Belarus opposition leader Maria Kolesnikova mysteriously vanishes after being seen ‘bundled into van by masked men’

THE leader of Belarus' opposition has disappeared claims her campaign team.

Witnesses say Maria Kolesnikova, 38, was bundled into a van marked "communications" by masked men this morning in Minsk.



Kolesnikova is taking on current President Alexander Lukashenko in the wake of Belarus' August 9 election, which he is accused of rigging.

She was previously part of a three-woman strong team facing off against the reigime and was the only one to remain in the country after Olga Kovalova was driven to Poland by police over the weekend and Sviatlana Tikhanovskaya fled to neighbouring Lithuania.

Her campaign team said her phone has been switched off, and MailOnline reports there is no comment from Minsk police.

It came just hours after she vowed to never "get tired" of demanding a "change of power".

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius said the disappearance was akin to Stalin-era crackpot dictatorship methods.

'RELEASE HER'

He wrote on Twitter: "Instead of talking to the people of Belarus, the outgoing leadership is trying cynically (to) eliminate (them) one by one.

"The kidnapping…is a disgrace. Stalinist NKVD methods are being applied in 21st century Europe. She must be released immediately."

Lukashenko, "Europe's last dictator," is accused of rigging an election two months ago – with mass calls for him to step down.

Ms Kolesnikova's disappearance comes as Lukashenko prepared to fly to Moscow for "talks" with the Kremlin, who have first-hand experience of stamping out dissent as they stand accused of poisoning Putin foe Alexei Navalny.

The Belarusian regime has since been brutally silencing critics with heavy handed police tactics on the streets and reports of hideous torture in detention centres.

WON'T BACK DOWN

The campaign today cracked down on 100,000 protesters who gathered in the capital, bundling activists into vans and beating them with batons.

The ex-Soviet strongman leader has repeatedly refused to bow to widespread protests and said there will be no new elections following the disputed vote on August 9.

"We held elections already. Until you kill me, there will be no other elections," he said.

But activisits today defied him once more as cops blocked off the city centre, marching instead to the Palace of Independence, the president's working residence.

They were met with riot police armed with water cannons.

This morning, Kolesnikova said: "This sea of people cannot be stopped by military equipment, water cannons, propaganda and arrests.

"Most Belarusians want a peaceful change of power and we will not get tired of demanding this."

Kolesnikova – part of the Coordination Council who are calling for a a peaceful change of power – was previously questioned over an alleged attempted power grab.

Several members of the Council were jailed.





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