Feminist protesters ‘kidnapped, stripped’ by Belarus KGB
Three Ukrainian feminists who staged a topless protest mocking the Belarussian strongman were “kidnapped” by KGB security agents who forced them to strip naked in a forest and threatened to torch them, the group charged Tuesday.
The three members of the radical Femen group had gone missing after their protest Monday outside the offices of the Belarussian KGB security services to mark President Alexander Lukashenko’s disputed re-election a year ago.
“They were blindfolded and driven around in a bus all night,” Femen said in a statement giving an account of the ordeal by the young women who claimed they were kidnapped by KGB agents and police from a railway station in Minsk.
“They were taken into the woods, had oil poured on them, were forced to take their clothes off, were threatened to be set on fire,” Femen said, adding that the women’s abductors recorded the events on a video camera.
“They threatened them with a knife which they later used to cut off their hair,” it said. “Then they threw them out into the woods naked and without documents.”
The activists, identified as Inna Shevchenko, Oxana Shachko and Alexandra Nemchinova, eventually made it out of the woods and reached the village of Beki in the country’s southeast.
Belarus police on Monday had arrested dozens of regime opponents who tried to stage a banned vigil in Minsk on the anniversary of a brutal crackdown on protests against Lukashenko’s re-election.
An AFP correspondent saw plainclothes security agents grab about 30 men and women holding portraits of political prisoners detained on election night one year ago.
Nearly 50,000 people had staged a mass rally in December last year when Lukashenko was declared winner of a fraud-tainted ballot in which each of his nine rivals was awarded less than three percent of the vote.
The show of fury at his 17-year regime led to more than 700 arrests and the imprisonment of six candidates in a crackdown that shattered all Western efforts to repair relations with the isolated ex-Soviet state.
Lithuania on Tuesday described 2011 as a “lost year” for neighbouring Belarus after the latest crackdown.
The Belarussian authorities had learned nothing from their “brutal crackdown on… civil society that occurred after the non-democratic presidential election on 19 December 2010,” said a statement by the Baltic EU state’s foreign ministry.
“And the systematic use of force against its own citizens is yet more proof that 2011 is a lost year for Belarus,” it added.
During the Femen protest on Monday, one activist impersonated the 57-year-old moustachioed strongman while another brandished a sign in English reading “Freedom to political prisoners.”
The KGB declined to comment on the Femen statement. Its spokesman Alexander Antonovich had earlier described Monday’s stunt as a “provocation”.
Several journalists including an AFP photographer covering the protest were detained.
Femen leader Anna Gutsol told AFP that the three women were also beaten up during their ordeal and that the group would be pushing for the Belarussian ambassador to be deported from Ukraine.
Femen, a small but feisty feminist group based in Ukraine, operates under the slogan “I came, I stripped, I won” and is known for staging eye-catching protests that frequently see members strip to the waist in public places.
“We are calling on everyone who can help take and hide the activists until employees of the Ukrainian embassy in Belarus arrive,” the group said.
The Ukrainian embassy in Belarus said earlier it had looked for the women but had no information about them.
“It’s like we are facing some kind of a wall,” an embassy official said.
Police had earlier also said they had no information about the activists.