Oppositionist Kolesnikova: Stop the violence in Belarus | free press

Minsk (dpa) – Imprisoned Belarusian opposition activist Maria Kolesnikowa has called on Alexander Lukashenko’s power apparatus to renounce violence.

“I call on the authorities to stop fighting their own people and listen to the Belarusians and start a new dialogue,” the 39-year-old told Welt am Sonntag in a written interview. “Stop the violence! Stop the absurd legal process!” Kolesnikowa, who worked for a long time as a cultural manager in Stuttgart, has been in prison since September. She risks many years in prison.

Kolesnikowa became internationally known during the presidential elections of August 9 last year in the trio with Svetlana Tichanowskaja and Veronika Zepkalo. After the vote, widely regarded as rigged, she joined the mass protests. In early September, the politician was kidnapped by the KGB secret service in Minsk. When she was about to be deported to Ukraine, she tore her passport shortly before the border crossing, thwarting plans to deport her.

She does not regret her decision to stay in Belarus, Kolesnikova wrote. “I think that was the right thing to do. Freedom doesn’t just fall into your lap.” Belarus is not the only country that has not yet succeeded in building a democratic system, but: “Step by step we are building a free and open society.”

Many Belarusian opposition figures – such as Tikhanovskaya – fled abroad for fear of Lukashenko’s power apparatus. Last year’s protests left several dead, hundreds injured and thousands arrested. Human rights activists have repeatedly criticized torture in Belarusian prisons.

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