Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo stated on Tuesday that the United States is deeply concerned by the reported abduction of Belarusian Coordination Council member Marya Kalesnikava, Spokesman Anton Rodnenkou, and Executive Secretary Ivan Krautsou. The three were reportedly abducted on September 7. The next day there was an attempt to forcefully exile them to Ukraine.

Michael Pompeo commended the courage of Ms. Kalesnikava and the Belarusian people in peacefully asserting their right to pick their leaders in free and fair elections in the face of unjustified violence and repression by the Belarusian authorities.

The Belarusian authorities have brazenly beat peaceful marchers in broad daylight and have detained hundreds. There are also reports of more frequent abductions.

Mike Pompeo warned on Tuesday that the U.S. is considering “additional targeted sanctions” against the regime of strongman President Alexandr Lukashenko.

“The United States is deeply concerned by the reported abduction September 7th in Belarus of Coordination Council member Marya Kalesnikava, Spokesman Anton Rodnenkou, and Executive Secretary Ivan Krautsou,” Pompeo told reporters, in the first official U.S. statement about the kidnappings.

Kalesnikava has become one of the primary figures against Lukashenko. According to several eyewitness accounts, Kalesnikava, 38, was forcibly seized by the OMON (Lukenshenko’s security police) on September 7th and placed in a van. A day later, sources said, there was an attempt to force her, Rodnenkou, and Krautsou to cross the border into Ukraine. The attempt was halted when Lukenshenko tore up her passport.

In response, Pompeo said that “in coordination with our partners and allies, [the U.S.] is considering additional targeted sanctions to promote accountability for those involved in human rights abuses and repression in Belarus.”

He also made it clear that the Belarusian authorities are responsible for ensuring “the safety of Kalesnikava and all those unjustly detained.”

“We call on the Belarusian authorities to end the violence against their people and release all those who have been unjustly detained, including U.S. citizen Vitali Shkliarov, and engage in meaningful dialogue with genuine representatives of Belarusian society,” Pompeo added.

According to her spokesperson, Kolesnikova is currently being held in a prison in central Minsk. Her father received a phone call from a representative of the Investigation Committee of Belarus, informing him that his daughter was being held at an Interior Ministry detention center in the capital, Kolesnikova’s spokesperson said.

A month after a hotly disputed election, Belarus’s longtime leader, President Alexander Lukashenko, is trying to “disrupt the opposition’s ability to sustain large-scale protests by arresting or expelling all organizers,” according to the Institute for the Study of War in Washington, D.C.

After the vote in August, election officials declared a landslide victory for Lukashenko, announcing his sixth consecutive term. But opposition activists had documented widespread irregularities, and street protests erupted. The protests have been continuing ever since, especially at weekends, despite heavy-handed actions by police.
The international community looks on in anger but can do very little to influence any actions.

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