Still no answer: 20 years since disappearance of Lukashenka’s political rival

Twenty years ago, Viktar Hanchar, ex-Chairman of the Central Election Commission, and businessman Anatol Krasouski went missing.

On 16 September 1999, Hanchar and Krasouski left a bathhouse in Minsk. They were seen in Fabrychnaya Street at about 22:35 last. Later, windscreen fragments of Krasouski’s car were found there. Moreover, blood was identified on the glass fragments. A genomic examination defined with a probability of 99.9998% that it belonged to Hanchar.

In the 90s, the politician and his associates initiated the impeachment of Alyaksandr Lukashenka, the first and still the only president of Belarus, but the process was stopped due to the pressure on the deputies and Russia’s interference.

In 1998, Viktar Hanchar led an alternative Elections Committee during the presidential elections of 1999, organised by the opposition as a protest against Lukashenka’s constitutional reforms, which posed a threat to his autoritarian power. Anatol Krasouski provided financial backing to the opposition movement.

It should be noted that in the year of 1999, influential Belarusian politician Henadz Karpenka, who was set to run for presidency, passed away under mysterious circumstances. Moreover, on 7 May 1999, former interior minister and Lukashenka’s political rival Yury Zakharanka disappeared.

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In 2000, Police General Mikalai Lapatsik made a classified report to the then Interior Minister Uladzimir Navumau

“The catch and further elimination of Zakharanka was carried out by a group of soldiers led by Dzmitry Paulichenka (the commander of military unit 3214). A similar operation was carried out by Paulichenka and his group on 16.09.1999 to catch and kill Hanchar and Krasouski. The planned place of burial is a special plot on Paunochnya Cemetery.”

Aleh Alkayeu, a former chief of the Minsk detention facility Nr 1, claims that oppositionists Hanchar, Krasouski and Zakharanka were killed from a special execution pistol that was given at an order of former minister of internal affairs Yury Sivakou.

After an investigative group, consisted of officers of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the KGB and prosecutor agencies, had caught the traces of kidnappers and arrested special rapid response squad commander Dzmitry Paulichenka, the Prosecutor General Aleh Bazhelka and the KGB Head Uladzimir Matskevich were ousted. But soon Paulichenka was released by a personal order of Alyaksandr Lukashenka. In fear of being persecuted, Alkayeu and Bazhelka had to leave Belarus.

In 2003, the Prosecutor’s Office suspended the probe into their case; it has never been heard in court. This year, the relatives have been informed of the dismissal of the investigation.

‘Death squads’ in Belarus: facts from history