One night final week, a stylised picture of the Belarusian opposition chief, Maria Kolesnikova, was projected on to the wall of a Minsk condominium block.

Mocked as much as appear to be the well-known Soviet struggle poster The Motherland Calls, the picture created by Anna Redko exhibits Kolesnikova heroically holding out a torn passport – a reference to her actions on the border with Ukraine on Tuesday when Alexander Lukashenko’s safety providers tried to deport her.

“She selected a robust gesture. That’s why she is without doubt one of the opposition’s leaders and I’m the press secretary,” Ivan Kravtsov, one in all two others with Kolesnikova who did get deported, informed journalists in Kyiv the subsequent day.

Maria Kolesnikova with her torn-up passport created by illustrator Anna Redko after the Soviet poster The Motherland Calls.
A poster of Maria Kolesnikova together with her torn-up passport created by the illustrator Anna Redko. {Photograph}: Anna Redko

Kolesnikova is now in a KGB jail in Minsk, and her willpower to not be compelled into exile was the most recent spectacular act of defiance in a revolutionary second that has, from the start, been led and outlined by ladies. On Saturday afternoon, ladies holding flowers and posters gathered in Minsk to protest – some had been detained by masked males in inexperienced uniforms. The Saturday demonstrations have change into an everyday prevalence earlier than the primary Sunday protest within the metropolis centre, , the place for the previous 4 weekends, greater than 100,000 folks have assembled.

Fast Information

The place are they now? The Belarusian ladies who opposed Lukashenko


Svetlana Tikhanovskaya

Initially a stand-in for her husband, a preferred blogger barred from operating and jailed by the authorities, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya turned the primary opposition candidate to the Belarusian chief, Alexander Lukashenko, as a part of an all-female opposition marketing campaign spearheaded by herself, Maria Kolesnikova and Veronika Tsepkalo.

She fled to neighbouring Lithuania in early August, from the place she posted a video indicating she had confronted an ultimatum involving her household. 

In September, in a video look earlier than the European parliament’s international affairs committee, she vowed that the nation’s motion for democratic change wouldn’t hand over, even within the face of continued intimidation and violence from Lukashenko’s regime.

Veronika Tsepkalo

A former Microsoft worker, she was the marketing campaign head for her husband Valery Tsepkalo earlier than he was compelled to flee with the couple’s youngsters to Moscow earlier than the election. Having campaigned alongside Tikhanovskaya and Kolesnikova, she joined him there on the day of the election.

Aside from a one-day stopover in Belarus, when she says she was threatened with jail, she has remained in exile in Moscow. She informed a radio interviewer in early August “I feel I can do extra being in Moscow, being free, and having the ability to converse up for Belarus’ folks to the worldwide neighborhood.”

Maria Kolesnikova

Kolesnikova had been head of the presidential marketing campaign for an additional opposition politician, Viktor Babariko, additionally barred from the elections and jailed by the federal government. She was the one one of many three ladies to stay in Belarus within the aftermath of the disputed August election. 

On 7 September, it was reported she was kidnapped by unidentified masked males from the road within the capital, Minsk. Kolesnikova’s press aide, Anton Rodnenkov, confirmed her abduction to the media, then reportedly vanished himself about 40 minutes later. In response to a Ukrainian minister, Kolesnikova then ripped up her passport on the Belarus-Ukraine border with the intention to frustrate makes an attempt to deport her. She is at the moment being held in Minsk.

She had introduced on 31 August she was forming a brand new political occasion, Collectively.

{Photograph}: Tatyana Zenkovich/EPA

It was a feminine candidate who rallied help towards Lukashenko earlier than final month’s elections. The autocratic chief had jailed or exiled the lads who needed to face towards him, however considering a girl couldn’t pose an actual problem, he allowed the spouse of one in all his opponents, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, on to the poll. Together with Kolesnikova and Veronika Tsepkalo, the spouse of one other candidate who fled Belarus after receiving threats, the three ladies travelled the nation and gained help for his or her easy message of facilitating political change.

Lukashenko’s misogynist rhetoric additionally served as a mobilising drive. “The cynicism with which the present president expressed himself about them and their function, it insulted a whole lot of ladies,” stated Kolesnikova in an interview at her marketing campaign headquarters in central Minsk final month.

It was additionally ladies who offered the momentum for the protest motion’s rejuvenation after the horrific violence inflicted on demonstrators within the aftermath of Lukashenko declaring an implausible victory.

Police in Minsk seize supporters of Maria Kolesnikova.
Police in Minsk seize supporters of Maria Kolesnikova. {Photograph}: Valery Sharifulin/Tass

After three evenings of brutality from riot police, 250 ladies, wearing white and holding flowers, stood defiantly on a roadside in central Minsk. Police left them untouched and the subsequent day there have been a number of rows of flower-waving ladies all through town.

In latest weeks, as most of its leaders have been compelled out of Belarus, Kolesnikova has change into the seen face of the motion, showing fearless and cheerful regardless of the chances stacked towards the protesters, often showing at rallies till her kidnap-style arrest earlier this week.

Final month she stated her function had been merely to point out people who it was doable to demand political change. She stated: “The west, Russia gained’t assist – we will solely assist ourselves. On this approach it turned out that feminine faces turned a sign for ladies, and males too, that each particular person ought to take accountability.”