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Belarusian opposition activist Kovalkova leaves country after arrest

WARSAW (Reuters) - Belarusian opposition activist Olga Kovalkova arrived in the Polish capital Warsaw on Saturday, saying she had been forced by authorities in her homeland to leave the country.

FILE PHOTO: Representative of the Coordination Council for members of the Belarusian opposition Olga Kovalkova attends a news conference in Minsk, Belarus August 18, 2020. REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko

Kovalkova, a senior figure in the Belarusian opposition Coordination Council, was sentenced to 10 days in jail on Aug. 25.

She said on Saturday that authorities had told her she would face further arrests if she did not leave the country.

“Representatives of the militia and the interior ministry of Belarus came to me and said that if I did not agree to leave, I would face long arrests ... it was said that there would be more (arrests) to infinity,” she told a news conference in Warsaw.

“They came to the remand center where I was isolated, they gave me a hat, a mask and took me out of prison, I was lying in the back seat, so as not to see anything.”

She said she was taken to the border, where she entered Poland at the Kuznica-Bruzgi border crossing before travelling to Warsaw.

Kovalkova’s arrived in Poland on the same day that Polish authorities confirmed Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya will visit Warsaw on Wednesday, where she will meet Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.

Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko, in power for 26 years, has faced a wave of opposition protests since his Aug. 9 election victory. He has denied accusations by the opposition and Western countries that the vote was rigged and has resisted demands to step down.

Human rights experts from the United Nations have reported receiving reports of hundreds of cases of torture, beatings and mistreatment of Belarusian protesters by police.

“All these activities will not stop me, I will continue to act politically and I intend to return to Belarus to continue my activities,” Kovalkova said.

Reporting by Alan Charlish and Pawel Florkiewicz; Editing by Angus MacSwan

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