Maria Kolesnikova, the Belarusian opposition politician who ripped up her passport to avoid forcible deportation this week, has said security officers put a bag over her head and threatened to kill her in response.
Kolesnikova, a trained flautist and music teacher who has emerged as one of the figureheads of protests against the authoritarian leader, Alexander Lukashenko, said she was told by security officers that she would be removed from Belarus “alive or in bits” after she thwarted their plan to dump her in Ukraine by tearing up her passport at the border.
“There were also threats to imprison me for up to 25 years,” Kolesnikova said, according to a complaint filed by her lawyer.
Kolesnikova’s lawyer, Lyudmila Kazak, filed a criminal complaint against Belarusian authorities including the KGB security police for kidnap, illegal detention and threats to kill, the news site Tut.By said.
The complaint was submitted to the state investigative committee. Asked for comment, a representative of the committee, Sergei Kabakovich, said: “At the present moment I have no information about this.”
Kolesnikova’s complaint included the names and ranks of individual officers of the KGB and the organised crime agency whom she accuses of threatening her, and said she would be able to identify them.
She is now being held in the capital, Minsk, where Kazak said she was being questioned on Thursday. Kazak saw her client at a pre-trial detention centre on Wednesday and said she had bruises on her body.
Lukashenko denies rigging the 9 August election, which official results said he won by a landslide, and has cracked down on protesters demanding his resignation. He has refused to talk to the opposition, saying it is bent on wrecking the country.
Despite a month of protests over the election results and subsequent police violence, Lukashenko has made it clear he will not step down, on occasion saying he would rather die than give up power. Inaugurating a new chief prosecutor on Thursday, Lukashenko reiterated his uncompromising line.
“I want to tell you like a man … people often reproach me: ‘He won’t give up power.’ They’re right to reproach me. The people didn’t elect me for this,” he said.
“Power is not given to be taken, thrown and given away,” he added, saying the country must not return to the chaos of the 1990s following the breakup of the Soviet Union.
In the month since the disputed election, nearly all the opposition’s key leaders have been arrested, fled or been forced to leave the country.
The only member of the seven-person presidium of the opposition’s coordination council to remain inside Belarus and at liberty is the writer Svetlana Alexievich, who won the 2015 Nobel prize for literature. On Wednesday she accused the authorities of terrorising their own people and said there had been unidentified men knocking at the door of her apartment. Diplomats from seven European countries came to her flat, in part to help protect her.
Lukashenko, who has been in power since 1994, retains the support of his key ally, Vladimir Putin. The pair are due to meet in Moscow next week for talks that are likely to prove crucial. The west has so far been cautious about taking firm action that might provoke a Russian intervention, although the EU is drawing up a list of Belarusian officials to target with sanctions.