Belarus: what the trial against Kolesnikova shows

The trial of Maria Kolesnikova - one of the three leading Belarusian opposition politicians - began behind closed doors in Minsk on Wednesday. Kolesnikova was arrested when she resisted deportation to Ukraine last autumn by tearing up her passport. Now she and her lawyer Maksim Znak face up to twelve years in prison.

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La Stampa (IT) /

Will Lukashenka fall out of favour with the Kremlin?

Despite the trial being closed to the public there is a video showing Maria Kolesnikova dancing with her hands formed into a heart in the courtroom. La Stampa comments:

“Kolesnikova and her co-defendant Maksim Znak - her lawyer who became a defendant in the course of the trial - are the only members of the opposition's coordinating council who remain in their home country. They face up to twelve years in prison in a surreal trial in which the 'charges' and 'evidence' are unknown. The lawyers are sworn to secrecy and journalists are not allowed to enter the courtroom. Maria's dance, a symbolic gesture of defiance and contempt towards the regime, was filmed and broadcast by the Russian propaganda agency Sputnik - fuelling suspicions that someone in the Kremlin is working against Lukashenka.”

Deutschlandfunk (DE) /

The desire for freedom will prevail

For Deutschlandfunk the trial shows that Lukashenka is the one who is really under pressure:

“The ruler is lashing out frantically. He seems to understand that if he loosens the thumbscrews even a little, he'll lose control of the country and the nation, which has long since turned its back on him. ... As sad as these days are for Belarus, as devastating as the verdict against Maria Kolesnikova may be, she will certainly not have to serve her full sentence. Her desire for freedom, shared by many people in Belarus, will ultimately bring Lukashenko to his knees.”

Observador (PT) /

EU has repeatedly underestimated the dictator

Time and again the EU has behaved with astonishing naivety towards Lukashenka's policies, Observador observes:

“This time he has responded to the sanctions by turning his country into a corridor to Lithuania for illegal refugees from Afghanistan, Iraq, etc., provoking a crisis in the Baltic state. The Lithuanian government trusted the Belarusian officials' assurances that they would not tolerate the passage of illegal migrants through their territory and didn't take measures to protect the borders. Now it's erecting barbed wire fences in a rush. This is another serious mistake in the foreign policy of the EU, which thought it could win over dictator Lukashenka in the conflict with Russia.”