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Home / WORLD / Belarusian opposition figurehead Maria Kolesnikova ‘abducted’ on Minsk street in broad daylight, but police deny any knowledge

Belarusian opposition figurehead Maria Kolesnikova ‘abducted’ on Minsk street in broad daylight, but police deny any knowledge

According to an eyewitness report, as related by Belarusian news portal, Kolesnikova was abducted on Monday morning and placed in a minibus with the sign ‘Communication’ on its side. It is not yet known who took her, and attempts by her associates to contact her have so far proved futile.

“I turned around and saw that people in civilian clothes and masks were pushing Maria into a minibus,” said the eyewitness, who gave her name simply as ‘Anastasia’. “Her phone flew from her grasp, one of the people picked it up and jumped into the minibus, and it left.”

Speaking to the Russian news agency RIA Novosti, the Minsk Police Department denied any knowledge of Kolesnikova’s detention.

Kolesnikova entered the spotlight in July, when her boss, Viktor Barbariko – initially considered the leading opposition challenger to Lukashenko – was arrested and prevented from running against Lukashenko. Kolesnikova worked as his campaign manager. Along with Svetlana Tikhanovskaya and Veronika Tsepkalo, whose husbands had also been barred from running, she led the charge to oust the Belarusian president. Tikhanovskaya and Tsepkalo have since left the country.

Following the allegedly rigged election, Kolesnikova joined the Belarusian Coordination Council, set up by former opposition candidate Tikhanovskaya to facilitate a peaceful transition of power. According to Maxim Znak, a member of the group, Kolesnikova is not the only Coordination Council-linked figure to have gone missing.

“I don’t know where Maria [Kolesnikova] and [council spokesman] Anton [Rodnenkov] are, and I can’t contact them. I also can’t get in touch with [software engineering services company] EPAM Senior Vice President Maxim Bogretsov and Executive Secretary of the Council Ivan Kravtsov,” he said, sparking worries that the council members may all have been targeted. Bogretsov later got in touch.

Belarusian President Lukashenko has previously been critical of the Coordination Council, calling its work “an attempt to seize power,” and has threatened “measures” to “cool some hotheads.” 

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