misha Friedman/Getty Images Europe MINSK, BELARUS - AUGUST 03: Maria Kalesnikava, 38, an opposition leader. Maria was campaign manager for presidential hopeful Viktar Babaryka until he was detained.

Russian news agencies quoted Lukashenko as saying there was nothing to discuss with the opposition.

The Belarusian president has shown no sign of conceding to opposition demands that he step down and call new elections.

Deputy Ukrainian Interior Minister Anton Gerashchenko had earlier told Reuters Kolesnikova had successfully prevented "a forcible expulsion from her native country".

FILE - Belarus' President Alexander Lukashenko gestures as he delivers a speech during a rally held to support him in central Minsk, Aug. 16, 2020.

"They are no sort of opposition".

"We still don't know where Maria is and what is happening to her", said lawyer Maxim Znak, a member of the Coordination Council, in a video blog on Monday evening. In November 2016, Serbia hosted them, and Belarus did in 2017.

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Tikhanovskaya left the country under pressure from the authorities and was granted refuge by European Union member Lithuania. Amid Western criticism, Lukashenko has relied on support from Moscow, his main sponsor and ally.

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The three individuals were driven to the Ukrainian border, where authorities forced them to cross into Ukraine.

"When she saw her passport, which was in the vehicle, she immediately tore it and threw it out the window".

She warned that the arrests of opposition activists would not end protests.

Britain's foreign secretary Dominic Raab added: "Seriously concerned for the welfare of Maria Kolesnikova in #Belarus".

Speaking to reporters from her apartment, Alexievich said she did not plan to leave the country despite the official pressure. Kolesnikova refused and remained on the Belarusian side of the border in the custody of the country's authorities.

Lukashenko has blamed the unrest - which began when he claimed a landslide victory in the August 9 presidential election - on Western powers and sought support from his neighbor, Vladimir Putin.

"Yes, maybe I have stayed on a little too long", Lukashenko said, according to Govorit Moskva, one of the four Russian Federation media outlets that interviewed him Tuesday. "But I'm really the only one who can defend Belarusians now". When commenting on reports about her alleged abduction, he said that "it is impossible to approve kidnapping but it should not be mixed with a legal detention".

"Let's not allow propaganda to poison ties between two friendly peoples", she said.

Several key figures of the opposition were jailed before the election, including ex-banker Viktor Babariko - whose campaign team Kalesnikava was part of - and political blogger Siarhei Tsikhanouski, whose wife Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya became the leading challenger to Lukashenko and the face of the protests.

She fled to Lithuanian days later amid massive protests and rumors she had been slated for arrest.



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