Belarus election: opposition campaign leader arrested

EThe day before the presidential election in Belarus, the campaign manager of the opposition candidate Svetlana Tichanovskaya was arrested – for the second time. Maria Moros is expected to be held until Monday, a spokeswoman for Tichanowskajas told the AFP news agency on Saturday. The reason for the arrest is unclear. Moros was arrested earlier this week after visiting the Lithuanian embassy in Minsk. She was released a little later.

In the evening, the news agencies Reuters and Interfax reported that Tichanovskaya herself had gone into hiding and that one of her fellow campaigners – the leading opposition representative Maria Kolesnikova – had been temporarily arrested, according to her election campaign team. The police spoke of a mix-up during the short-term arrest, it said in a statement published during the night.

According to human rights groups, more than 1,300 people were detained prior to the vote. The opposition candidate will continue to be in Minsk, but in an unknown location and surrounded by staff and journalists, according to Interfax.

Tichanovskaya is the most important rival of President Alexander Lukashenko, who has been ruling authoritarian for 26 years and is running for a sixth term in Sunday’s election. The 37-year-old competed after her husband, well-known blogger Sergej Tichanowski, was excluded from the election and imprisoned.

Early voting began on Tuesday, the actual election day is Sunday. The authorities took massive action against the opposition before the presidential election.

Further arrests related to opposition

Political advisor Vitaly Schkliarow was arrested at the end of July while visiting his parents in Belarus. Schkliarow was born in Belarus, but lives in Washington. On Saturday he was now accused of having helped organize mass unrest prior to the election. Schkliarow could face up to three years in prison, said his lawyer. The political advisor denies the allegations. Rather, the reason for his arrest are his comments on Belarusian politics.

State television, citing the Belarusian security service, reported that Schkliarov had advised the detained Tichanovsky. The political expert denies any cooperation. In the past, Schkliarov had advised presidential candidates in America, Russia and Ukraine.

On Saturday three activists of the Russian opposition were arrested in Russia who wanted to travel to Belarus as election observers. The director of the Open Russia movement, Andrei Piwowarow, and two other members were taken from a bus and arrested “without any explanation,” the group said. Piwowarov faced up to 15 days’ imprisonment for resisting border officials.

Lukashenko had accused Russia of attempting to interfere in the election in Belarus. However, Kremlin critics assume that the Kremlin supports Lukashenko. “A dictator will always support a dictator,” said opposition politician Dmitri Gudkov on Facebook.

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