By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
MINSK/BUDAPEST (Worthy News) – A prominent Belarusian opposition leader serving an 11-year prison sentence for helping organize anti-government protests was in stable condition Wednesday after being rushed to hospital, her family and allies say.
Maria Kolesnikova, 40, was placed in the hospital’s intensive care unit in the eastern city of Gomel following surgery on Monday, several sources confirmed.
Her father, Alexander Kolesnikov, said doctors didn’t share her diagnosis or any other details with him about the surgery.
He noted that his daughter looked “energetic and cheerful” when he last visited her in prison in the southern city of Homiel about a month ago.
She destroyed her passport amid massive protests challenging the reelection of the country’s authoritarian president, Alexander Lukashenko.
Kolesnikova was convicted in September 2021 on charges of “conspiring to seize power,” “creating an extremist organization,” and calling for “action that threatened the security of the state.”
Her lawyer, Vladimir Pylchenko, told reporters that Kolesnikova had been placed in a penitentiary cell before she was taken to the hospital. He didn’t elaborate on her condition.
Pylchenko explained that authorities had repeatedly rejected his requests to see Kolesnikova at the prison in Homiel.
Kolesnikova is among several opposition leaders who were jailed after unprecedented protests challenging Lukashenko saw thousands of people being imprisoned and tortured, rights activists say.
She said the charges against her were politically motivated. Yet despite the hardships she endured, Kolesnikova said in an interview that she “doesn’t regret anything.” And, “I’d do the same again,” she stressed.
The ongoing detentions of opposition members come as President Lukashenko has become increasingly isolated due to Western sanctions over his autocratic style and the discredited 2020 elections.
On Wednesday, he was still to announce a replacement for the late Vladimir Makei, who served 10 years as the foreign minister of Belarus, a critical geopolitical battleground between Russia and the West.
Analysts say the choice to replace Makei, whose sudden death at 64 was confirmed this weekend, could indicate how far Lukashenko wants to push his alliance with Russia. While a longtime part of Lukashenko’s inner circle, Makei kept the door open for talks with West, according to diplomats who knew him well.
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