KYIV, Sept 8 - Belarusian authorities drove prominent opposition leader Maria Kolesnikova to the border with Ukraine on Tuesday, a day after she was snatched from the street in Minsk, but she tore up her passport so they could not force her to cross, Reuters reported citing two of her allies.
The fate of Kolesnikova, a key figure during four weeks of mass protests against President Alexander Lukashenko, had been a mystery since supporters said masked men had whisked her away in a van on Monday. Belarusian police were quoted as saying they had not detained her.
Two fellow opposition figures, Anton Rodnenkov and Ivan Kravtsov, told a news conference in Kyiv that they had been detained by Belarusian officials in plain clothes, who escorted them to the border and then put Kolesnikova into their car and told them to cross.
“As soon as she ended up in the car and saw her passport, she immediately took her passport and tore it up into little pieces and crumpled the pieces and threw them out the window at the people standing around the car,” Rodnenkov said.
“After that, she opened the window and got out (through the window) and walked towards the Belarusian border.” There she was detained by the Belarusians again.
Kolesnikova’s disappearance followed the arrest or flight of other opposition figures before and since last month’s presidential election, which official results showed had been won by Lukashenko with 80% of the vote.
Deputy Ukrainian Interior Minister Anton Gerashchenko had earlier told Reuters Kolesnikova had successfully prevented “a forcible expulsion from her native country”.
“Maria Kolesnikova made a courageous act that did not allow the Belarusian special services to expel her to the territory of Ukraine,” he said. “All responsibility for her life and health is on Alexander Lukashenko, the dictator of Belarus.”
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement Washington was “deeply concerned by the reported abduction” of Kolesnikova, Rodnenkov and Kravtsov.
He called on the Belarusian authorities to “release all those who have been unjustly detained, including U.S. citizen Vitali Shkliarov,” a political consultant detained in July. (rt/ez)