Belarus protests: Maria Kolesnikova ‘detained at Ukraine border’

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A Belarus opposition leader has reportedly been detained at the border with Ukraine the day after her disappearance.

State media report that Maria Kolesnikova was held at the border early on Tuesday morning.

It comes the day after witnesses reportedly saw masked men bundle her into a minibus.

She is one of three women who joined forces to challenge President Alexander Lukashenko in August's election.

Mass protests followed his re-election amid allegations of vote-rigging. Authorities said more than 600 people were arrested on Sunday on the fourth consecutive weekend of anti-government demonstrations.

Mr Lukashenko has ruled his country since 1994. He has accused Western powers of interference.

But he has been supported by President Vladimir Putin of Russia and is expected to visit Moscow "in the coming days".

The EU demanded the release of all political prisoners on Monday and said it was planning to impose sanctions.

What's happened to Ms Kolesnikova?

There are conflicting reports about the opposition figure's whereabouts. As yet officials have not confirmed what has happened to her, and it is unclear exactly what happened at the border crossing.

A Belarus border official reportedly said Ms Kolesnikova was detained at the Ukrainian border early on Tuesday. Two other opposition members, Anton Rodnenkov and Ivan Kravtsov, crossed the border.

The three were in a BMW, the official said. At the crossing, the car "accelerated sharply", and Ms Kolesnikova "found herself outside the vehicle". The official said she was "pushed out of it" and it continued to move towards Ukraine. She is now in detention, he added.

Ukraine has confirmed that only the two men had arrived. Anton Geraschenko, Ukraine's deputy internal affairs minister, described the two men's departure as "forcible expulsion".

"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."

She is reported to have torn up her passport at the border so she could not enter Ukraine, according to Interfax-Ukraine news agency which is citing "informed sources".

On Monday, eyewitnesses saw masked men seize Ms Kolesnikova on the street in central Belarus and push her into a minibus.

The Co-ordination Council – a body set up by the opposition to oversee a transfer of power after the disputed election – later said it had no idea of her whereabouts. It added that press secretary Mr Rodnenkov and executive secretary Mr Kravtsov had also disappeared.

The interior ministry said it had no information about any of the council members being detained.

Who are the three women?

Ms Kolesnikova is the last of the three women who joined forces against Mr Lukashenko to remain inside Belarus.

She was initially the campaign manager for presidential candidate Viktor Barbaryko before his arrest in June, when she decided to work with Veronika Tsepkalo and Svetlana Tikhanovskaya,

Ms Tikhanovskaya stood against Mr Lukashenko in the election on 9 August. She only decided to run after her husband was arrested and barred from standing, and is now in LRead More – Source