Belarusian opposition activist Maria Kolesnikova has been charged with publicly calling for seizure of power, investigators said Wednesday. She is the only one of three women who led this summer’s protests still in the country.

Kolesnikova who – together with Svetlana Tikhanovskaya and Veronika Tsepkalo – spearheaded marches opposing long-time President Alexander Lukashenko was arrested last week after a dramatic chain of events. She was apparently abducted in broad daylight on a Minsk street before an attempt to forcibly deport her to Ukraine ended in failure after she ripped up her passport to scupper the plan.

The three women found themselves at the front of the opposition movement after three men who originally fulfilled the roles were either arrested, or went into exile.

Also on

© Sputnik / Evgenii Odinokov
Opposition figurehead Kolesnikova files case against Belarusian security forces ‘after attempt to force’ her across the border

Tsepkalo’s husband, Valery, initially fled to Russia and Kolensnikova’s spouse, Sergey, was jailed. Kolesnikova had been the campaign manager for another potential election candidate, Viktor Babariko, who was denied a place on the ballot and imprisoned.

“Today, investigators brought charges against Maria Kolesnikova under Article 361.3 of the Criminal Code (calls for actions aimed at harming the national security of Belarus, made through the media and on the internet). She remains in custody. The investigation continues,” a statement from the country’s Investigative Committee declared. The article carries a penalty of two to five years in prison.

Kolesnikova was detained in the early hours of September 8 and taken into custody. According to the Belarusian State Border Committee, she was apprehended while trying to illegally cross the border with Ukraine.

Nationwide demonstrations have engulfed Belarus following last month’s presidential election. According to the Central Election Commission’s official results, incumbent  Lukashenko won by a landslide, garnering 80.10 percent of the vote. His closest rival in the race, Tikhanovskaya, came in second, with 10.12 percent of the ballot. However, she refused to recognize the election’s outcome, and left Belarus for Lithuania.

Also on

Opposition supporters carry a historical white-red-white flag of Belarus as they take part in a rally against police brutality following protests to reject the presidential election results in Minsk, Belarus September 13, 2020.
Another color revolution? US orchestrating Belarusian unrest, says Russian spy chief Naryshkin; Belarus’ leader Lukashenko agrees

After the results of the exit polls were announced late on August 9, mass protests erupted in downtown Minsk and other Belarusian cities. During the early post-election period, the rallies snowballed into fierce clashes between the protesters and police. The election is widely believed to have been falsified.

Think your friends would be interested? Share this story!