Protest leader detained after blocking her detention

MINSK, BELARUS - AUGUST 23: Opposition leader Maria Kolesnikova at an anti-government demonstration on August 23, 2020 in Minsk, Belarus. There have been near daily demonstrations after the disputed August 9th presidential election, in which Alexander Lukashenko claimed 80 percent of the vote. He shows no signs of giving into to protester demands to resign or hold a new election. (Photo by Misha Friedman/Getty Images)

Prominent opposition leader Maria Kolesnikova was detained by Belarusian authorities on Tuesday, a border official said, after thwarting what a Ukrainian government minister described as an attempt to expel her from Belarus – By KYIV – Reuters

The Interfax Ukraine news agency said the activist had deliberately ripped up her passport so that Ukrainian border officials would not be able to let her through.

Deputy Ukrainian Interior Minister Anton Gerashchenko said on Facebook that Kolesnikova, who had been missing for the past 24 hours, had successfully prevented “a forcible expulsion from her native country”.

Two other opposition figures who had gone missing around the same time as her, Anton Rodnenkov and Ivan Kravtsov, did however enter Ukraine in the early hours of Tuesday morning, the Ukrainian border service said.

Diplomats told Reuters on Monday that the European Union is preparing a package of sanctions against 31 Belarusian officials over the election and the subsequent violence.

Kolesnikova, a member of the opposition coordination council, was the last of three female politicians left in Belarus who joined forces before the election to challenge Lukashenko.

In an interview with Reuters last month, she called on the West not to recognize him as president and said his rule was crumbling.