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Belarusian Activist Escapes But Leaves Family On Belarusian-Polish Border

Belarusian opposition activist Alyaksandr Lukin reportedly evaded arrest with the assistance of Polish border guards.
MINSK -- Belarusian opposition activist Alyaksandr Lukin has managed to escape arrest on the Belarusian-Polish border but had to leave his wife and children in Belarus, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reports.

Lukin was a leading member of opposition presidential candidate Andrey Sannikau's campaign staff in December. He and hundreds of other opposition activists were arrested at a mass protest in Minsk on December 19 and in the following days. Lukin was later sentenced to 15 days in jail.

Lukin, his wife, and two children left Belarus for France in January. On May 4, they tried to return to Belarus via the Slavatychy checkpoint on the Belarusian-Polish border, but the attempt ended with Lukin running alone back into Poland.

Lukin's wife, Alena, told RFE/RL that the Belarusian border guards took an inordinately long time to check their documents. That worried her husband and he started heading back toward the Polish side of the border.

The Belarusian border guards chased and eventually caught him just on the Polish side of the border.

"They beat him, twisted his arms and tore his clothes," Alena told RFE/RL. But she said the Polish border guards immediately approached their Belarusian counterparts and demanded an explanation.

When they realized Lukin risked political persecution in Belarus, they told him he should remain on Polish territory.

Alena, who had managed to cross back into Poland with her husband, then went back across the border to stay with her children, who were stranded on the Belarusian side of the border.

"They practically used our children as hostages to make me stay in Belarus," she told RFE/RL.

The Belarusian border guards fined Alena for an "administrative offense." They later told her there was no need for her husband to flee.

Alena did not say why the family had decided to return from France to Belarus in the first place. She said Lukin is currently on his way to France even though the Belarusian border guards kept his passport.

Read more in Belarusian here