Belarus says hundreds arrested as opposition figure 'kidnapped'

Masked Men Seize Belarus Opposition Leader

Masked Men Seize Belarus Opposition Leader

"By the decision of the Constitutional Court [of Belarus], the self-proclaimed body [the Belarusian opposition's Coordination Council - TASS] was recognized as illegal, unconstitutional", Dmitry Peskov replied when asked whether Belarusian opposition members had been able to establish contacts with the Kremlin.

Ukrainian border guards said that Kolesnikova had not entered the country, refuting initial claims that she had crossed the border. "Everything they suggest is a catastrophe for Belarus and the Belarusian people".

Exiled Belarus opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya has called the situation in her country "absolutely unacceptable" and pleaded for global pressure to dislodge embattled President Alexander Lukashenko who she said no longer represents Belarus.

However, an alternative account in Ukrainian media said that Belarus had been trying to deport her - with Kolesnikova thwarting the attempt by tearing up her passport.

Belarus is seeking to end demonstrations against the re-election of Lukashenko in a vote that protesters see as rigged.

As evening fell, police dispersed several hundred demonstrators rallying in Minsk in solidarity with Kolesnikova and detained at least 45 protesters, according to the Viasna human rights centre.

Belarus is not a member of the Council of Europe, but since its guest status was suspended in 1997 the assembly has continued to hold a dialogue with Belarusian authorities and frequently invites Belarusian politicians to attend its committee meetings. "After that, she opened the back door and walked back to the Belarusian border".

Unidentified people were also trying to enter the apartment of writer Svetlana Alexievich, the victor of the 2015 Nobel Prize in literature and now the only member of the council's executive presidium still free in Belarus.

The 66-year-old former state farm director has rejected criticism from the United States and the European Union, which said the August 9 election was neither free nor fair, and shrugged off their demands to engage in a dialogue with the opposition.

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Germany and Britain meanwhile demanded answers on the whereabouts of senior opposition figure Maria Kolesnikova, who allies say was snatched off the streets in central Minsk along with a spokesman and executive secretary of the Coordination Council.

Authorities arrested more than 600 people over the weekend.

On Saturday, Tsikhanouskaya associate Olga Kovalkova also moved to Poland after the authorities threatened to jail her for a long time if she refused to leave the country.

"As soon as she ended up in the vehicle and saw her passport, she immediately took her passport and tore it up into little pieces and crumpled the pieces and threw them out the window at the people standing around the auto", Mr Rodnenkov said. "I've built up Belarus for a quarter of a century, I won't just give it up".

All three are part of a Coordination Council pressing for a transition away from Lukashenka's 26-year rule.

Amid Western criticism, Lukashenko has relied on support from Moscow, his main sponsor and ally.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has already vowed military support for embattled Belarusian leader, although it would not be deployed unless unrest there spun out of control.

Despite growing global condemnation, Lukashenko retains support from neighbor Russian Federation and Serbia.

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