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Story of Maria Kalesnikava and Maksim Znak - Face of Protest #19

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The Minsk Regional Court pronounced the verdict against the members of the Coordination Council Maria Kalesnikava and Maksim Znak. Maria and Maksim received 11 and 10 years in jail, respectively.

In May Kalesnikava and Znak were finally charged under several articles: they were accused of public calls to actions aimed at harming national security, conspiracy to seize state power in an unconstitutional way and establishment and leadership of an extremist formation. The trial against Maria Kolesnikava and Maksim Znak started on August 4th and was held behind closed doors.

According to the General Prosecutor’s Office, the accused "and a number of other persons" announced the creation of the Coordination Council, concealing the motives for its creation. According to the agency, the real purpose of creating the CC "was to coordinate protest activity," aimed at "seizing state power and changing of the political leadership in an unconstitutional way, inciting political, ideological and social hatred in society, public calls for obstruction of the legitimate functioning of state authorities and administration.

Maria Kalesnikava
Maria Kalesnikava

Maria Kalesnikava is from Minsk. In 2007 she moved to Germany. At first she studied at the Higher School of Music in Stuttgart, and afterwards she took part in concerts and organized international cultural projects both there and in her home country. She traveled extensively, taking an interest in cultural exhibitions and festivals in Italy, Poland and Lithuania.

In 2017, Belgazprombank, whose chairman of the board was Viktor Babariko, a well-known banker in the country, bought three empty shops of the Minsk Machine-Tool Plant. The former factory premises were converted into a cultural hub — Ok16. As they said at the time, this place was to become an incubator for cultural projects and economic instruments of the future. Maria Kalesnikava became the art director of the project. At that time Maria said that the goal of such projects was to attract people who were not indifferent to art, to discuss social problems, to form the habit of attending cultural events and the desire to spend money on art and impressions of it.

It was thanks to this project that the banker Viktor met Maria Kalesnikava. In 2020 on May 12 Viktor Babariko stood as a candidate for the presidential election. And it was then that Maria Kalesnikava decided that she would also support Babariko.

Maria was kidnapped on September 7 in Minsk and, together with two other members of the secretariat of the Coordination Council, Anton Rodnenkov and Ivan Kravtsov, was forcibly brought to the Belarusian-Ukrainian border for expulsion from the country. However, Maria Kalesnikava tore her passport at the border crossing and jumped out of the car, preventing the special operation of the security forces.

On 9 September it became known that Maria was detained and suspected of a criminal offense under Part 3 Article 361 of the Criminal Code (calls for actions aimed at harming the national security of the Republic of Belarus).

Maxim Znak
Maxim Znak

Maxim Znak has been practicing in the sphere of legal consulting since 2001. In 2007 he founded the law firm "YurZnak". Maksim was an arbitrator of the International Chamber of Arbitrators at the Union of Lawyers of the Republic of Belarus. He also lectured and taught at the Department of Civil Law at the Belarusian State University and wrote and chaired the course on "Legal Environment for Business" at the MBA program at the BSU. Maksim has been an expert in the World Bank Doing Business survey since 2011. He also acts as a national consultant for bringing the norms of Belarusian legislation into conformity with the basic agreements of the World Trade Organization. He has more than 150 publications, he is a columnist for Belgazeta newspaper and an author of Economical Gazette. In May 2020, the lawyer became acquainted with Victor Babariko and engaged in the legal direction of his staff.

On September 9th, 2020, Maksim Znak’s apartment was searched and he was taken to the Investigative Committee for interrogation.

On September 18th Maksim Znak was charged under part 3 of article 361 of the Criminal Code (appeals to actions harmful to the national security of the Republic of Belarus). As a sign of disagreement with the charges the lawyer went on a hunger-strike.

Pavel Latushka, Head of the National Anti-Crisis Management, a member of the Presidium of the Coordination Council, commented on the sentences of Maksim and Maria: "I must. I have to. Will do. You will be free!"

Coordination Council
Coordination Council: Pavel Latushka, Maria Kalesnikava, Maxim Znak