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Maria Kolesnikova forming a heart sign between two metal bars
The leading Belarus opposition figure has been held behind bars for over two yearsImage: Viktor Tolochko/SNA/imago images

Belarus: Jailed dissident Maria Kolesnikova hospitalized

November 29, 2022

Opposition leader Maria Kolesnikova has been moved to an intensive care unit of a Belarus hospital. She was arrested in 2020 after leading protests against Alexander Lukashenko.


Leading Belarusian opposition figure Maria Kolesnikova has been transferred to the intensive care unit of a hospital in the southeastern city of Gomel, jailed opposition politician Viktor Babariko's Telegram account said on Tuesday.

The account added that Kolesnikova's lawyer confirmed her hospitalization on Monday. She was first admitted into the surgical ward before being transferred to the intensive care unit.

A leading Belarus opposition figure, Kolesnikova has been held behind bars for over two years.

In 2020, Kolesnikova coordinated Viktor Babariko's campaign in the run-up to Belarus' presidential election. When Babariko, a prominent banker, was arrested on money-laundering charges, Kolesnikova became a key figure in the opposition's Coordination Council.

What happened to Kolesnikova in prison?

The Telegram account did not clarify Kolesnikova's ailment.

However, it said that her lawyer was not allowed to see her on Tuesday, for the third time. Babariko's Telegram account added that before her hospitalization, Kolesnikova was put in a "punishment cell", or solitary confinement, at an unspecified date.

The dissident's lawyer, Vladimir Pylchenko, reportedly addressed his fears for her health to the prosecutor's office, Babariko's Telegram account said, yet he received no response.

"Awful news. Our dear Masha (Maria), we all hope that you are going to be okay!" exiled opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya wrote on Telegram. Tsikhanouskaya described her situation as "extremely worrying" in a tweet on Tuesday.

Belarusian opposition spokesman Franak Viacorka said that Maria Kolesnikova's health is "stably critical."

Speaking to DW from the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius, Viacorka said: "We don't know what they did to Maria because 10 days ago she was put in such a punishment cell. What information they wanted from her, what they were trying to do to her. Let us not forget, she is one of the biggest enemies to Lukashenko."

Who is Kolesnikova?

Kolesnikova — a professional flutist who spent years working as a cultural manager in the southern German city of Stuttgart — soon rose to become one of the country's most prominent women dissidents. In September 2020, Belarus authorities attempted to force her into exile. She would not budge, however, and was arrested.

One year later, Kolesnikova and lawyer, Maxim Znak, another leading member of the Coordination Council, were tried for "inciting action aimed at harming national security" and "extremism." They were handed jail terms of 11 and 10 years, respectively.

International observers have called the trial a farce, and Germany has repeatedly demanded Kolesnikova's release.

Together with Tsikhanouskaya and Veronika Tsepkalo, Kolesnikova makes up a trio of prominent dissident women who have come to represent the Belarus opposition movement. Tsikhanouskaya and Tsepkalo have both been forced into exile.

Women hold portraits of Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, Veronika Tsepkalo and Maria Kolesnikova (L-R) as they take part in a rally in support of Belarusian presidential candidate Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya in Gagarina Street.
Together with Tsikhanouskaya and Veronika Tsepkalo, Kolesnikova makes up a trio of prominent dissident woman in BelarusImage: Natalia Fedosenko/ITAR-TASS/picture-alliance/dpa

rmt/sms (AFP, Reuters)

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