Top Belarus activist says authorities threatened to kill her

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FILE - In this Aug. 30, 2020, file photo, Maria Kolesnikova, one of Belarus' opposition leaders, gestures during a rally in Minsk, Belarus. Kolesnikova, a professional flute player with no political experience, emerged as a key opposition activist in Belarus. She has appeared at protests of authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko after he was kept in power by an Aug. 9 election that his critics say was rigged. (Tut.By via AP, File)

KYIV – A prominent opposition activist who resisted her forcible expulsion from Belarus by ripping up her passport accused Belarusian authorities Thursday of threatening to kill her amid their efforts to end a month of protests against the country's authoritarian president.

Maria Kolesnikova said in a formal complaint released by her lawyer that agents of Belarus' state security committee put a bag on her head and drove her to the border with Ukraine before she fought her removal from Belarus and was jailed.

“They threatened to kill me,” Kolesnikova said. “They stated that if I refuse to leave the territory of Belarus voluntarily, they will get me out of the country anyway - alive or in fragments."

She demanded that the nation's Investigative Committee probe the KGB officers on charges of abduction, illegal detention and threats of killing.

Neither agency commented on Kolesnikova's statement.

Asked about Kolesnikova's statement, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said “We’re frankly very concerned about reports of detentions, reported use of force as well as ... the pressures that have been put on the opposition, on civil society actors. It’s very important that the people of Belarus be able to exercise their political and constitutional rights peacefully, in a democratic environment.”

Opposition activists came under increasing pressure this week as Belarus marked a month since massive demonstrations broke out against President Alexander Lukashenko’s reelection to a sixth term.

The opposition rejects the results of the country's Aug. 9 election, and the protesters demanding Lukashenko's resignation represent an unprecedented challenge to the Belarusian leader’s 26-year rule.