Belarusian opposition activist seeks asylum in Poland

An opposition activist and representative for a former presidential candidate in Belarus has asked for political asylum in Poland, according to reports.

Viktar Kantsavenka, who was an authorized representative of candidate Mikalay Statkevich in the Dec. 19 presidential election, told online news outlet BelaPAN over the phone on Saturday that he is currently staying at the Debak reception center for asylum seekers near Warsaw.

Opposition members protested the last presidential elections as rigged; they were subsequently attacked and arrested in a government crackdown.

“To get refugee status, one may have to spend about a year here,” Kantsavenka said. “I’ve been given a visa for half a year. I’m being treated well. Most of the inmates are Chechens. There are Belarusians here, but they are few in number. I’m not going to come back to Belarus.”

According to Kantsavenka, who was Statkevich’s campaign coordinator for the Homyel region, if he had remained in Belarus, he would “certainly have been in prison on a fabricated charge and subjected to pressure and torture with a view to obtaining evidence against Statkevich.”

Kantsavenka said that Belarus KGB officers hunted for him after the Dec. 19 post-election protest in Minsk and searched his home, but he managed to escape. He took a local train bound for Zhlobin and slipped off at a way station near Zhlobin and then traveled by car from Zhlobin to the Russian city of Bryansk. He then made his way to Ukraine’s Chernihiv, where human rights activists helped him get to Kyiv and file an application for political asylum in Ukraine. When he learned that the local police were after him, he went to Poland.

“Polish authorities treated me with favor and granted me a visa although there were problems with my passport,” he said.


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