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Belarus opposition leader Kalesnikava kidnapped in broad daylight as protests enter 30th day

Mariya Kalesnikava, the last remaining woman from the iconic opposition trio that stood up to Alyaksandr Lukashenka these elections, has been kidnapped in broad daylight in central Minsk. Photo:
Belarus opposition leader Kalesnikava kidnapped in broad daylight as protests enter 30th day

Maria Kalesnikava, the last woman from the iconic opposition trio challenging the regime of Alyaksandr Lukashenka remaining in Belarus, has been kidnapped in broad daylight in central Minsk.

Unidentified men had pulled Ms. Kalesnikava into a minivan near the History Museum around 10:05 AM, an eyewitness told the Belarusian media

“I saw her live before, so I recognized her. I wanted to go up to her, talk, thank her, and then changed my mind, decided that she was already tired. I walked forward, and at some point, I thought that I would turn around and show Masha a heart sign. Not far from the museum, I saw a dark minibus with the ‘Communication’ sign on its side and a ‘Sobol’ brand on the back.

I walked forward and heard the sound of a phone falling on the ground, some kind of clomping, turned around and saw that plainclothesmen in masks were pushing Maria into this minibus, her phone flies off, one of these men picks up the phone, jumps into the minibus and they are leaving,” told Anastasia, the eyewitness (translation by Belarus Feed).

The eyewitness did not film the abduction, but another reader sent them a carcam video showing the putative kidnapping scene:

Her whereabouts are unknown.

Kalesnikava, spokeswoman for jailed presidential candidate Viktor Babaryka and member of the Presidium of the Coordination Council on Power Transition in Belarus, is the last woman from the iconic opposition trio that rallied in support of opposition candidate Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya remaining in Belarus.

Veranika Tsapkala, wife of disqualified candidate Valery Tsapkala, left the country on 9 August, in the footsteps of her husband. Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, Lukashenka’s contender widely believed to have won the gravely falsified election, left the country for Lithuania on 11 August.

But Kalesnikava had stated she would stay in Belarus; she was often seen joining rallies and strikes that engulfed Belarus ever since 9 August, addressing the protesters.

Veranika Tsapkala, wife of disqualified candidate Valery Tsapkala, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, wife of jailed candidate Siarhei Tsikhanousky who ran instead of him, and Maria Kalesnikava during a rally in support of Tsikhanouskaya held prior to elections on 9 August in which dictator Lukashenka claimed a landslide victory. Photo:

Regime tries to derail Coordination Council

Maria Kalesnikava is the latest member of the Coordination Council for Power Transfer in Belarus, which was launched by the Belarusian opposition on 18 August to coordinate a peaceful and orderly transfer of power and to hold a new election, to be kidnapped and intimidated.

The Coordination Council reported that it doesn’t know the whereabouts of its press secretary Anton Rodnenkov and executive secretary Ivan Kravtsov. On Saturday, member of the Presidium of the Council Volha Kovalkova was expelled from Belarus, member Liliya Vlasova was threatened with arrest, and Siarhei Dylevsky was placed under administrative arrest. It likened the actions of the Belarusian authorities to “acts of terror.”

The Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Investigative Committee and the State Control Committee deny that Maria Kolesnikova and other members of the Coordination Council were detained.

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya called the abductions “acts of terrorism”:

“The authorities are committing acts of terrorism, there is no other name for it. The abductions are an attempt to disrupt the work of the Coordination Council and intimidate its members. The authorities are wrong if they think it will stop us.”

They were also condemned by Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Linas Linkevicius, who described them as “Stalinist NKVD methods applied in 21st century’s Europe.” And EU Minister for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrelll Fontelles also condemned “arbitrary arrests and kidnappings on political grounds.”

The same day that Kalesnikava was detained, exiled Coordination Council Presidium members Volha Kovalkova and Pavel Latushko gave a press conference in Poland where they gave details of how they were hounded to leave Belarus.

Volha was sentenced on August 24th to 10 days imprisonment after being arrested during a picket near MTZ. She should have been released on September 3rd, but was sentenced to 15 more days for participating in a demonstration on August 23rd. After leaving the detention center, she revealed the torture she’d suffered. A little later, Kovalkova explained the reason for her departure: she said she was threatened with prolonged arrest in Belarus.

Pavel Latushko told that he was intimidated, hounded by the KGB, escaped a detention attempt, and finally given an ultimatum: to either stay in Belarus and have a criminal case opened against him, or to leave:

Now, only two of the seven members of the Council’s Presidium remain free and in Belarus. Its working principles will change, one of the remaining free members Maksim Znak told – decisions will be made in a private chat, and, possibly, new members will be admitted.

At an earlier press conference on 31 August, when asked what the Coordinating Council will do if all members of the Presidium get imprisoned, Maryia Kalesnikava answered that today all Belarusians are under such pressure.

“As for what we will do if we all get imprisoned? Today, 9 million Belarusians are in a situation when each of us can be jailed at any time. The thing is, our victory was in the fact that we realized that we are free citizens of Belarus and we want a new life. We are ready to bear that responsibility and go towards that new life, one step at a time. We have no illusions about what the authorities can do, but we’ve conquered our fear and we are moving forward,” said Kalesnikava.

“Last dictator of Europe” Alyaksandr Lukashenka had claimed a landslide victory in the presidential election on 9 August. But a parallel vote count had determined that his 80.1% result proclaimed by the Central Elections Committee was statistically impossible and that the results of every third polling station were falsified.

Protests against the rigged election are ongoing for the 30th day in a row, being supported by representatives of all social strata and professions. At least 7,000 have been detained and tortured.

Last Sunday, protesters once again demonstrated an impressive turnout, with an estimated 150,000 marching in Minsk. 633 were detained, the Interior Ministry reported.

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