Under media spotlight: Belarus resumes probe into politicians’ disappearance

Viktar Hanchar

The Belarusian Investigative Committee has resumed the investigation into the disappearance of Viktar Hanchar, a former head of the Central Election Commission, and his friend, businessman Anatol Krasouski, on 16 September 1999, Deutsche Welle reports.

In December 2019, Iryna Krasouskaya, the wife of one of the missing, filed an appeal demanding to relaunch the suspended probe in the light of the recent statements by an alleged ex-member of the so called Belarusian death squad.

“There are plans to conduct investigative actions aimed at verifying the background provided by Yuri Garavski in the interview with TV and radio company Deutsche Welle, as well as make a legal assessment of the information published,” the letter of response by the Investigative Committee reads.

In late December, the committee reopened a criminal case over the disappearance of former Interior minister Yury Zakharanka as the half-remembered story gained high-profile media coverage again.

However, the Belarusian Investigative Committee turned down the appeal by Svyatlana Zavadskaya to resume the investigation into the abduction of her husband, cameraman Dzmitry Zavadski.

Still no answer: 20 years since disappearance of Lukashenka’s political rival
2019.09.16 15:24

In the early 2000s, after the disappearance of Yury Zakharanka, Viktar Hanchar, Anatol Krasouski, and Dzmitry Zavadski, there were reports about the so-called ‘death squads’ that abduct and kill the dissidents. In 2004, the European Union imposed personal sanctions on four persons who might have been involved in or aware of the kidnappings – former Interior Minister Uladzimir Naumau, former head of the presidential administration Viktar Sheyman, Yury Sivakou, who occupied the post of the head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs during the disappearance of politicians, and Dzmitry Paulichenka, commander of the special forces brigade of the Interior Ministry.

In mid December, the German media outlet Deutsche Welle made public the interview with a Belarusian-born man who claims his being related to the kidnapping and assassination of Belarusian opposition politicians in 1999. 41-year-old Yury Garavski is living as an asylum-seeker in one of the European countries. The interviewee says he was with the Belarusian SOBR (Special Rapid Response Unit) from its very beginning, and was trained to fight serious offenders involved in organized crime.

If his words are anything to go by, the orders were given by Colonel Dzmitry Paulichenka (Dmitry Pavlichenko), the founder and commander of SOBR. What is more, the top officer personally shot down the three critics of Alyaksandr Lukashenka, Garavski claims. The man expressed confidence that the then Interior Minister Yury Sivakou and Security Council Secretary Viktar Sheyman knew what was going on behind the scenes; Garavski suggests that President Lukashenka must have been in the picture, but cannot say safely.

Lukashenka meets with person accused of murdering opposition
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