Masked males detained one of many final high-profile opposition figures nonetheless free in Belarus on Wednesday, his colleagues mentioned, the newest in a collection of detentions and expulsions of these main mass protests.
Maxim Znak, who had labored as a lawyer for jailed presidential hopeful Viktor Babaryko, had been as a result of take part in a video name however didn’t present up, as a substitute sending the phrase “masks” to the group, Babaryko’s press service mentioned.
It mentioned a witness had additionally seen Znak, 39, being led down the road close to his places of work by a number of males in civilian garments and sporting masks.
Together with Svetlana Alexievich, a 72-year-old Nobel Prize-winning writer, Znak was the final of the seven members of the opposition Coordination Council’s governing presidium to stay free.
Others have been detained or pressured to go away Belarus, in an intensifying crackdown by President Alexander Lukashenko’s regime over a disputed election.
Znak’s obvious detention got here a day after essentially the most distinguished opposition determine nonetheless in Belarus, Maria Kolesnikova, was detained on the Ukrainian border after she prevented authorities from expelling her by tearing up her passport and leaping out of a automotive.
The Coordination Council was arrange to make sure a peaceable switch of energy after most important opposition candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya rejected Lukashenko’s declare to have been re-elected to a sixth time period in an August 9 vote.
The election has sparked the largest anti-government demonstrations of Lukashenko’s 26-year rule, with tens of hundreds taking to the streets for weeks to demand he resign.
Lukashenko’s safety companies have hit again with waves of arrests, lethal violence in opposition to protesters and a marketing campaign of intimidation and expulsion in opposition to opposition leaders.
Kolesnikova’s destiny was unknown after the dramatic occasions on Wednesday, when she and two different members of the Council had been taken in a automotive to the buffer zone between the Belarusian and Ukrainian borders.
The opposite two council members, press secretary Anton Rodnenkov and govt secretary Ivan Kravtsov, informed a press convention in Kiev that Kolesnikova had torn her passport “into small items” and climbed out of the again window of the automotive to keep away from expulsion.
Border police mentioned she was being held pending an investigation.
Kolesnikova had gone lacking on Monday, with witnesses saying she was bundled right into a minibus by unidentified masked males on the road in Minsk.
Kolesnikova, 38, is the one one of many trio of ladies who fronted Tikhanovskaya’s marketing campaign nonetheless in Belarus.
Tikhanovskaya left the nation below stress from the authorities and was granted refuge in EU member state Lithuania. Her different marketing campaign accomplice, Veronika Tsepkalo, is now in Ukraine.
Tikhanovskaya on Wednesday referred to as on Russians to not consider propaganda making an attempt to “poison” ties between the 2 peoples and thanked these backing Belarusians’ “struggle for freedom”.
Her first main handle to Russians got here after Lukashenko gave a wide-ranging interview to a gaggle of journalists from Russian state media on Tuesday.
“It is extremely vital to not injury ties between the 2 nations,” 37-year-old Tikhanovskaya mentioned within the video handle.
“Let’s not permit propaganda to poison ties between two pleasant peoples, and unscrupulous politicians to break the pursuits of each Belarus and Russia,” she mentioned.
No date has been set, however Lukashenko is making ready to journey to Moscow for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Putin rapidly congratulated Lukashenko on his re-election final month and has provided Russia’s help.
Within the interview with Russian journalists, Lukashenko mentioned he didn’t recognise the Council because the opposition and warned that if his authorities falls, “Russia shall be subsequent”.