Belarus protest leader Maria Kolesnikova charged with incitement to undermine national security

Belarus investigators have officially charged Maria Kolesnikova, a protest leader, with incitement to undermine national security, the Investigative Committee said in a statement on Wednesday. Kolesnikova was charged with calling for "actions aimed at undermining Belarusian national security" using the media and the Internet, the committee said. Kolesnikova, 38, is currently in jail in Minsk after ripping up her own passport last week to avoid the forcible expulsion to Ukraine. She could face up to five years in prison if convicted. Kolesnikova was suffering from allergy in prison but remains in good spirits, said her lawyer Lyudmila Kazak. "She wants to tell people that never regretted acting as she did even for a second," the lawyer said. It comes as Belarus' authoritarian leader sought to disparage protesters demanding his resignation for a sixth straight week following a disputed election by accusing the United States of fomenting the unrest. In a long speech to top officials, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko ranted against the alleged US-led plan to destabilise the country and claimed that American allies in Europe have participated in the effort that took years to prepare, part of his attempts to cast the opposition as Western stooges. Lukashenko did not provide evidence to back his claim that the US had any involvement in the demonstrations. His main challenger in the election, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, dismissed his comments as an attempt to divert public attention from rigging the vote and the violent crackdown on protests. "There is just one reason behind the protests in Belarus and it's known to everyone: Lukashenko has lost the vote, but he doesn't want to step down," Tsikhanouskaya told The Associated Press in a written comment. "People have denied Lukashenko their trust and support and demand that he leave." Protesters in Belarus have flooded the streets of the Belarusian capital and other cities, denouncing Lukashenko's landslide reelection in the August 9 vote as rigged. The massive demonstrations were driven by frustration with the Belarusian strongman's 26-year iron-fist rule, his cavalier response to the coronavirus and the worsening economy. The US and the European Union have criticized the election as neither free nor fair, and urged Lukashenko to start talks with the opposition - a call he has rejected.

Belarus protest leader Maria Kolesnikova charged with incitement to undermine national security

Belarus investigators have officially charged Maria Kolesnikova, a protest leader, with incitement to undermine national security, the Investigative Committee said in a statement on Wednesday.

Kolesnikova was charged with calling for "actions aimed at undermining Belarusian national security" using the media and the Internet, the committee said.

Kolesnikova, 38, is currently in jail in Minsk after ripping up her own passport last week to avoid the forcible expulsion to Ukraine.

She could face up to five years in prison if convicted.

Kolesnikova was suffering from allergy in prison but remains in good spirits, said her lawyer Lyudmila Kazak.

"She wants to tell people that never regretted acting as she did even for a second," the lawyer said.

It comes as Belarus' authoritarian leader sought to disparage protesters demanding his resignation for a sixth straight week following a disputed election by accusing the United States of fomenting the unrest.

In a long speech to top officials, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko ranted against the alleged US-led plan to destabilise the country and claimed that American allies in Europe have participated in the effort that took years to prepare, part of his attempts to cast the opposition as Western stooges.

Lukashenko did not provide evidence to back his claim that the US had any involvement in the demonstrations.

His main challenger in the election, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, dismissed his comments as an attempt to divert public attention from rigging the vote and the violent crackdown on protests.

"There is just one reason behind the protests in Belarus and it's known to everyone: Lukashenko has lost the vote, but he doesn't want to step down," Tsikhanouskaya told The Associated Press in a written comment. "People have denied Lukashenko their trust and support and demand that he leave."

Protesters in Belarus have flooded the streets of the Belarusian capital and other cities, denouncing Lukashenko's landslide reelection in the August 9 vote as rigged. The massive demonstrations were driven by frustration with the Belarusian strongman's 26-year iron-fist rule, his cavalier response to the coronavirus and the worsening economy.

The US and the European Union have criticized the election as neither free nor fair, and urged Lukashenko to start talks with the opposition - a call he has rejected.