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Maria Kolesnikova, one of the main opposition figures in Belarus, was arrested on Monday in central Minsk with two other opponents. On Tuesday morning, Belarusian customs announced that she was being held in custody, while the other two entered Ukraine.

She is one of the main opposition figures in Belarus. Maria Kolesnikova was kidnapped on Monday, September 7 in Minsk, along with two other opponents, Anton Rodnenkov and Ivan Kravtsov. After conflicting reports all morning, Belarusian customs announced that she is in detention as her two colleagues entered Ukraine.

Kolesnikova abducted by masked men

According to the Belarusian Opposition Coordination Council, Maria Kolesnikova was “kidnapped” by masked men and forced into a vehicle Monday morning in central Minsk. Her relatives were without news of her Monday evening.

Conflicting information, some of which said in Ukraine, circulated on Tuesday morning, but customs officials in both countries finally confirmed his arrest. On the Ukrainian side, they add that two other opponents have crossed the border.

“Kolesnikova is now in detention. I cannot say exactly where she is, but she was arrested (…) due to the circumstances in which they (the group) left Belarusian territory,” said Anton Bichkovsky. , on behalf of Belarusian Customs.

Unclear circumstances of his arrest

An anonymous source – therefore to be taken with a grain of salt – who spoke to the Ukrainian news agency said that Kolesnikova would have torn up her passport at the Ukrainian border so as not to be able to enter the country. So she would have resisted a deportation attempt “, explains Gulliver Cragg, correspondent for France 24 in Ukraine.

“This would be in line with what she has always said since the beginning of the protest movement: she always insisted by saying that she would not leave Belarus,” adds the correspondent. Maria Kolesnikova is in fact one of the last opposition figures to be still in Belarus.

The Belarusian authorities, on the other hand, tell a different story. According to the state-run Belta News Agency, she drove to the border with the other two activists and the driver accelerated when a border guard attempted to intervene. “Anton Rodnenkov and Ivan Kravtsov would then have ejected her from their car just when crossing the border,” said Gulliver Cragg, skeptical of this version.

A murky affair

“We do not understand what happened at this border or if this whole story would not serve Belarusian propaganda”, analyzes the journalist.

A video of Ivan Kravtsov, executive secretary of the Belarusian Coordination Council, was posted on social media overnight from Monday to Tuesday. He says there that they wanted to leave the country with Maria Kolesnikova. “But this video was recorded we do not know where, under unknown circumstances. It looks a lot like these videos that detainees are forced to record”, adds Gulliver Cragg.

On Tuesday, Anton Gerashchenko, a Ukrainian deputy close to the Minister of the Interior, indicated that Anton Rodnenkov and Ivan Kravtsov did not enter Ukraine of their own will.

Berlin and London very concerned

Several European powers have reacted to the situation, such as Berlin which “demands to know where [Maria Kolesnikova] is “, London which says it is” very concerned “, or the EU which calls for the release of political opponents.

These disappearances come as Belarus has been marked for almost a month by a historic protest movement against the head of state, Alexander Lukashenko, in power for 26 years and who claims to have won the presidential election of August 9 with 80%. voices.

On Sunday again, tens of thousands of demonstrators marched through the streets of Minsk to demand his departure, nearly a month after his contested re-election. But police repression is getting stronger and stronger. On Monday, Belarusian police reported 633 arrests.

With AFP and Reuters

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