February 25, 2024

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Belarusian opposition prisoner Maria Kolesnikova “in intensive care” | Belarus

Imprisoned Belarusian opposition leader Maria Kolesnikova has been transferred to intensive care and operated on, allies said.

“Maria is in the emergency hospital in Gomel, in the intensive care unit,” said the press service of Victor Babariko, another opposition politician.

Kolesnikova’s father, Alexander Kolesnikov, said his daughter was in a serious but stable condition. Kolesnikov said the doctors did not share her diagnosis or any other details about the surgery with him.

He pointed out that his daughter appeared active and cheerful when he last visited her in prison about a month ago.

Kolesnikova’s lawyer said she was placed in a prison cell before being taken to hospital. He did not explain her condition.

The lawyer said that the authorities repeatedly refused his requests to see Kolesnikova in the prison where she was being held.

Kolesnikova was one of three women leaders — along with Veronika Tsepkalo and Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya — who led historic demonstrations against Belarusian ruler Alexander Lukashenko in 2020. Mass rallies broke out across Belarus against Lukashenko’s demand for a sixth term.

Kolesnikova was imprisoned for 11 years after resisting expulsion from Belarus. In September 2020, the country’s KGB security service drove her to the Ukraine border after placing a sack over her head and shoving her into a minibus, but at the border Kolesnikova tore up her passport so she would not be deported.

Lukashenko’s crackdown on protests has led to thousands of arrests and forced exile or imprisonment of activists and journalists.

“What terrible news. Our dear Masha, we all hope that you are doing well! said Tsikhanouskaya, the opposition leader in exile. Kolesnikova, 40, is the only one of three women still in Belarus.

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With the Associated Press and AFP