Belarus opposition politician told she would be deported ‘alive or in …


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  • Belarusian presidential election 2020

Maria Kolesnikova

image copyrightReuters

image captionKolesnikova is currently jailed in the capital

A jailed Belarusian opposition leader has said she feared for her life when security officers threw a bag over her head during an attempt to deport her.

Through her lawyer, Maria Kolesnikova said she was forced into a van and told that if she did not leave willingly she would be removed “alive or in bits”.

She is now seeking a criminal case against Belarusian security forces including the KGB, her lawyer said.

Mass unrest has gripped Belarus since last month’s disputed polls.

  • What’s happening in Belarus?

  • ‘Breathing freedom’ – Belarusians hope for change
  • Why Poland is backing the opposition in Belarus

Ms Kolesnikova is one of three women who joined forces to challenge President Alexander Lukashenko in August’s election. She is the last of the three women to remain inside Belarus after she resisted attempts to forcibly deport her into Ukraine earlier this week.

The main opposition leader, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, says she won 60-70% of the election in places where votes were properly counted. She fled to Lithuania after she was detained in August.

What has Kolesnikova said?

In a statement filed by her lawyer, she said she had been forced into the van by masked men on Monday in the capital, Minsk.

“It was stated that if I did not voluntarily leave the Republic of Belarus, I would be taken out anyway, alive or in bits. There were also threats to imprison me for up to 25 years.”

Ms Kolesnikova was driven to the Ukrainian border with two other people, but she prevented officials forcibly expelling her by tearing up her passport and throwing it out of a car window, those who travelled with her said.
media captionIvan Kravtsov says Ms Kolesnikova tore her passport into pieces and then climbed through the rear car window

Her lawyer said her client was in “good spirits”.

What’s the latest from Lukashenko?

During the inauguration of a new chief prosecutor on Thursday, the president maintained his legitimacy as leader.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionWomen were detained during a march in support of Maria Kolesnikova and other opposition leaders

“People often reproach me: ‘He won’t give up power.’ They’re right to reproach me. The people didn’t elect me for this,” he said.

“Power is not given to be taken, thrown and given away.”

media captionWhat lies behind the Belarus protests?

The president, in power since 1994, said that Belarus could not return to the instability of the years following the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Meanwhile, Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has offered Ms Tikhanovskaya a house in the capital Warsaw.

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