In what could mark a worrying new trend in Alyaksandr Lukashenka's Belarus, two prominent opposition activists say they were briefly abducted over the weekend by assailants they believe are tied to the secret services.
Zmitser Dashkevich, the leader of the Young Front opposition movement, told RFE/RL's Belarus Service he was seized by masked men on December 5 from the doorstep of his apartment in Minsk. He was reportedly dragged into a minibus, blindfolded, and dumped in a forest 70 kilometers outside the capital.
The incident lasted over five hours and prevented Dashkevich from delivering a speech at the founding ceremony of a new opposition coalition, called New Generation.
The next day, two unidentified men picked up Dashkevich's colleague, Yaugen Afnagel, as he stepped off a bus in Minsk. He, too, says he was thrown into a car and driven to a forest outside Minsk, where he was abandoned.
The opposition has pinned the blame on Belarus' feared secret services and says the KGB is trying out new methods to intimidate dissidents ahead of general elections next spring.
These are not the first such cases this year. Four other opposition campaigners say they have been briefly kidnapped and dumped in forests.
Unsurprisingly, the KGB has declined to comment.
The Interfax news agency cites an unnamed secret service official as saying the KGB does not comment on "stories about 'kidnapped and returned' opposition activists, just like it would not on the existence of flying monsters."
-- Claire Bigg