Still no answer: Belarus journalist Dzmitry Zavadski went missing 17 years ago

Зміцер Завадскі з сынам, архіўнае фота

He disappeared on the morning of 7 July, 2000 on the way to the national airport Minsk-2.

In 1994-1997, Dzmitry Zavadski worked as a personal cameraman of Belarusian president Alyaksandr Lukashenka.

Mr Zavadski’s car was found in the airport, but it is still unknown what happened to him. The body of Dzmitry has never been found. At that time he was 27 years old.

The reason for the abduction could have been the work of Mr Zavadski in Chechnya in 1999-2000, during the filming of The Chechen Diary. Mr Zavadski is supposed to have collected information about the actions of the Belarusian special forces, who at that time were in Chechnya, his colleague and close friend Pavel Sheremet believed.

Pavel Sheremet and Dzmitry Zavadski.

Officially, the case was fully investigated. According to the investigators, the journalist was kidnapped by former employees of the Interior Ministry Special Forces Unit Almaz, Valer Ihnatovich and Maxim Malik, as well as Alyaksei Guz, a former student of the Academy of Ministry of Interior, and Syarhei Savushkin who had repeatedly been on trial before that. Ihnatovich and Malik were sentenced to life imprisonment, Guz – to 25 years in prison, Savushkin – to 12 years.

However, having served 3 years and 9 months, Savushkin was released. He went to Germany, but the local authorities soon deported him to Belarus, where he was sentenced to a restriction of freedom for petty theft.

In March 2016, journalists found Syarhei Savushkin in open-type correctional facility Nr 55 in Minsk. His interview with the news website Belarusian Partisan was edited by Pavel Sheremet.

“For the first time I heard the name ‘Zavadski’ from investigators. At first, the investigator tried to persuade me that I had killed Gleb Samoilov [former head of the Minsk branch of the Black Hundred organization Russian National Unity (RNE)], although I never met him and I was not a member of the RNE. They detained me for 30 days on suspicion of being involved in the murder. Then the investigator began to make me wrong-foot Ihnatovich,” he told reporters.

Savushkin seems to be the only participant in the grave event of the past who can confirm that unprecedented pressure was exerted on all the accused by the investigators.

“In protest, I cut arms, neck and belly with a razor. He was taken to a psychiatric examination to Navinki mental hospital. Investigator Ivan Branchel insisted I needed an injection due to tonsillitis. He said if I refused, they would do it by force. Immediately after the injection they started questioning me in the next room – right there, in hospital. They vied in asking: “How did you kill Zavadski?” I feel bad, there was light in the head. And everyone knows what happened next,” Savushkin said.

The trial was held in camera, that is why no evidence of guilt has ever been published. According to independent investigators into the case, it is the ordinary performers who were tried and sentenced; rumour has it that the real organizers of the crime were Viktar Sheyman, a former chairman of the Security Council, Yury Sivakou, a former Interior Minister and Dzmitry Paulichenka, an ex-commander of Special Rapid Deployment Force. They are still banned from entering the USA and EU member countries.

Syarhei Savushkin

Gang, dir. by Raisa Mikhaylouskaya. Belsat TV doc about abducted politicians and journalists

In 1999-2000, the activity of the so-called death squad allegedly resulted in abductions of Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s opponents – politician Viktar Hanchar, businessman Anatol Krasouski and former Interior Minister Yury Zakharanka.

Turn English subtitles on

See also