The verdict has been reached in one of the most important trials with which the regime of the Belarusian ruler Alexandr Lukashenko intends to intimidate its opponents: Marija Kolesnikova and Maxim Snak, two leading members of the coordination council of the Lukashenko opponents, were sentenced on Monday in the capital Minsk: Kolesnikova was imprisoned in a prison camp for eleven years, and Snak was imprisoned for ten years under aggravated conditions.

Friedrich Schmidt

Political correspondent for Russia and the CIS in Moscow.

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What happened in the process, which began a month ago, is only known approximately.

Besides Kolesnikowa, Maxim Snak was also accused, both of whom were accused of appeals against national security, of an unconstitutional conspiracy to seize power and of founding and running an extremist organization.

But the public was excluded, and all those involved were bound to secrecy: only the pronouncement of the verdict was now public.

The events were made fitting

A lawyer Snaks had said before the verdict was announced that the indictment reminded him of a Hollywood script when it ended up being "based on real events." Because the regime had to twist the events of those summer days of last year properly in order to make them suitable for its trial. 39-year-old Kolesnikova and Snak, who had just turned 40, worked for Viktor Babariko, the presidential candidate prevented by the regime and who would have had the best chance of defeating Lukashenko in real elections.

Babariko, who was arrested in June 2020, was sentenced to 14 years in prison on another matter last July. He and his colleagues are interested in peaceful change, they reject violence; Maria Kolesnikova spoke out against punitive measures against Minsk at the height of the protests following the fraudulent elections. "As someone who calls for compromises and dialogue, I am against sanctions," she told the FAZ at the time

The fact that the trial of Kolesnikova and Snak, who were abducted and then arrested in September 2020, took place in camera, illustrates the danger they pose to the regime: the accused should not have a stage, and their last words in the trial also had to be given fall behind closed doors; It is said that Snak discussed the legal aspects of the process in around three hours, and that Kolesnikova spoke more emotionally about working with Babariko's team.

Lukashenko's regime had to find out what happens when Maria Kolesnikova in particular gets a stage: she excites, inspires, and carries us away.

She is the last of the trio of women around the candidate Svetlana Tichanovskaya, who toured Belarus in the summer of 2020 and pulled tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands who are still in the country - and that's only because, as the regime, she followed over the Ukraine Germany wanted to expedite, tore up her passport at the border.

At the latest with this humiliation of Lukashenko, Kolesnikova became the face of the Belarusian revolution, even an icon: her most powerful portrait, it comes from the Belarusian artist Anna Redko, is based on the agitprop poster "Motherland calls!" German conquerors called to arms.

You can see Kolesnikova in a red robe, with her short hair and red lipstick and, instead of the weapons of the prototype, white roses.

When that was still possible, this image was projected onto house facades in Minsk.

It is remembered like the marches of women.

The regime uses everything it has against these images.

Not just security and justice;

the long-time persecuted human rights activists from Wjasna count, as of Monday morning, 656 politically persecuted.

Regime portrays opponents as "fascists"

The regime portrays its opponents as revenants of the "fascists", the Nazi German conquerors.

As a sidekick of the West who wanted to advance to Russia via Belarus - and that after Lukashenko had denied his meager election campaign with a Russian threat to Belarus and had Babariko portrayed as a Russian agent of influence.

The regime persecutes its opponents so ruthlessly that even lawyers defending these opponents have their license withdrawn.

According to everything that was learned from the secret trial, the defendants were not discouraged by it and, according to the lawyers, remained lively, confident and happy.

At the beginning of the trial a month ago, in a single brief moment before the public had to leave the room, Kolesnikova was dancing in the defendant's cage in a black dress.

It was not until the end of August that her father, Alexandr Kolesnikow, was able to see his daughter after almost a year, as he had an appearance at the trial. He was not allowed to reveal what it was about when threatened with punishment, for reasons of secrecy, but said that he had seen his daughter's smile, that she had remained radiant and good-natured.

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