Imprisoned politician Viktar Babaryka calls for establishing Together party again

Viktar Babaryka.
Photo: ІА / Белсат

The team of might-have-been presidential candidate and former banker Viktar Babaryka has published the appeal he sent from the KGB prison.

The politician urged his adherers to go the whole way and set up the party Razam (‘Together’).

“I have never been in any party; I did not think that this form of association had a right to exist in the 21st century. But [the actions by] Belarusians prove that I was wrong. We need a party. But this party should not be an end in itself, we need is as the most effective tool for gaining our victory,” he said.

In his opinion, the party should have the fillowing goals:

  • present the majority people who are sick and tired of living in the atmosphere of lies, hatred and fear;
  • unite separate independent initiatives;
  • ensure the work of groups and associations and resume activities within the country
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“We must create the Together party. We must help each other believe in themselves, in a neighbour, in the country. We cannot leave the cancerous tumor of fear and helplessness to our children and grandchildren,” Viktar Babaryka stressed.

The political prisoner announced founding his party in a pre-recorded video message which was made public in early September.

As reported earlier, Viktar Babaryka had been Chairman of Belgazprombank Board since 2000. On May 12, when he revealed his presidential ambitions, he voluntarily resigned from his senior management job. Belgazprombank’s main shareholders from the Russian side are Gazprom and Gazprombank; in this view, Babaryka is often faulted for allegedly being linked to Moscow. At the same time, the prospective candidate has repeatedly put an emphasis on his being Belarusian. In his opinion, it is impossible to build an independent state when there is no solid foundation, i.e. culture and national identity.

On June 11, officers of the Financial Investigations Department (part of the State Control Committee) came to the head office of Belgazprombank. The department opened a criminal case under Art. 243-2 (large-scale tax evasion) and Art. 235-2 (legalisation of particularly large sums of money obtained through crime). Over a dozen top managers and bank employees were arrested as part of the case. Then Belarusian authorities established the provisional administration in order to ‘protect the interests of depositors and creditors’ of the bank. Viktar Babaryka called placing the bank under the state’s control ‘forcible takeover’.

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On June 18, Viktar Babaryka and his son Eduard (head of his campaign office) were arrested and taken to the KGB prison; their house and flat were searched. In late June, Amnesty International recognised them prisoners of conscience ‘persecuted solely for peaceful expression of their political views’. Although hundreds of thousands of Belarusians put their signatures for his nomination, the Belarusian Central Election Commission refused to register Babaryka as a presidential candidate.

In July, the Prosecutor General’s Office redefined the nature of the charge against the incumbent president’s imprisoned competitor. According to the press service, when being Head of Belgazprombank, Viktar Babaryka received rewards totalling to 28 mln rubles from representatives of for-profit businesses; then he distributed the funds among the top managers of the bank. Thus, the prosecutors refiled the charge from Article 431-2 (active bribery) to Art. 430-3 of the Criminal Code (passive bribery).

In late November, the investigation department of the State Security Committee (KGB) said they completed a preliminary investigation into a criminal case against Belgazprombank top managers. According to the committee, Viktar Babaryka is accused of committing crimes under Art. 430-3 and Art. 235-2 of the Criminal Code (grand bribery by an organised group and large-scale laundering of illicit funds).

In mid February, Babaryka appeared before court.

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