Jailed Belarus protest leader in intensive care after operation, says opposition

Maria Kolesnikova was one of the leaders of mass street protests against Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko in 2020 PHOTO: AFP

KYIV - Jailed Belarusian protest leader Maria Kolesnikova was in a stable but difficult condition in the intensive care ward of a hospital on Tuesday after undergoing surgery, jailed opposition politician Viktor Babariko’s Telegram account said.

Reuters was unable to verify her whereabouts or condition. The Telegram channel said Ms Kolesnikova, an outspoken critic of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, had been taken to a hospital in the southeastern city of Gomel on Monday.

The channel initially said it had little information, but later described Ms Kolesnikova, 40, as having a “surgical pathology” and of being operated on, without elaborating.

She was in a “stable, difficult condition” but showing some improvement and was set to be moved out of the intensive care unit to a surgery ward on Wednesday, it said.

“Our dear Masha (Maria), we all hope that you are going to be okay!” exiled opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya wrote on Telegram, describing the initial report of her hospitalisation as “awful news”.

Ms Kolesnikova, one of the leaders of mass street protests against Lukashenko in 2020, is serving an 11-year sentence for what she said were trumped allegations of involvement in mass unrest.

Ms Kolesnikova had recently been held in a punishment cell in her prison, although it was not clear how long for and from what date, Babariko’s Telegram account said.

Ms Kolesnikova ran Mr Babariko’s presidential campaign when he sought to stand against Mr Lukashenko in the 2020 presidential election that sparked mass protests that were crushed by a violent crackdown.

After Mr Babariko was arrested in the run-up to the election - which Mr Lukashenko duly claimed to have won by a landslide - Ms Kolesnikova came out in support of Tsikhanouskaya. REUTERS

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