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European diplomats visit home of Belarusian Nobel laureate

September 10, 2020

Svetlana Alexievich also called journalists to her home, and accused the government in Minsk of terrorizing the people. The author said that despite official pressure, she wouldn't leave the country.

Belarusian Svetlana Alexievich, the 2015 Nobel literature laureate smiles as she opens her apartment door to greet supporters in Minsk, Belarus, Wednesday Sept. 9, 2020.
Image: picture-alliance/AP/TUT

Diplomats of at least seven countries, including the Czech Republic, Sweden, Slovakia, Germany and Poland, visited the home of Nobel laureate Svetlana Alexievich in Belarus on Wednesday, after she said that masked men were loitering outside her block of flats and trying to intimidate her, for instance by repeatedly ringing the doorbell.

Alexievich also called journalists to her home, and accused the government of terrorizing the people.

"What is happening is terror against the people... We have to unite and not give up our intentions. There is a danger we will lose the country," said Alexievich.

Opposition supporters and journalists outside the block of flats where writer Svetlana Alexievich lives. On 9 September 2020, unidentified masked men attempted to raid the flat of Alexievich who is currently the only member of the executive presidium of the opposition's coordination council who hasn't been detained or fled the country.
After Alexievich sounded the alarm, supporters and journalists started standing vigil outside her apartmentImage: picture-alliance/dpa/N. Fedosenk

Linas Linkevicius, Lithuania's foreign minister, told Reuters new agency that diplomats were at Alexievich's apartment to "monitor the situation... because it is harder to resort to brutal methods when diplomatic staff is around."

Sweden's Foreign Minister Ann Linde shared an image of the assembled diplomats in Alexievich's home, saying that "harassments, arrests and forced exile of opposition in Belarus is serious violation of peaceful protests by the regime in Belarus."

Meanwhile, the 2015 Nobel literature laureate said that despite pressure, she wouldn't leave the country. Alexievich said that the opposition Coordination Council group wasn't "preparing a coup."

"We were trying to prevent a split in our country," she said. "They have stolen our country and now they are trying to abduct the best of us... But hundreds of others will come to replace those who have been taken away from our ranks. It wasn't the Coordination Council that rebelled, it was the entire country that raised."

Nobel prize laureate, Svetlana Alexievich, is summoned for questioning over the formation of the Coordination Council of Belarus
Svetlana Alexievich was summoned for questioning in Minsk last month (picture-alliance/dpa/N. Fedosenko)Image: picture-alliance/dpa/N. Fedosenko

Crackdown on the opposition

Svetlana Alexievich says she is the last remaining member of the opposition council's executive presidium who is still free in Belarus. The Coordination Council was created by members of the opposition to facilitate talks with President Alexander Lukashenko. 

Belarusian authorities detained lawyer Maxim Znak, a member of the opposition council, on Wednesday. Znak was reportedly captured by masked men in plain clothes and only had time to text message "masks" before his phone was taken away from him. 

Maria Kolesnikova, another member of the council, was detained on Monday along with two other council members. She thwarted an attempt to expel her to Ukraine by ripping up her passport at the border. She is now in custody in Belarus.

On Wednesday, the foreign ministers of the Nordic-Baltic Eight group of nations issued a joint statement urging the Belarusian government to end the crackdown on protesters and activists. 

"We demand the immediate release of all those detained on political grounds before and after the falsified presidential election,'' said Swedish Foreign Minister Linde following the meeting.

am/msh (AFP, dpa, Reuters)