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What does the jailing of Maria Kolesnikova mean for Belarus?

What does the jailing of Maria Kolesnikova mean for Belarus?
Opposition activist and her lawyer Maxim Znak sentenced after fighting Alexander Lukashenko’s doubtful claim to have secured a landslide victory in last August’s presidential election

Why has the opposition leader been sent to jail?

Maria Kolesnikovaa prominent member of the opposition Coordination Council in ベラルーシ who has spoken out against the country’s despotic leader, アレクサンドル・ルカシェンコ – されています 刑に処せられる 11 刑務所での年, alongside her lawyer, Maxim Znak, who was jailed for 10 年.

The pair have been detained since their arrest 12 months ago and were charged with conspiring to seize power, creating an extremist organisation and calling for actions damaging state security.

A classical flutist and Baroque music scholar, Kolesnikova, 39, had previously been the campaign manager for Viktor Babariko, an ex-banker who had planned to run against Lukashenko in August 2020’s disputed presidential election prior to his own arrest the preceding June on questionable money laundering and tax evasion charges that in turn saw him jailed for 14 年.

The detention of Babariko prompted Kolesnikova to join forces with Veronika Tsepkalo and Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, the wives of the two other barred candidates.

Tikhanovskaya, an English teacher by trade, duly launched her own presidential bid and promised a fresh, female-led start for the former Soviet satellite state, which has been ruled by Lukashenko, an old-fashioned strongman often branded “Europe’s last dictator”, since July 1994.

On Election Day last year – 9 8月 – Lukashenko quickly declared a landslide victory for himself despite accusations of widespread electoral fraud and vote rigging, leading to weeks of angry mass protests inspired by Tikhanovskaya’s claim that she believed she had received between 60-70 投票のパーセント, the largest gathering of which saw 200,000 come together as one.

Despite international condemnation from the US, 自分, the UK and Canada and heated anti-government demonstrations outside of the Independence Palace in Minsk, Lukashenko was subsequently inaugurated for a sixth term on 23 September and has been carrying out a vendetta against his critics ever since.

Tikhanovskaya and Tsepkalo were forced to flee the country.

What has been the reaction?

“For many, Maria has become an example of resilience and the fight between good and evil. I’m proud of her,” Kolesnikova’s father, アレクサンダー, AP通信に語った (AP) 月曜日に. “It’s not a verdict, but rather the revenge of the authorities.”

His daughter has indeed become a protest icon, known for her fearless appearances at political rallies and in facing down lines of riot police.

Last September, she cemented her reputation when KGB agents drove her to the border between Belarus and Ukraine in an attempt to expel her. だが, in the neutral zone between the two countries, the activist managed to rip up her passport, break out of the car and storm back into Belarus, where she was immediately re-arrested.

The latest twist in Kolesnikova’s story could yet inspire fresh waves of anti-Lukashenko anger.

Speaking from exile in Lithuania, Tikhanovskaya told the AP: “The regime would want to see Maxim and Maria broken and weakened. But we see our heroes strong and free inside. They will be free much earlier. Prison terms invented for them shouldn’t scare usMaxim and Maria wouldn’t want that. They would want us to remember how Maria smiles, and to listen to Maxim singing.”

British foreign secretary ドミニク・ラーブ was one of the first international statesmen to decry her situation, コメント: “The sentencing of Maria Kolesnikova and Maxim Znak shows the Belarusian authorities continuing their assault on the defenders of democracy and freedom.

“Locking up political opponents will only deepen the pariah status of the Lukashenko regime.”

German Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Andrea Sasse said in Berlin that the verdicts are “a symbol of the ruthless methods, the repression and intimidation by the Belarusian regime of opposition politicians and civil society”.

In Brussels, European Commission spokesman Peter Stano said that the EU “reiterates its demands for the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners in Belarus (now numbering more than 650).」

なぜ今これを求めているのですか?

推定 35,000 people were arrested in the violent state crackdown that surrounded Lukashenko’s eventual inauguration last autumn and thousands more were beaten by police.

His regime, not recognised as legitimate by many Western powers but endorsed by ウラジーミル・プーチン’s Russia and by China, とりわけ, has continued to oppress its political enemies ever since.

つい最近, Belarus’s Supreme Court ordered the closure of the the Belarusian Association of Journalists, the liquidation following the jailing of some 30 ジャーナリスト, raids on newspaper offices, the blocking of websites belonging to major independent media organisations and the shutdown of the PEN Center writers’ organisation, headed by Nobel literature laureate Svetlana Alexieveich.

Lukashenko’s administration also cancelled accreditation for foreign news organisations after the protests erupted last August.

But his opponents remain unbowed and will continue to take courage from Kolesnikova’s example.

Footage from the Sputnik Belarus channel showed her and Znak in a glass cage before their sentence was announced and she was seen raising her handcuffed hands once more to make her trademark heart sign, smiling for the cameras as though entirely undaunted.