Belarus opposition leader ‘detained at Ukraine border

Belarus opposition leader 'detained at Ukraine border
Maria Kolesnikova told BBC Russian last month that "to understand exactly what's going on, you really have to be here". Source: Getty Images
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Daily US Times: A day after a Belarus opposition leader Maria Kolesnikova was seen being bundled into a van by masked men, she has been involved in dramatic scenes at the border.

Belarus says she was detained while trying to cross into Ukraine in the early hours of Tuesday.

But Ukrainian reports say she tore up her passport to prevent expulsion as two colleagues were forced to leave.

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

Mass protests sparked in the country after election authorities awarded Mr Lukashenko victory amid allegations of vote-rigging. Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, the main opposition figure, says she won 60-70% of the vote, where voters were properly counted.

The latest events on Ukraine border come after a fourth weekend of demonstrations against the government. Authorities said more than 600 people were arrested on Sunday while the EU has demanded the release of all political prisoners and says it is planning to impose sanctions.

Mr Lukashenko, who has ruled Belarus since 1994, admitted on Tuesday that perhaps he had remained in power too long.

He said Russian reporters: “Yes, perhaps I’ve overstayed a bit, perhaps,” but made it clear he would not leave “just like that”.

He has accused Western countries of interference and is expected to visit Russia “in the coming days” amid claims by Lithuania that he is planning deeper integration with Russia.

Ms Tikhanovskaya warned in an address to a Council of Europe committee that any treaty made by Mr Lukashenko’s “illegitimate regime” would not be upheld “by a democratically elected Belarus government”.

Maria Kolesnikova is a prominent ally of Ms Tikhanovskaya, who left for Lithuania after her detention by authorities.

There are conflicting reports about what happened Ms Kolesnikova at around 05:00 (02:00 GMT) on Tuesday at a border crossing south of the city of Gomel.

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