“I turned round and saw people in civilian clothes and masks dragging Maria into the van,” a woman known only as Anastasia explains to Belarusian news site Tut.by. “The phone flew out of her hand. One of them picked it up, jumped into the van and they drove off.”


The Maria she’s referring to, Maria Kolesnikova, needs no surname in today’s Belarus. The immediately recognisable, blonde-cropped figurehead of an opposition movement intent on toppling the country’s reigning autocrat, Alexander Lukashenko, Kolesnikova was indeed arrested, bundled into an unmarked van by security forces.


Reports suggest she was driven to the Ukranian border, where the intent was to exile her by force. Instead, she ripped up her passport, disabling her captors’ ability to eject her from their territory. She is now believed to be imprisoned in the country’s capital, Minsk, where tens of thousands of protesters, primarily female, continue to march daily against the result of a rigged election that saw Lukashenko returned to power with a self-declared 80 per cent of the vote.


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