‘Battling draw’. Stalin-era mass grave site defenders meet with Minsk authorities (video)

On Wednesday, Andrey Shorats, chairman of Minsk city executive committee, met with a group of four people to discuss the issue of Kurapaty. Independent journalists were not allowed to be present at the meeting.

The delegation included expert Marat Haravy, Yury Stsepanishchau (a representative of the locals), Alyaksei Yanukevich (Belarusian People’s Front party) and Pavel Sevyarynets (Belarusian Christian Democracy party).

10 days ago, the Belarusian activists began a long-term action in defense of the memorial protesting against the construction of an office building started a few dozen meters from Kurapaty, a place on the outskirts of Minsk and a burial place of Stalinist repression victims. According to them, it is fraudulent as the building permission was granted when the area was considered a protected zone.

The plot on which ‘Belrekonstruktsiya’ company undertook the construction of a four-storey business center was sold by the city authorities at the auction in 2013. In 2014 the protected zone was significantly curtailed. According to historian Ihar Kuznyatsou, it is highly likely that remains of the victims will be found here. KGB archives which could cast light on the burial plans are classified until now.

Kurapaty is not just the national memorial to the victims of Stalinist repression, it is a site of historical and cultural heritage. Belarusian Voluntary Society for Protection of Monuments appealed to the KGB and city authorities with a statement about possible corruption schemes and violations during the construction project design which is interfering with the protected zone.

On February 22, the activists addressed Andrey Shorats with a request to stop construction and review its legality. On February 27, builders stopped their work and began to take away equipment from the construction site.

There were many journalists, experts and social activists near the building of Minsk executive committee today. According to historian Dzyanis Kobruseu, a tactics of ‘small steps’ should be used.

“The case of the memorialization of Kurapaty may be put off; now it is vital to stop the construction. If they cut Kurapaty bit by bit, soon there will be nothing to memorialize,” he says.

The city authorities should have invited all the concerned to the meeting, but they failed to do so, BAJ press secretary Barys Haretski says.

“They want to show its power – and let in only four persons. They consider themselves big bosses, look down on the citizens wall off from us,” he says.

(UPD) Andrey Shorats has promised that this week there will be no construction works near Kurapaty.

“We have agreed that the dialogue is important and it should be continued, which is a good sign. We were told: “If you want to be there [in Kurapaty] – remain there” and promised that no construction work would be carried out this week,” BPF Chairman Alyaksei Yanukevich sums up.


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