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Opposition Figure Kalesnikava Charged With Threatening Belarus's National Security

Maryya Kalesnikava addresses participants during a demonstration to protest the election result in Minsk in August 17
Maryya Kalesnikava addresses participants during a demonstration to protest the election result in Minsk in August 17

Belarusian opposition leader Maryya Kalesnikava has been officially charged with calling for action aimed at damaging the country's national security.

The Belarusian Investigative Committee said on September 16 that Kalesnikava is suspected of committing the alleged crime via the usage of media and the Internet.

The 38-year-old Kalesnikava has become a prominent leader of protests demanding the resignation of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka following an August 9 presidential election that the opposition says was rigged.

Crisis In Belarus

Read our coverage as Belarusian strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka continues his brutal crackdown on NGOs, activists, and independent media following the August 2020 presidential election.

Lukashenka, who took just over 80 percent of the ballots according to official results, denies vote-rigging.

Kalesnikava was snatched from the streets of Minsk on September 7 by masked men along with two staffers. The three were driven early on September 8 to the border, where authorities told them to cross into Ukraine.

Security officers reportedly failed to deport Kalesnikava because she ripped her passport into small pieces after they arrived in a no-man’s-land between Belarus and Ukraine. Her two associates continued on and are now in Ukraine.

A dozen human rights watchdogs based in Belarus have recognized Kalesnikava and two other associates also being detained as political prisoners and have demanded their immediate release from custody.

Lukashenka, who has led the country for 26 years, has refused to meet with the opposition or agree to a new election.

Weeks of regular protests have ensued since the vote, including demonstrations from some of the workers and other prominent groups the strongman president has kept in tight lockstep in the past.

Lukashenka has directed a brutal postelection crackdown that has included thousands of arrests, beatings and other mistreatment of peaceful protesters, and expulsions of foreign journalists.

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