- Tikhanovskaya said that Kolesnikova must be released immediately, as well as all members of the Coordinating Council.
- The Belarusian Border Committee on Tuesday confirmed the arrest of opposition leader Kolesnikova.
- The European Union's (EU) head of diplomacy, Josep Borrell, called upon the Belarusian authorities to “immediately release” political opponents.
Exiled Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya has demanded the immediate release of her political collaborator, Maria Kolesnikova, who was arrested by the Belarusian authorities yesterday. Tikhanovskaya issued a statement Tuesday from exile in Lithuania.
She said that Kolesnikova must be released immediately, as well as all members of the Coordinating Council (for the peaceful transfer of power) and political detainees previously detained.
She explained that the mission of the newly constituted Coordinating Council is to be a platform for negotiations, adding that there is no other solution. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has to understand so.
Tikhanovskaya also said that “people cannot be held hostage,” and condemned the kidnapping of people in broad daylight by the Lukashenko-led administration.
The Belarusian Border Committee on Tuesday confirmed the arrest of opposition leader Kolesnikova, who was abducted on Monday in central Minsk by several masked men. They put her in a van and took her to an unknown destination.
Ukraine’s Deputy Interior Minister Anton Gueraschenko said in a message posted on his Facebook page that Kolesnikova had been “forcibly removed” from Belarus, along with two other members of the Coordinating Council, Anton Rodnenkov and Ivan Kravtsov, who were also missing on Monday. These two members of the Coordinating Council are currently in Ukraine, according to that country’s border service.
Kolesnikova was reportedly taken from Minsk in the same car where Rodnenkov and Kravtsov were already, as reported by the Interfax-Ukraine news agency today, but was unable to leave the country because she tore her passport and Ukrainian border guards did not allow her to enter.
“Maria Kolesnikova could not be expelled from Belarus, because this brave woman took action to prevent her movement across the border,” he wrote in a Facebook post. “She remained on the territory of the Republic of Belarus,” said the Ukrainian minister.
International Community Irked
On Monday, the European Union’s (EU) head of diplomacy, Josep Borrell, called upon the Belarusian authorities to “immediately release” political opponents, and said that the EU will impose sanctions “on the people responsible” for the repression in the country.
In a statement, Borrell wrote:
“The EU expects the Belarusian authorities to ensure the immediate release of all detained on political grounds before and after the falsified 9 August presidential elections.”
On its part, Germany is demanding answers regarding the whereabouts of the Belarusian opposition politician and her safety. “We are very worried (about) Ms Kolesnikova,” said Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, as quoted by the tabloid Bild. “We demand to know where she is and we call for the release of all political prisoners in Belarus.”
Demonstrations have been ongoing in Belarus since August 9, when Alexander Lukashenko won a controversial sixth presidential term. Police in the country have so far brutalized and arrested many opposition supporters, a move that has irked the international community, as well as several human rights activists, both at home and abroad.
The United States, the European Union, and several countries neighboring Belarus have rejected Lukashenko’s recent electoral victory, and condemned the ongoing police repression therein.