U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Tuesday the United States is deeply concerned about attempts by the government of Belarus to forcibly expel opposition activist Maria Kolesnikova. The top U.S. diplomat said the United States and other countries are considering bringing sanctions in response to recent events in Belarus.
“We commend the courage of Ms. Kalesnikava and of the Belarusian people in peacefully asserting their right to pick their leaders in free and fair elections in the face of unjustified violence and repression by the Belarusian authorities, which included brazen beatings of peaceful marchers in broad daylight and hundreds of detentions (on) September 6, as well as increasing reports of abductions,” Pompeo said in a statement.
He said the potential sanctions would be aimed at promoting “accountability for those involved in human rights abuses and repression in Belarus.”
Kolesnikova was detained Monday along with two other opposition movement members, Anton Rodnenkov and Ivan Kravtsov, and on Tuesday they were driven to the border between Belarus and Ukraine where Kolesnikova tore up her passport and was held on the Belarusian side.
Rodnenkov and Kravtsov did cross into Ukraine.
“She was shouting that she won’t go anywhere,” Rodnenkov said at a news conference in Kyiv. “Sitting in the car, she saw her passport on a front seat and tore it into many small fragments, crumpled them and threw them out of the window. After that, she opened the back door and walked back to the Belarusian border.”
A spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres issued a statement expressing his concern about “the repeated use of force against peaceful protesters, as well as reported pressures on opposition civil society activists.”
Thousands of people have taken part in five weeks of protests following the August 9 election in which longtime President Alexander Lukashenko was declared the winner, but opposition parties, the United States and European Union allege was rigged.
More than 7,000 protesters have been arrested, and widespread evidence of abuse and torture has been reported in the month of protests. At least four people are reported to have died during the demonstrations.