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Article September 15, 2020

Belarus state media botch reporting on a botched abduction

By Nika Aleksejeva

After a foiled abduction of three Belarusian opposition members, Belarus state-owned media outlets stuck to the official version of events, despite mounting evidence of inconsistencies in the story.

The official version of events from Belarusian authorities claimed that three members of the Belarus Coordination Council for peaceful power transfer, Anton Rodnenkov, Ivan Kravtsov, and Maria Kolesnikova, had attempted to illegally flee Belarus for Ukraine but were stopped at the border and arrested. Eyewitness reports and accounts from the opposition activists, however, suggests that the three were abducted by masked security agents and forced to participate in a staged escape attempt — which was foiled when Kolesnikova destroyed her passport, which she needed to enter Ukraine.

The state-owned media’s failure to adjust their reporting after Rodnenkov and Kravtsov unexpectedly went live with a press conference about their kidnapping demonstrated that the official account of the operation was likely planned ahead of time, with little room for error or adjustment if the abduction did not turn out exactly as planned.

The Coordination Council for lawful power transfer in Belarus was established on August 18, on the initiative of Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the opposition presidential candidate. Following the elections, allegations of electoral fraud have led to ongoing protests in the country. The Coordination Council is considered to be the institution that represents the will of those opposing election results and President Alyaksandr Lukashenka himself. On August 20, the Belarus chief prosecutor launched a criminal case against the Coordination Council.

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