The police and the KGB arrested a ‘group of terrorists’ who are behind grave crimes in Hrodna and the region, including committing acts of arson and bombing to ‘exert pressure on security forces and their families’, state-controlled TV station Belarus 1 reported on Tuesday.
According to them, the gang was led by former Vaukavysk businessman Mikalai Autukhovich, but there is no strong proof of it.
The channel claims Autukhovich was involved in arson attacks on a policeman’s house and car in Vaukavysk, as well as arsoning another policeman’s vehicle in Hrodna. Pavel Sava whom state journalists introduced as an accomplice witnesses against Autukhovich on camera, saying that he was standing guard when Autukhovich was blowing the car in Hrodna on November, 20. Sava was reported to be an unemployed Minsk resident with a criminal record.
The authors of the news story say that nothing but ‘arsenal; of weapons and explosives was found in the house he was hiding in:
“A submachine gun, a pistol, silencers, about 1,500 rounds of ammo, eight TNT grenades, eight hand grenades were seized. There are also five-litre bottles, balaclavas available to be used in arson, walkie-talkies and a lot of other things.”
The journalists claim that Autukhovich got information about the police officers in ‘destructive’ Telegram channels. They say that other members of the ‘gang’ were also detained and placed in a pre-trial detention centres.
The news story contains police footage featuring Mikalai Autukhovich who says that the Belarusian authorities might jail him for life because he repeatedly called for the overthrow of the regime.
In 1981, Mikalai Autukhovich started serving in the army in Russia. After finishing a school of warrant officers he volunteered to serve in Afghanistan. He was awarded with an order and two medals for guarding the bridge nearKandahar and participation in other military operations. In 1991 he left the army and started running his own business in the town of Vaukavysk, Hrodna region.
When his business (taxi service) started boosting, Vaukavysk officials dropped some strong hints that under-the-table payments were expected from Autuhovich. But instead of bribing officials, the businessman began to collect information on the town’s web corruption. It is not ruled out that the then head of Hrodna State Security Department (KGB) got into the act as well; it is Mr Autukhovich’s anti-corruption activity that was the main reason of putting him behind bars.
On February 8, 2009 Mr Autukhovich was arrested again; in May 2010, the Supreme Court of Belarus sentenced the former entrepreneur to five years and two months of imprisonment in a medium security penal colony under Article 295 of the Criminal Code (illegal handling of arms, ammunition and explosives), because offive hunting rifle cartridges found in his safe. Human rights defenders noted that the sentence might well have been awarded in retaliation for Mikalai Autukhovich’s fighting against public corruption in the region. In August 2014, he was released from prison.