The only one of the three women who fought Lukashenko who remained in Belarus is part of the leadership of the coordination council that demands new elections.
A group of people in civilian clothes and hooded detained the prominent opposition Maria Kolesnikova that Monday in Minsk. She is the only one of the three women who stood up to Aleksandr Lukashenko. Kolesnikova, cultural manager and campaign director of the presidential candidate and former banker Viktor Babariko, in prison since June, was walking through the center of the Belarusian capital when unidentified people have approached her and put her in a also civilian van, as a witness has told the independent medium Tut.by. Her phone is not available, nor has her device been able to locate her. They believe that Kolesnikova, a prominent member of the persecuted coordination council, which is demanding new elections, has been detained by Lukashenko’s security forces. The Interior Ministry has stated that it has no record of her arrest. Two other council members have also been unable to be located.
“I heard the sound of a telephone falling on the asphalt, a kind of stomp, I turned around and saw that people dressed in civilian clothes and with masks were pushing María [Kolesnikova] towards a minivan ”, a witness has related to the Tut.by portal. The dark minivan was labeled “communication.” The disappearance of Kolesnikova, one of the best-known faces of the opposition and one of the heads of the coordination council, is another sign that Lukashenko is narrowing the focus against opponents and any critical voice. In recent days, other members of the council, whose leadership is for example the Nobel Prize for Literature Svetlana Alexievich, have been slowly being arrested.
Lukashenko accuses them of wanting to “seize power.” The committee calls for new elections, a peaceful transition and the release of political prisoners. This Saturday, lawyer Olga Kovalkova, another of the leaders, was transferred to the border with Poland after serving ten days of arrest and forced to leave the country under threat that if not, the arrests would be “infinite”, she said in a Press conference. Lukashenko has returned to the policy of open repression and a heavy hand: in the massive demonstrations this Sunday, the police arrested 633 people.
Kolesnikova, who lived in Germany for 12 years before returning to her native Minsk to take care of one of the cultural projects financed by Babariko and who ended up leading his campaign, was the one who had the idea to unite the candidacies of the former banker and the opposition Valery Tsepkalo , exiled, to that of Svetlana Tijanóvskaya, who did manage to register as a candidate. The union gave rise to the trio of opposition women that has inspired the opposition and tens of thousands of people. In an interview with EL PAÍS a few days ago, Kolesnikova said that she was aware of the risks, in a country where opponents are arrested, threatened and there are multiple complaints of police violence. “I am not afraid to walk the streets, or to say what I think, I feel totally supported by the Belarusian citizens; we are the voice of the majority, ”said the 38-year-old woman, who had refused to bring security or bodyguards. A few days ago she announced the creation of a new political party, Vmeste (Together), together with Babariko’s team. Belarus has not registered a new political formation for twenty years and analysts doubt that it will allow Vmeste to be registered.
Kolesnikova was arrested in the center of Minsk around 10 a.m., according to witnesses. Soon after, the coordinating council also lost contact with two of its other members: Anton Rodnenkov and Ivan Kravtsov. Presidential candidate Svetlana Tijanóvskaya, who had to go into exile to Lithuania after the elections because her family was threatened, stressed this Monday that the disappearance of Kolesnikova, Anton Rodnenkov and Ivan Kravtsov is an attempt to intimidate the opposition and impede the work of the coordinating council. “The authorities are engulfed in terror, there is no other name for it,” said Tijanóvskaya, the woman who united the opposition against Lukashenko.
Meanwhile, the authoritarian leader prepares his visit to Russia, where “in the coming days”, according to his team, he will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin.