Belarusian protest leader Maria Kolesnikova charged under security law

Belarusian protest leader Maria Kolesnikova charged under security law
Ms Kolesnikova is said to have ripped up her passport when security officials tried to get her to leave the country. Source: Reuters
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Daily US Times: Belarusian officials said that protest organiser against the country’s current government Maria Kolesnikova has been charged with incitement to undermine national security.

Three women have been leading a mass opposition movement in Belarus, but she is the only one not to go into exile.

Ms Kolesnikova is said to have ripped up her passport when the authorities tried to expel her from Belarus.

At least 100,000 people have protested over what was widely seen as a rigged election for the last five Sundays.

In the 9 August poll, President Alexander Lukashenko claimed an overwhelming victory, but a brutal crackdown on initial protests against the result only fuelled popular anger.

Svetlana Tikhanovskaya ran against Mr Lukashenko as the opposition candidate, said she won the election. She was forced to flee to Lithuania shortly afterwards.

The third of the three women, Veronika Tsepkalo, has also left Belarus.

Mr Lukashenko has remained in power and is recognised by Vladimir Putin, who granted a $1.5bn (£1.2bn) loan after face-to-face talks between the two leader on Monday.

Last week eyewitnesses saw 38-year-old Ms Kolesnikova being seized by masked men.

She was driven to the Ukrainian border with two other people, but Ms Kolesnikova prevented officials forcibly expelling her by tearing up her passport and throwing it out of a car window, those who travelled with her said.

She said in a statement filed by her lawyer: ”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.”

The Investigative Committee said in a statement on Wednesday that Ms Kolesnikova had been charged on Monday with calling for “actions aimed at undermining Belarusian national security” using the media and internet.

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