Maria Kolesnikova resisted her deportation and stayed in Belarus. Now the Lukashenko regime is bringing the opposition to justice for “conspiracy to seize power”.
In Belarus, the trial of the well-known government critic Maria Kolesnikova has started behind closed doors. The 39-year-old musician is on trial in Minsk together with her lawyer Maxime Snak, as reported by the state news agency Belta. They face twelve years imprisonment for “conspiracy to seize power” and another seven years for “calling for action against national security”.
The former flautist in the national symphony orchestra is one of the symbolic figures of the protest movement against the authoritarian ruling head of state Alexander Lukashenko. As one of the few leaders in the opposition, she has not left the country since the controversial presidential election last year.
Kolesnikova was the manager of Lukashenko’s challenger
Kolesnikova was the campaign manager of Viktor Babaryko, who was considered Lukashenko’s most promising challenger in last year’s presidential election. Babaryko was arrested before the election and sentenced to 14 years in prison a month ago on charges of corruption.
The arrest of the opposition member led several camps of government critics to band together and support the candidacy of Svetlana Tichanovskaya, who took the place of her husband, who was also arrested. Despite massive allegations of fraud, Lukashenko was officially declared the winner after the August election, sparking historic mass protests.
Kolesnikova opposed deportation from Belarus
Kolesnikova, Tichanowskaja and a third woman, Weronika Zepkalo, whose husband had also been excluded from the election, became leaders of the resistance against Lukashenko – first in the election campaign they waged together, then in the protests that were brutally suppressed by the security forces .
Tichanovskaya and Zepkalo finally fled abroad. Kolesnikova was arrested after she opposed her deportation abroad. According to her own statements, she was kidnapped by the Belarusian secret service KGB and taken to the Ukrainian border. There she tore up her passport and refused to leave the country.