West cries foul as Belarus protest leader sentenced to 11 years

West cries foul as Belarus protest leader sentenced to 11 years


KYIV, Sept 6 – Maria Kolesnikova, one of the leaders of mass street protests against Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko last year, was sentenced on Monday to 11 years in prison, leading to an outcry from Western countries.

Kolesnikova, 39, had been detained after ripping up her passport to prevent Belarusian security forces from deporting her in a standoff at the Ukrainian border in September.

The musician-turned-politician became one of the faces of the mass opposition movement during the August 2020 presidential election, which the protesters say was rigged to extend Lukashenko’s grip on power.

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Lukashenko, who has denied electoral fraud, has been in office in the former Soviet republic since 1994 and has faced fresh Western sanctions since launching a violent crackdown on his opponents.

Kolesnikova and another senior opposition figure, Maxim Znak, were charged with extremism and trying to seize power illegally. Both denied wrongdoing and Kolesnikova called the charges absurd.

Znak was sentenced to 10

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