Belarus protests: Maria Kolesnikova ‘detained by masked men’
Unidentified masked men have detained a leading opposition figure in Belarus,..
Unidentified masked men have detained a leading opposition figure in Belarus, according to local media.
Witnesses reportedly saw Maria Kolesnikova being bundled into a minibus in Minsk and driven away.
She was one of three women who joined forces ahead of August's presidential election to challenge incumbent Alexander Lukashenko.
Mass unrest has followed his re-election amid allegations of vote-rigging.
The interior ministry said it detained 633 people on Sunday after a fourth consecutive weekend of protests. At least four people have died and hundreds have been injured as authorities have tried to crush dissent in the country.EU leaders do not recognise the results of the election and have agreed to impose sanctions on Belarus.
But Mr Lukashenko – who has been in power since 1994 – has blamed Western nations for interfering in his country. On Monday, the Kremlin announced he would visit Moscow for talks "in the coming days".
Russia is a close ally of Mr Lukashenko's.
What happened to Maria Kolesnikova?
An eyewitness told Belarus news outlet Tut.by that she saw masked men take Ms Kolesnikova's mobile phone and push her into a minibus on Monday morning.
Police in the capital, Minsk, have not yet commented on the reports.
Ms Kolesnikova was a member of the Co-ordination Council set up by the opposition to ensure a transfer of power. Government authorities have launched a criminal case against opposition leaders, saying the "creation and activity of the Co-ordination Council are aimed at the seizure of state power, and at harming national security".
She is the last of the three women who joined forces against Mr Lukashenko to remain inside Belarus. Veronika Tsepkalo and presidential candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya left the country soon after the vote.
"I'm the only one of the three of us who is still here," Ms Kolesnikova told BBC Russian in an interview last month. "To understand exactly what's going on, you really have to be here."
Describing the demonstrations as "not a struggle for power", but "a struggle for human dignity and self-respect", she said she was not afraid for herself, but worried about further violence. She also said she and her team had decided against using bodyguards because there would be "no point".
"I am aware that no number of guards would be of any use if a bus full of riot police stopped us," she said. "We all know what a police state is capable of."
Another female activist, Olga Kovalkova, announced on Saturday she had fled to Poland amid threats of imprisonment.
What happened on Sunday?
Her arrest follows further demonstrations on Sunday – a key day for street demonstrations since the rallies began.
Eyewitnesses told Russia's Interfax news agency that police began to make arrests in Minsk after the unsanctioned rally ended and people were going home. Video footage on Sunday shows men in plain clothes beating peaceful protesters with batons.
The interior ministry confirmed at least 633 arrests had been made across the republic. It said some 363 people had been sent to detention centres pending court hearings.
Internal Affairs Minister Yuri Karayev defended the actions of the security forces.
"They talk about the brutality of the Belarusian police, and I want to say thRead More – Source
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Pakistan floods: Desperation and displacement in Sindh province
The Prime Minister of Pakistan has said the “magnitude of the calamity” is bigger than expected, after visiting flood-hit areas.
Shehbaz Sharif was speaking from Sindh province – which has had nearly eight times its average August rainfall.
The floods have killed nearly 1,000 people across Pakistan since June, while thousands have been displaced – and millions more affected.
As the BBC drove through Sindh, there were displaced people in every village.
The full scale of the devastation in the province is yet to be fully understood – but the people described it as the worst disaster they’ve survived.
Floods are not uncommon in Pakistan, but people here said these rains were different – more than anything that’s ever been seen. One local official called them “floods of biblical proportions”.
Near the city of Larkana, thousands of mud homes have sunk under water. For miles all that’s visible is treetops. Where the water level is slightly lower, thatched roofs creep out from underneath the water.
In one village, the people are desperate for food. In another, many children have developed waterborne diseases.
When a mobile truck pulled over, scores of people immediately ran towards it. Children carrying other children made their way to the long queue.
One 12-year-old girl said she and her baby sister had not eaten for a day.
“No food has come here, but my sister is sick, she has been vomiting,” the girl said. “I hope they can help.”
The desperation was evident in every community. People ran towards car windows to ask for help – anything.
On one of the main streets out of the city of Sukkur, hundreds of people have settled.
Many of them walked from remote villages, and were told that help is easier to get in the urban areas. But there’s not much difference here.
On Friday, PM Sharif said 33 million people had been hit by the floods – about 15% of the country’s population.
He said the losses caused by floods this season were comparable to those during the floods of 2010-11, said to be the worst on record. The country has appealed for more international aid.
In Sindh, it’s not that local authorities are not trying, but they admit that they are out of their depth.
The provincial government says this is a “climate change catastrophe” and that the people of Pakistan, especially in the poorer communities, have been the worst affected.
The solutions will not be quick – acres of land are waterlogged and the water is not receding fast enough for any rebuilding to take place here.
There’s not much to do for the people but to wait – wait for the rains to stop, wait for the water to go down, wait for more resources to be allocated to these kinds of communities.
In the meantime, life continues to be difficult.
Read from: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-62699886
Burkina Faso military says it has seized power
The military in Burkina Faso says it has seized power and overthrown President Roch Kaboré.
The announcement was made on state television by an army officer, who cited the deteriorating security situation for the military takeover.
Mr Kaboré had faced growing discontent over his failure to stem an Islamist insurgency.
His whereabouts are unclear, but the officer said that all those detained were in a secure location.
The coup comes a day after troops seized barracks, and gunshots were heard in the capital, Ouagadougou.
Earlier, the ruling People’s Movement for Progress (PMP) party said that both Mr Kaboré and a government minister had survived an assassination attempt.
On Sunday, mutinying troops demanded the sacking of military chiefs and more resources to fight militants linked to the Islamic State (IS) group and al-Qaeda.
The army statement said Mr Kaboré had failed to unite the nation and to deal effectively with the security crisis which “threatens the very foundations of our nation”.
The statement was issued in the name of a group not heard of previously, the Patriotic Movement for Safeguard and Restoration or MPSR, its French acronym.
Although read out by another officer, the statement was signed by Lt-Col Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba, who is believed to be the coup leader and a senior commander with years of experience fighting the Islamist militants.
The statement said that parliament and the government had been dissolved, and the constitution suspended, but promised a “return to constitutional order” within a “reasonable time”.
The military also announced the closure of Burkina Faso’s borders.
UN chief António Guterres condemned the coup and called on the military to “ensure the protection and the physical integrity” of Mr Kaboré.
The African Union and regional bloc, Ecowas, have also condemned the forceful takeover of power, with Ecowas saying it holds the soldiers responsible for the deposed president’s well-being.
Earlier, the news of his detention was received with cheers and celebrations in Ouagadougou, reports the BBC’s senior Africa correspondent Anne Soy.
Earlier video footage from the capital appeared to show armoured vehicles – reportedly used by the presidency – peppered with bullet holes and abandoned in the street.
Mobile internet services have been disrupted, though fixed-line internet and domestic wi-fi are working.
Mr Kaboré has not been seen in public since the crisis began, but two posts appeared on his Twitter account before the officer announced he had been toppled.
The later one called on those who had taken up arms to lay them down “in the higher interest of the nation”. Earlier, Mr Kaboré congratulated the national football team on their win in an Africa Cup of Nations match.
It is unclear who posted the tweets.
Some security sources say the president and other government ministers are being held at the Sangoulé Lamizana barracks in the capital.
On Sunday, hundreds of people came out in support of the soldiers and some of them set fire to the ruling party’s headquarters.
The coup comes a week after 11 soldiers were arrested for allegedly plotting to overthrow Mr Kaboré.
But discontent has been growing in Burkina Faso over the government’s failure to defeat an Islamist insurgency in the country since 2015.
That escalated in November, when 53 people, mainly members of the security forces, were killed by suspected jihadists. And on Saturday, a banned rally to protest against the government’s perceived failure led to dozens of arrests.
Mutinying soldiers made several demands, including: the removal of the army’s chief of staff and the head of the intelligence service; more troops to be deployed to the front line; and better conditions for the wounded and soldiers’ families.
Similar troubles in neighbouring Mali led to a military coup in May 2021 – one that was broadly welcomed by the public.
Burkina Faso is now the third West African country to witness a military takeover in recent years. Guinea and Mali have had sanctions imposed on them by Ecowas to press them to return to constitutional order.
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