Imprisoned Belarusian Activist Takes Emergency Hospital | News

Maria Kolesnikova, jailed since 2020, has undergone surgery and is in a serious but stable condition, her father said.

A prominent member of the Belarusian opposition who is serving an 11-year prison sentence for helping organize anti-government protests has been taken to the hospital’s emergency department and undergoes surgery, her father said.

Alexander Kolesnikov said his daughter, Maria Kolesnikova, is in a serious but stable condition. Doctors have not shared her diagnosis or any other details with him about the surgery, Kolesnikov said Tuesday.

He noted that his daughter looked energetic and happy when he last visited her in prison in the southern city of Homiel about a month ago.

This 40-year-old woman has been detained since her arrest in September 2020, when she tore her passport at the border to prevent her deportation from Belarus amid massive protests. re-election of the country’s authoritarian president Alexander Lukashenko.

She was convicted in September 2021 on charges of conspiracy to usurp power, founding a hardline organization and calling for action that threatens state security.

Her lawyer, Vladimir Pylchenko, said Kolesnikova was placed in a cell before she was taken to the hospital. He did not elaborate on her condition.

Pylchenko said that authorities had repeatedly denied his requests to meet Kolesnikova at the prison in Homiel.

Freedom ‘worth fighting for’

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the main opposition candidate in the August 2020 elections that led to Lukashenko being awarded a sixth term, has asked the authorities to release information about Kolesnikova’s status.

“Don’t let the regime keep silent about Maria Kolesnikova’s health,” Tsikhanouskaya wrote on her messaging app channel.

Belarus has been rocked by months of protests following a controversial election that the opposition and the West denounced as a sham. Lukashenko responded to the protests with a significant crackdown that resulted in more than 35,000 arrests and thousands of police beatings. Tsikhanouskaya was forced to leave the country.

Kolesnikova was part of a trio of women — along with Veronika Tsepkalo and Tsikhanouskaya — who led the historic protests. She helped coordinate opposition protests and resisted attempts by authorities to force her out of the country. When officials of the Belarusian security service drove her to the border with Ukraine in September 2020 to forcibly deport her, she tore her passport and returned to Belarus to face arrest.

Just before the trial began, Kolesnikova said in a letter from the prison that authorities offered to release her if she asked for a pardon and gave a contrived interview with state media. She insists she is innocent and declines the offer.

“Freedom is worth fighting for. Don’t be afraid to be free,” she wrote from prison. “I don’t regret anything and would do so again.”

Shortly after her conviction, she was awarded one of Europe’s leading human rights awards, the Vaclav Havel Prize, with acclaim by the Council of Europe for her bravery.


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