09/08/2020, 09.59
BELARUS - RUSSIA
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Minsk:Maria Kolesnikova, member of opposition council kidnapped

by Vladimir Rozanskij

Plainclothes police men with masks picked her up yesterday morning, put her on a minibus and nothing more is known about her. The opposition Council spokesman and the secretary, Anton Rodnenkov and Ivan Kravtsov have also disappeared. Bishop Kosobutskij: We have changed, and there is no return, but there is a great good that awaits us, it is our solidarity. Arrests and beatings at the "March of Unity". In Khabarovsk (Russia), on the 58th day of demonstrations, people shout: "Putin resign!" and "Freedom from east to west!".

Moscow (AsiaNews) - At around 10am yesterday, Maria Kolesnikova, a member of the Coordination Council of the opposition to President Lukashenko was picked up by unknown men masked and it is not known where they took her.

From the outset, Maria Kolesnikova (photo 2) has been alongside candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaja, who is currently in exile in Lithuania. Eyewitnesses say the men who took Kolesnikova, in plain clothes and wearing masks, forced her to board a van with the abbreviation Svjaz, "Communications", to an unknown destination.

Council spokesman Anton Rodnenkov, after trying to contact Kolesnikova, went missing, along with another Council member, Secretary Ivan Kravtsov, according to one of their collaborators, Maksim Znak. The Belarusian Interior Ministry said it had no information on the missing persons. On 6 September another opponent, the political scientist Andrei Egorov, was arrested.

Meanwhile, in the absence of Metropolitan Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, exiled in Poland, the Catholic bishop Jurij Kosobutsky (photo 3), vicar general and regent of the archdiocese of Minsk, spoke in the red church of Saints Simon and Helen before a thousand people gathered for prayer for all those suffering. Many remained outside the church, and listened to the bishop from Independence Square, where over 100,000 people had gathered the previous day for the "March of Unity" (photo 1). The bishop invited everyone to pray “for people who want happiness for our homeland, for all people who want to live in a free country, who don't want us to be blackmailed, repressed, oppressed and afraid. We want to be free and peaceful, we want to be Belarusians who build their future of peace”.

The bishop recalled that "many have taken to the streets, but many have not returned home, and will never return ... there are those who have given their lives, and this is a tragedy for the entire people".

According to Msgr. Kosobutsky, even though these people were far from God, "He welcomed them into His heart", remembering all those who peacefully expressed their protest "and then they were beaten, maimed and taken to the prisons of Okrestina and Zhodino, where they were mocked and tortured ".

Yet the bishop invited forgiveness, emphasizing that it is not a question of weakness: "Only the strong know how to forgive, and by forgiving they draw close to God". The current tragedy of the Belarusian people, concluded the prelate, "has shown us who we really are, but it has also united us: we have changed, and there is no return, but there is a great good that awaits us, it is our solidarity". The faithful accompanied the bishop's words with a standing ovation, despite the warnings of the police, who from the loudspeakers ordered them to leave the church.

Meanwhile, among the members of the Opposition Coordination Council the idea is spreading to demand the autocephaly of the Orthodox Church in Belarus, cutting ties with the patriarchate of Moscow, even if the official program of the opposition does not provide for interventions in the religious field, being focused on calling for new elections.

On 6 September, the Patriarch of Moscow Kirill (Gundjaev) met the Orthodox bishops of Belarus in Moscow, during the ceremony for the elevation of the new bishop of Minsk Venjamin (Tupeko) as metropolitan.

Protests also continue in Russia: in many cities there are demonstrations in favour of Belarusians, and in Khabarovsk the marches in defence of the deposed governor Sergej Furgal have reached the 58th day, amid the shouts "Putin resign!" and "Freedom from east to west!" (photo 4).

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