Verdict awaited in Belarus: “Maria, you are a heroine”

Status: 06.09.2021 07:14 a.m.

The Belarusian opposition politician Kolesnikowa is one of the most influential faces of the protests against the ruler Lukashenko. Today you face a long prison sentence. However, she has not lost her will to fight.

By Stephan Laack, ARD Studio Moscow, currently Cologne

Maria Kolesnikova, the woman with raspy-short, blond hair and bright red lipstick, her hands shaped into a heart: She is one of the most striking faces of the mass protests against the Belarusian ruler Lukashenko. Abducted by masked men and shipped to the Ukrainian border if she were forced to leave her home country last year. But Maria Kolesnikova resisted, demonstratively tore her passport to shreds and thus finally became a heroine of the Belarusian democracy movement.

“Maria charged me with her energy”

“Maria, you are a heroine,” chanted the demonstrators in Minsk after Kolesnikova’s arrest. The protests against Lukashenko lasted a few months, but died down towards the end of the year after all the leaders of the democracy movement either fled abroad or were in custody.

For Lukashenko’s opponent Svetlana Tichanovskaya, who sees herself as the actual winner of the presidential election in Belarus, Kolesnikova was a very decisive figure in the fight for a democratic Belarus. From exile, she paid tribute to her fellow campaigner. “I was too undecided at the time, too insecure. But Maria charged me with her energy and her faith,” said Tichanovskaya. “She always reassured us: ‘Everything will be fine! We must not be afraid! We will win!'”

There is a threat of twelve years imprisonment

Maria Kolesnikova is now sitting in the dock with lawyer Maxim Snak. Snak was a member of the board of the coordination council of the democracy movement. Both are accused of endangering national security, a plot to unconstitutional seizure of power and the formation of an extremist organization. They face up to twelve years in prison. From prison, Kolesnikova kept in constant contact with her father, wrote him regular letters and showed no trace of pessimism – but demonstrated a willingness to fight.

Like co-defendant Maxim Snak, she did not back down in court, says her lawyer Nadezhda Snak. “We experienced this sincerity, honesty, openness that Maria and Maxim demonstrated. Their civic attitude, their highly moral qualities, their love for the motherland, their respect for the law,” she says. “In this case, I really want justice and the law to prevail so that they can be acquitted.”

Nobody believes in an acquittal

An acquittal would be a sensation that no one likes to believe in. Observers such as the Belarusian political scientist Valerij Karbalewitsch, who also fled abroad himself, assume a prison sentence of several years. “Well, they’re going to be found guilty, they’re going to get a really long sentence,” he says. One only has to look at the paragraphs for which they have to answer. “They are really tough, they face twelve years. I cannot predict how many years they will actually get, but there is no doubt that they will be found guilty.”

Kolesnikova’s and Snak’s lawyers would appeal in such a case, even if the prospect of success is extremely slim. Karbalevich believes that a resurgence of the protests is out of the question. “I believe that protest is not on the agenda in the near future. For many reasons: because of psychological resignation, because of massive repression. Anyone who takes to the streets now has to expect severe consequences such as prosecution, which did not happen last year “, he says.

Finally, around 200,000 Belarusians have left the country since last year. They were part of the foundation of the protests.

Long term imprisonment expected against opposition Kolesnikova in Belarus

Stephan Laack, WDR, September 6th, 2021 6:42 am


September 6th, 2021 • 8:57 am

Anyone who has courage and encourages others is actually a hero

“But Maria charged me with her energy and her faith,” said Tichanovskaya. “She always reassured us: ‘Everything will be fine! We mustn’t be afraid! We will win! ‘”And if enough people come together to support each other, their number will at some point be so large that they will (win) it too. And that for the whole of society at the same time.

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