Belarus opposition activist resists attempt to force her from country at Ukrainian border

8 September 2020, 17:16

Maria Kolesnikova is said to have resisted attempts to force her out of Belarus
Maria Kolesnikova is said to have resisted attempts to force her out of Belarus. Picture: PA
Rachael Kennedy

By Rachael Kennedy

A leading opposition activist in Belarus is being held near the border with Ukraine after she resisted attempts from authorities to force her out of the country.

Maria Kolesnikova, who is a member of an opposition group created to help organise talks with longtime leader President Alexander Lukashenko for a transition of power, was detained on Monday with two others and driven to the Ukrainian border.

When at the crossing, Ms Kolesnikova is then said to have refused attempts to get her to leave for Ukraine, and is now being held on the Belarusian side of the border.

The two other members of the Co-Ordination Council - Ivan Kravtsov and Anton Rodnenkov - crossed over.

READ MORE: Thousands continue Belarus protests against Lukashenko election victory

Car said to be containing Maria Kolesnikova sat on the Belarusian side of the border with Ukraine
Car said to be containing Maria Kolesnikova sat on the Belarusian side of the border with Ukraine. Picture: PA

Mr Lukashenko has ruled the former-Soviet nation with an iron hand for 26 years, and has made attempts to, again, stifle dissent after his recent re-election - a vote that has been widely accused of being rigged.

His main opposition rival Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya left Belarus on 9 August after facing pressure from authorities, and later turned up in Lithuania.

A top associate of Ms Tsikhanouskaya, Olga Kovalkova, followed suit on Saturday by moving to Poland after authorities threatened to jail her if she refused to leave.

READ MORE: Belarusian journalist explains how regime is 'beginning to crumble' after elections

Describing the saga, Ms Kovalkova said agents with the Belarusian State Security Committee had told her to lay on the floor of a car while she was taken to an unknown location.

She was later dropped off in a no man's land between the Belarusian and Polish border, where Polish guards asked a bus driver to pick her up and bring her over the crossing.

READ MORE: Dominic Raab condemns Belarus after 50 journalists detained

Alexander Lukashenko has ruled Belarus for more than quarter of a century
Alexander Lukashenko has ruled Belarus for more than quarter of a century. Picture: PA

Back in Belarus, state prosecutors have launched a criminal investigation into the Co-ordination Council, resulting in a number of arrests.

It comes as Ms Kolesnikova, last week, announced she was creating a new party, called Together.

Despite insisting such a move could help the country overcome its current crisis, other opposition council members have disagreed.

They have argued it could divert attention from the goal of forcing Mr Lukashenko to relinquish his power.

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