Opposition in Belarus: Where is Maria Kolesnikova?

Opposition in Belarus: Where is Maria Kolesnikova?

The Belarusian opposition politician can still not be found. President Lukashenko rejects talks with the Coordination Council.

After the disappearance of the Belarusian opposition leader Maria Kolesnikova on Monday morning, there are now the first, albeit contradicting, signs of life from the politician.

According to the press spokesman for the Belarusian border protection authorities, Anton Bychkowskij, Kolesnikova had tried to cross the Belarusian-Ukrainian border together with two other board members of the Coordinating Council of the opposition, Ivan Kravtsov and Anton Rodnenko.

Belarusian media loyal to the government reported that the three had attempted a breakthrough near the village of Alexandrovka. At the same time, Krawzow and Rodnenko pushed Maria Kolesnikowa out of the car. As a result, Krawzow and Rodnenko arrived in Ukraine, but Kolesnikova stayed in Belarus, where she was immediately arrested. According to the news agency tut.by Russian journalists, President Lukashenko said that Maria Kolesnikova wanted to flee to her sister in Ukraine.

A completely different version of the events comes from the Ukrainian side. The allegedly voluntary departure of Kravtsov and Rodnenko was a “violent deportation with the aim of discrediting the opposition,” said Ukrainian Deputy Interior Minister Anton Gerashchenko on his Facebook page.

This, according to Gerashchenko, was staged to portray the opposition leaders as people who left hundreds of thousands of protesters to their fate only to be able to retreat to quiet Ukraine. Attempting to deport Kolesnikova as well failed because “the brave woman” knew how to prevent deportation, according to Gerashchenko.

According to Interfax-Ukraine, Kolesnikova prevented an involuntary border crossing by destroying her passport. Her companion told the news agency afp that she resisted her deportation from Belarus. Kolesnikova’s father is also firmly convinced that she was forced to travel to the Belarusian-Ukrainian border. “Maria kept saying: ‘Dad, whatever happens, I’ll stay in Belarus'”, quoted tut.by Alexander Kolesnikow.

He had filed a missing person report on the day of the kidnapping. He still has no contact with his daughter, he said on Tuesday lunchtime. Maxim Snak, also a member of the Coordinating Council like Kolesnikova, said that Kolesnikova had always insisted on staying in the country despite all the dangers.

Meanwhile, President Lukashenko said he saw no need to talk to the Coordination Council. “Everything they propose is a disaster for Belarus and the Belarusian people. They want to cut off contacts with Russia […], destroy our industrial companies and make workers unemployed”, tut.by quotes the president.

At the same time, Lukashenko also stated that he could well imagine early new elections if they were preceded by a constitutional reform, reports the Echo Moscow broadcaster.

The protests against Lukashenko continued on the 30th day after election Sunday on August 9th. In the evenings, people with white, red and white flags gathered in many places to demonstrate against President Lukashenko, for new elections and the release of all political prisoners. At many universities, the students came to the lectures in white or red clothes and had themselves photographed in the lecture hall with the white, red and white flags of the opposition. In Grodno, students gathered in the foyer, switched on the flashlight function of their mobile phones and sang Belarusian songs.

Yet the repression continues. More than 600 protesters were arrested on Sunday alone – mostly only temporarily. The environmentalist Irina Suchij was arrested on Sunday. Since then she has been in the notorious Okrestina remand prison. But there is also criticism of the Coordination Council, which for many seems too soft, too Russia-friendly and uncoordinated.

Dmitrij Bondarenko from the pro-Western European Belarus told charter97.org that his organization did not expect anything from the Coordination Council. Rather, he suspects that the founding of the coordination council was agreed with the authorities in order to enable Svetlana Tichanowskaya to leave safely. In general, according to Bondarenko, Tichanovskaya is not an oppositionist, she is a questionable figure who should not have been made boss.

No one from the council’s presidium was in custody, and no one was a real oppositionist, according to Bondarenko. Most of the council members have so far served the regime loyally.

Tichanovskaya is not an opposition leader. At best, her role is comparable to that of the English queen, at least she is not a real crisis manager. The real work would be done by others.

Now, according to Bondarenko, more decisive behavior is required. The fact that police brutality has decreased is due to the fact that the militia has just experienced what resistance means in working-class neighborhoods. “Suddenly the militia officers understood that they could not only strike, but that they could also hit it if they break the law.”

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