Belarus charges protest leader with undermining national security

Belarusian investigators have formally charged a leader of the protest with incitement to endanger national security, the commission of inquiry said in a statement on Wednesday.

Kolesnikova was accused of calling for “actions aimed at undermining Belarusian national security” using the media and the Internet, the committee said.

Kolesnikova, 38, is currently in prison in Minsk after tearing up her own passport last week to thwart a deportation attempt to Ukraine.

A member of an opposition coordinating council, she was the last of three women politicians in Belarus to join forces before the August 9 presidential election in an attempt to challenge President Alexander Lukashenko.

A vocal critic of Lukashenko, she played an important role in weeks of mass protests and strikes by demonstrators who accuse Lukashenko of rigging his re-election.

Lukashenko, who has been in power for 26 years, denies this claim and has accused foreign powers of trying to overthrow him in a revolution. He responded with a crackdown which some of the detainees say includes torture and beatings.

While Europe has declared that it does not recognize Lukashenko as the legitimate leader of Belarus, Russia has supported its ally.

On Monday, Russia agreed to a $ 1.5 billion loan with Minsk, President Vladimir Putin said, adding that the Belarusian people should resolve the crisis without foreign interference.

Putin, in comments broadcast on television from talks alongside Lukashenko in Sochi, Russia, said he believed that a proposal from the Belarusian strongman to carry out constitutional reform was logical and timely.

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