Belarus opposition leader Maria Kolesnikova ‘kidnapped and threatened with mutilation’

An activist who ripped up her passport to avoid being forcibly deported from Belarus has accused authorities of threatening to kill her.

Maria Kolesnikova says she was forced into a van on Monday by masked men in Minsk and driven more than 200 miles to the Ukranian border.

The opposition leader was detained at the border after she destroyed her passport in a no-man’s land between Ukraine and Belarus the next day.

Ms Kolesnikova said in a formal complaint released by her lawyer that agents of Belarus’ state security committee put a bag on her head before she fought her removal from Belarus and was jailed.

“They threatened to kill me,” Ms Kolesnikova said. “They stated that if I refuse to leave the territory of Belarus voluntarily, they will get me out of the country anyway – alive or in fragments.”

The 38-year-old is in jail in Minsk on a charge of undermining national security.

Ms Kolesnikova is one of a group of opposition members challenging President Alexander Lukashenko’s authoritarian leadership.

This week, Belarus marked a month since massive demonstrations broke out against Mr Lukashenko’s re-election.

The opposition rejects the country’s vote in August as rigged, and the protesters demanding Mr Lukashenko’s resignation represent an unprecedented challenge to the Belarusian leader’s 26-year rule.

Ms Kolesnikova is a leading member of the Coordination Council created by opposition activists to push for a new election.

On Wednesday, police raided protest groups’ headquarters to arrest several activists.

Lawyer Maxim Znak was detained, leaving Nobel Prize-winning writer Svetlana Alexievich as one of the few remaining high-profile activists free and currently still in Belarus.

She said she has received threatening phone calls and fears she will be the next target of the state.

Earlier on Thursday, a group of men wearing masks and holding crowbars broke into the headquarters of Viktar Babaryka, a political rival to Alexander Lukashenko, according to CCTV obtained by Sky News.

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