Belarusian opposition leader detained after resisting expulsion at Ukrainian border

The Belarusian opposition figure Maria Kolesnikova ripped up her passport in order to avoid being deported from her own country, according to Ukrainian media reports.

On Monday, masked men kidnapped Kolesnikova from the centre of Minsk and drove her away. Two of her opposition colleagues also vanished. The three activists were later driven to the Alexandrovka border with Ukraine in a car that arrived at about 4am on Tuesday.

Kolesnikova refused to cross and deliberately ripped up her passport, according to reports. “When attempting to deport her, she tore her passport and could not be allowed into the territory of Ukraine by border guards,” a source told Interfax-Ukraine agency.

Ukraine’s deputy interior minister, Anton Gerashchenko, posted on Facebook that Kolesnikova had successfully prevented “a forcible expulsion from her native country”.

The activists with her – Anton Rodnenkov and Ivan Kravtsov – are believed to be in Ukraine. The official Belarus Belta news agency said Kolesnikova was pushed out of the car, which went on without her across the Ukraine border. Belarus border guards then appear to have recaptured Kolsenikova. Officials have not confirmed what happened and the events at the border and her whereabouts are unclear.

“Kolesnikova has now been detained. I can’t say concretely where she is, but she has been detained,” Anton Bychokovsky, a Belarus border guard spokesperson told Reuters. “She was detained in accordance with which they [the group] left Belarus.”

Kolesnikova was a campaign partner of the opposition candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who claimed victory against the longstanding president, Alexander Lukashenko, in disputed elections on 9 August.

She was seized on Monday along with at least three other members of the coordination council, which was set up to seek a peaceful transfer of power amid widespread rejection of the official election results, which gave 80% of the vote to Lukashenko.

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