Maryia Kalesnikava plans to get second university degree behind bars

Маryia Kalesnikava. Photo: Belsat

Political prisoner Maryia Kalesnikava is now being retained in quarantine in the Homiel penal colony, she is undergoing a medical examination, the newspaper Narodnaya Volya reports with reference to her father Alyaksandr Kalesnikau.

According to him, Maryia will be allowed to have meetings with her family if the prison authorities do not have complaints against her. In addition, the political prisoner is not going to waste the time she has to spend behind bars.

The colony has signed agreements with two Russian universities. Maryia is interested in their offer, although the training is on a fee-paying basis. She is likely to choose psychology or economics as her major, ” Alyaksandr Kalesnikau said.

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On January 9, she was transferred to the women’s penal colony from detention centre Nr 1 in Minsk.

On 6 September 2021, a Minsk court passed guilty verdict in the case of Maryia Kalesnikava and lawyer Maksim Znak, who contributed to Viktar Babaryka’s election campaign and then became the members of the board of the opposition Coordination Council established by opposition politician Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya.

Kalesnikava and Znak were tried for ‘calling for actions aimed at harming the national security’ (Art. 361-3 of the Criminal Code); ‘conspiracy to seize state power in an unconstitutional way’ (Article 357-1); ‘establishing and ruling an extremist group’ (Article 361-1). The trial which kicked off on August 4 was held behind the closed doors. The two defendants denied all the charges.

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Maryia Kalesnikava was sentenced to 11 years of imprisonment in a minimum security penal colony, Maksim Znak – to 10 years in a medium security penal colony.

On 7 September 2020, Maryia Kalesnikava, an opposition activist and member of the might-have-been presidential candidate Viktar Babaryka’s team was kidnapped near the National Art Museum in Minsk. Unidentified people drove her away in an unknown direction. As it turned out later, the activist spent half a day in the Main Directorate for Combating Organised Crime and Corruption; then she was taken to the State Security Committee (KGB), where the chekists demanded she voluntarily depart from Belarus. According to her, several KGB officers voiced threats to take her life. A day later, Coordination Council spokesman Anton Radnyankou and secretary Ivan Krautsou who were forced out of Belarus gave a press conference in Kyiv. They told how the KGB failed to push Kalesnikava out the country. In the neutral zone, she destroyed her passport, jumped out of the car and returned to the Belarusian border.

Belarusian human rights watchdogs recognised Maksim Znak and Maryia Kalesnikava as political prisoners.

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