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Nobel Laureate Alexievich Leaves Belarus For Medical Treatment In Germany

Belarusian writer Svetlana Alexievich speaks to journalists at her home in Minsk on September 9.

Belarusian Nobel Prize-winning writer Svetlana Alexievich has left the country for treatment in Germany, according to an aide and a friend.

The departure of Alexievich, a prominent opposition figure, comes amid mass protests against Alyaksandr Lukashenka.

Alexievich is a member of the Belarusian opposition Coordination Council's presidium that has been targeted by the authorities since protests erupted after Lukashenka was declared winner of the August 9 presidential election, which the opposition and Western countries say was rigged.

Her friend Maria Voiteshonok told AFP that Alexievich had gone to Germany for planned treatment.

"She will return to Belarus in a month. She is not dropping her activities as a Coordination Council member," Voiteshonok said.

She added that Alexievich also planned to visit Italy, where she has been awarded a literary prize.

An aide to Alexievich told Reuters that her departure was not linked to politics and she planned to return.

The aide said Alexievich had traveled to Germany to receive medical treatment and for work reasons.

The 72-year-old Alexievich was the only member of the council presidium to remain free in Belarus after the other six were either arrested or forced to leave the country.

Hundreds of thousands of Belarusians have taken to the streets for seven weeks, calling for Lukashenka to step down and new elections to be held.

Lukashenka has directed a brutal postelection crackdown in response to protests, including thousands of arrests, beatings and other mistreatment of peaceful protesters, and the expulsions of foreign journalists.

He has denied accusations that the presidential election was rigged.

Based on reporting by AFP and Reuters