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Thursday, January 21, 2021

Two Belarus opposition leaders held in custody

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Two Belarus opposition leaders held in custody
Two Belarus opposition leaders held in custody

Belarusian opposition leaders Maria Kolesnikova and Maxim Znak are being held in custody, Belarus' investigative committee said on Wednesday, under suspicion of destabilizing the country and harming its national security.

Lauren Anthony reports.

Two Belarus opposition leaders are being held on suspicion of destabilizing the country and harming its national security, the country's investigative committee said on Wednesday (September 9).

Maxim Znak was detained by masked men wearing plain clothes, according to his supporters.

He was taken two days after Maria Kolesnikova was snatched in the street - also by masked men.

She thwarted an attempt to deport her by tearing up her passport at the Ukrainian border on Tuesday (September 8), according to two of her allies.

Kolesnikova is being held on suspicion of making calls to seize power - says Russian news agency RIA, citing her lawyer.

The detentions come as authorities extend their campaign to round up leaders of a month-long protest movement in Belarus.

Both have led demands for the resignation of President Alexander Lukashenko, following an August 9th election that the opposition says was rigged.

Znak was the last member of the opposition's Coordination Council still active inside Belarus, apart from Nobel prize-winning author Svetlana Alexievich, who has served as a figurehead for the movement.

On Wednesday, she accused the authorities of terrorizing their own people - and demanded Znak's immediate release.

She summoned supporters to her home after alleging constant harassment by phone and at her door.

The rest of the Coordination Council members have either fled, been forced abroad or been detained in a crackdown by Lukashenko’s security forces, as he seeks to maintain his 26-year grip on power in the former Soviet republic.

On Tuesday, he said that without his rule, Belarus would collapse.

And on Wednesday, he blamed the protests on 'foreign interference'.

Another exiled Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who was Lukashenko's main opponent during the election, said on Wednesday that anti-government demonstrations in her country should remain peaceful.

She spoke during a visit to the Polish capital Warsaw.

Poland, along with Lithuania and Latvia, has sought to quote "set an example" for the European Union by offering extensive financial and social support to Belarus' opposition movement.

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