Imprisoned opposition activist Maryia Kalesnikava: ‘We live in police state’

Maryia Kalesnikava, a member of the opposition Coordination Council and activist in might-have-been presidential candidate Viktar Babaryka’s election team, responded in writing to questions put by Der Spiegel, Current Time, and Dozhd.

According to her, no lust for power can justify the scale of violence that Belarusians are now facing.

“They [authorities] repeal the law: peaceful citizens are battered, tortured, brutalised and killed because of their views. We live in a police state,” she said.

In early October, Maryia Kalesnikava refused to be present at the meeting which Alyaksandr Lukashenka was holding in the KGB prison in Minsk although a number of jailed oppositionists took part in it. In her opinion, such negotiations should take place when all would-be participants are at liberty.

Maryia Kalesnikava says no to proposal to meet with Lukashenka – lawyer

The power in Belarus is retained by a ‘relatively small number of people’, she believes.

“They bear a strong resemblance to a gang playing only three cards. After the things I went through, I don’t have a shadow of a doubt about that,” Kalesnikava stressed.

She has no intention to disengage from political activity until Belarus becomes ‘free, democratic and flourishing’. When asked about the constitutional reform announced by Lukashenka, Maryia Kalesnikava warned it might be nothing but an attempt to deceive Belarusians again.

100 days of Belarusian protest

On September 7, Maryia Kalesnikava was kidnapped near the National Art Museum in Minsk. Unidentified people drove her away in an unknown direction. As it turned out later, the politician 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.

“They warned that if I did not voluntarily leave the territory of the Republic of Belarus, I would still be withdrawn – ‘alive or ‘in pieces’,” Maryia said.

On September 8, 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. She was taken to prison in Minsk; later, she was transferred to the detention centre in Zhodzina.

In mid September, Kalesnikava was charged under Art. 361-3 of the Criminal Code (‘calling for actions aimed at harming the national security with the use of mass media and the Internet’). She may face up to five years in jail. Belarusian human rights defenders put her on the political prisoners’ list that includes 145 names at the moment.

Kalesnikava wants to bring to justice KGB officers who voiced death threats