Belarus: European states demand answers over Maria Kolesnikova disappearance
Germany and Britain have expressed concerns over the disappearance of Belarusian opposition figure Maria Kolesnikova, who has not been seen since Monday morning.
“We are very worried (about) Ms Kolesnikova,” said Foreign Minister Heiko Maas as quoted by the tabloid Bild. “We demand to know where she is and we call for the release of all political prisoners in Belarus.”
He added that Germany – which currently holds the presidency of the European Union – is working “relentlessly” on a series of sanctions against Alexander Lukashenko’s regime.
Meanwhile, British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab tweeted that the government must make the return of Kolesnikova its highest priority.
Unconfirmed reports said that Kolesnikova and two other opposition figures may have been kidnapped in the centre of Minsk. The opposition’s press team said that she as well as her staffers Ivan Kravtsov and Anton Rodnenkov were still “out of touch” and that the opposition’s “lawyers are looking for them”.
By Monday evening she had still not reappeared. “More than eight hours have passed and we still don’t know where Maria is and what’s happened to her,” said Maxime Znak, a member of the opposition Coordination Council, said in a video posted on YouTube.
The Belarusian interior ministry told AFP it had no information on an arrest.
Gleb German, opposition candidate Viktor Babariko’s press representative, confirmed to Dailyrater earlier in the day that Kolesnikova, who runs Babariko’s headquarters, had not been able to be reached since 10 a.m. Monday.
“The most important thing now is to establish a connection with Maria, Ivan and Anton in order to understand that they are okay and why they have been detained,” German said in a statement to Dailyrater. German said some Belarusian agencies denied having detained them.
A bystander near the National Art Museum told independent Belarusian media site tut.by that she saw Kolesnikova taken by masked people in civilian clothes. The bystander told tut.by that Kolesnikova was put in a minibus.
Lithuanian foreign minister Linas Linkevicius said the reports showed “the outgoing leadership is trying cynically eliminate one by one.”
“The kidnapping of M.Kalesnikava in downtown of #Minsk is a disgrace. Stalinist NKVD methods are being applied in 21st century’s Europe. She must be released immediately,” Linkevicius tweeted.
Kolesnikova is a leader of the Coordination Council which was set up by the opposition in Belarus to create dialogue with authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko over a transition of power following last month’s disputed election.
She ran Viktor Babariko’s opposition campaign but he was detained prior to the presidential elections. She then joined forces with candidate Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya.
Tens of thousands of Belarusians protested against Lukashenko once again on Sunday marking the fifth week of protests against the country’s leader.
Tsikhanouskaya, who was the main opposition candidate in the August election, has urged the international community to impose sanctions on “the individuals that committed electoral violations and crimes against humanity” following a violent crackdown on protests.