Associate calls on Belarusians to vouch for KGB-jailed presidential hopeful

Maryia Kalesnikava, a coordinator at Viktar Babaryka’s campaign office, has urged Belarusians to contribute to mitigating pre-trial restrictions imposed on the imprisoned might-have-been presidential candidate and his son Eduard.

“We want to ask everyone who cares, everyone who put their faith in Viktar and Eduard, to become their guarantors so that the measure of restriction could be changed. To do this, one need to write an application and submit it to the State Security Committee (KGB). A link to the application will be available soon. I am going to file it to the KGB on Tuesday, at 16:00. Should there be a lot of us, get in line,” Kalesnikava said.

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). Around 15 top managers and bank employees have been arrested as part of the case. Since June 15, the provisional administration has been in place in Belgazprombank in order to ‘protect the interests of depositors and creditors’, the Belarusian officials state. 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’.

According to the official version, 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. Last week, the prosecutors refiled the charge from Article 431-2 (active bribery) to Art. 430-3 of the Criminal Code (passive bribery).

On July 14, the Belarusian Central Election Commission made public the list of five people registered as candidates for the presidency. However, Viktar Babaryka and Valery Tsapkala, the two opposition candidates who submitted the most signatures, were denied registration.

Election teams of Babaryka, Tsapkala and Tsikhanouskaya unite