On Monday, September 27, the Council of Europe awarded its 2021 Vaclav-Havel Human Rights Prize to Belarusian opponent Maria Kolesnikova, a figure in the protest movement that had formed against the regime of Alexander Lukashenko in the summer 2020.
The 39-year-old former flautist and professional conductor, who made an impression by resisting an attempted deportation from his own country in September 2020, has been sentenced, following a trial at huis closed, to eleven years in prison. She was convicted on September 6 of “Plot to seize power”, of“Calls for actions undermining national security” and of “Creation of an extremist formation”.
“This award is a sign of the solidarity of the entire democratic world with the Belarusian people. (…) It is also a clear signal to the Belarusian authorities that the world will never tolerate human rights abuses and will not accept what is happening in Belarus ”said M’s sisterme Kolesnikova, by receiving this award in the Council of Europe hemicycle in Strasbourg. “If you don’t want Belarus to turn into a gulag, we must support the Belarusian people”she added, holding a photo of her sister in her hand and listing the names of other jailed opponents of the Alexander Lukashenko regime.
A trio of opponents
She is “One of the three female symbols of the Belarusian opposition”, recalled the Council of Europe, with Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, presidential candidate in place of her imprisoned husband, and Veronika Tsepkalo, who fled the country under pressure from the authorities.
The protest movement, which gathered tens of thousands of demonstrators in the summer of 2020, has been gradually put down, with thousands of arrests, forced exiles and the imprisonments of opponents, media officials and NGOs. . The Belarusian regime is also accused of having intercepted a commercial flight in May on the pretext of a bomb threat in order to arrest dissident journalist Roman Protassevich who was on board.
The West has adopted several sets of sanctions against Minsk, which however enjoys the unwavering support of Moscow.