Thousands took to the streets in the Belarusian capital to demand the release of protest leader Maria Kolesnikova, who was arrested on Tuesday at the Ukrainian border, Minsk authorities said. Kiev on Tuesday denied the allegations, explaining that Maria Kolesnikova opposed her forced expulsion from Belarus and that she had been arrested for failing to persuade her to leave the country.

According to the agency Interfax Ukraine, she broke her passport to prevent her from crossing the border.

Belarusian authorities tried to force the Ukrainian border on opponent Maria Kolesnikova, who refused and tore her passport before she was arrested, colleagues Anton Rodnenkov and Ivan Kravtsov told AFP on Tuesday.
According to Anton Rodnenkov, who was with Maria Kolesnikova on the border between the two countries, the opponent “was forced to get in a car in a back seat” and “shouted that she was not going anywhere”.
“She broke her passport,” then “got out the car window and headed for the Belarusian border,” he told a news conference in Kiev.
According to Ivan Kravtsov, who was also present at the border and who also attended the conference in Kiev, he and Rodnenkov were forcibly picked up by strangers in Minsk on Monday morning, as they were on their way to Maria Kolesnikova’s apartment. after the first information about her disappearance.
Taken to various administrative buildings, handcuffed and with their heads covered, the two men were interrogated, threatened with legal proceedings, and were eventually offered by the authorities to leave the country with Maria Kolesnikova.
“What interested him was the transport of Maria Kolesnikova outside the borders. They explained this by the need to de-escalate the situation,” Ivan Kravtsov explained.
“I understand they were trying to transport her by force” to the Ukrainian border, he added.
The group was eventually transported by car to the neutral zone between the Belarusian and Ukrainian borders, where the two men crossed into Ukraine, while Maria Kolesnikova refused and was arrested.
Maria Kolesnikova is the last of the three female figures of the opposition very visible during the remaining presidential campaign in Belarus. The other two, candidate Svetlana Tihanovskaia and Veronika Tepkalo, went abroad.
Ivan Kravtsov and Anton Rodnenkov are members of the opposition “coordinating council”, against which Belarusian authorities have launched a criminal investigation into a “threat to national security”.

Another Belarusian opposition leader, Svetlana Tihanovskaia, in exile in Lithuania, said the situation in Belarus was “absolutely unacceptable” and called for international support for the ouster of President Alkesandr Lukashenka, whom she said no longer represented. this country.

Speaking via video in front of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), Tshanovskaia said that the country and its people need help, and that there is a need for international pressure on the regime led by a man clinging to power.

“We need sanctions against those who give and execute criminal orders that violate international norms and human rights. We need the immediate release of all political prisoners and the beginning of a civilized dialogue in order to find ways for our country to move forward, “Svetlana Tshanovskaya told the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly.

Alexander Lukashenko, the disputed leader of the Republic of Belarus, said in an interview with Russian state media that if his regime collapses following the protests, “Russia will be next.”

“Do you know what conclusion I reached with the Russian establishment and authorities? If Belarus falls, Russia will be next, “Lukashenko said. “If Lukashenko collapses, the whole system will collapse, followed by all of Belarus,” he added.

He has discussed the issue several times with Vladimir Putin, and the Russian president has promised to send troops to Belarus if the protests escalate into violence. A summit with the participation of the two is scheduled to take place in the coming days or weeks.

Regarding the arrest on the Ukrainian border on Monday night to Tuesday of the opponent Maria Kolesnikova, Lukashenko stated that she was thrown from a car “on the go” by two other opponents while they were fleeing to neighboring Ukraine.

“In their car, they sped up and threw her out of the car on the way. On the way, “he insisted, saying he was now negotiating with Ukraine to hand over the two opponents in the vehicle. Kiev on Tuesday denied the allegations, explaining that Maria Kolesnikova opposed her forced expulsion from Belarus and that she had been arrested for failing to persuade her to leave the country.

Alexander Lukashenko has led Belarus since 1994 and also won the August 9 presidential election, according to official results, which gave him the victory with more than 80% of the vote. On the other hand, the opposition claims that the election was massively defrauded.

According to a Russian radio journalist, at the same meeting Lukashenko reportedly said he did not rule out holding early presidential elections.

The Belarusian leader said his supporters would be attacked if he withdrew, said Roman Babaian, editor-in-chief of Moscow Talks and one of the journalists who interviewed Lukashenko.