Missing Belarus opposition figures turn up at Ukraine border, one said to have been detained

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Three Belarusian opposition politicians, including protest leader Maria Kolesnikova, who disappeared on Monday, have passed border control at the Belarusian-Ukrainian border, an official of the Belarusian border guard service said.

Kolesnikova, a presidium member of the opposition Coordination Council, disappeared in Minsk on Monday after she was seen being bundled into a van by unidentified men in black wearing masks. Two of her allies disappeared later, the opposition movement has said.

The Belarusian State Border Committee later said that Kolesnikova was detained trying to cross the border while the other two had entered Ukraine. Ukraine’s State Border Service also said that Kalesnikava did not enter Ukraine, and that her two allies entered the country. An official of the Belarusian border guard service said later confirmed that all three politicians have passed the border.

Belarus has been rocked by weeks of protests after president Alexander Lukashenko, who has led the country since 1994, won a landslide victory in the August 9 election. The vote was denounced by EU officials, and forced Lukashenko to look to Moscow for support.

The opposition says that Lukashenko’s main challenger, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, was the rightful winner and wants new elections. Tikhanovskaya, who fled to Lithuania after the vote, won only about 10% to Lukashenko’s 80%, according to the election committee.

Human rights activists accuse Belarusian riot police of brutally suppressing peaceful marches in the country. The government has denied the claims.

On Monday, the EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell had called on authorities in Belarus to release all opposition figures and protesters: “It is clear that the State authorities in Belarus continue to intimidate or allow intimidation of its citizens in an increasingly lawless way and crudely violate both their own domestic laws and international obligations”, he said.