Along with Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya and Veronika Tsepkalo, Maria Kolesnikova has become a prominent voice of the opposition in Belarus. She is the only one of the three women still in the country.
A key coordinator of the banker and art patron Viktor Barbariko’s campaign to challenge Lukashenko’s 26-year presidency, Kolesnikova is one of three women who have become the most prominent voices of the opposition movement.
She was a regular presence at the ongoing protests in the capital, Minsk, after Lukashenko was declared the winner of the August 9 election, and always appeared to be in a good mood, laughing frequently.
A month after the election, Kolesnikova is the only of the three women still in Belarus.
Information is trickling out about footage taken on Monday that showed Maria Kolesnikova and fellow Belarusian opposition activists Anton Rodnenkov and Ivan Kravtsov being forced into a minibus by masked men.
At a press conference in Kyiv on Tuesday, Rodnenkov and Kravtsov said they had all accepted an offer to be driven to Ukraine, but, at the border, Kolesnikova refused to cross and tore up her passport.
Former Culture Minister Pavel Latushko — who, like Kolesnikova and the Nobel literature laureate Svetlana Alexievich, is on the seven-member presidium of the opposition Coordination Council — confirmed that account on Tuesday.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko told Russian media that Kolesnikova had been arrested trying to cross the border.
The 38-year-old Kolesnikova recently told the Russian daily newspaper Kommersant that she finds the spotlight stressful. “It’s simply not for me,” she said. “It would be easier for us if we had a leader,” she added.
However, the opposition has decided against creating a concrete hierarchy so as to prevent targeted arrests.