Would-be presidential candidate’s friend and team member arrested in Minsk

Svyatlana Kupreyeva, a family friend and member of Viktar Babaryka’s initiative group, was detained on June, 11. At the moment, the woman is being held in the KGB detention centre.

According to Svyatlana’s friend, the officers of the Department of Financial Investigations were let in after they introduced themselves as utility workers. They took Svyatlana away and started searching the flat in front of her 81-year-old mother. It was not until the evening that the law enforcers informed Kupreyeva’s friend of her whereabouts.

On the following day, Svyatlana Kupreyeva was interrogated, but she was not released from the detention centre. At the lapse of 72 hours, the detainer was let stand. The officers failed to give the relatives notice of Svyatlana’s being taken into custody.

“Svyatlana Kupreyeva has never worked for Belgazprombank, PrivatLeasing, Kentavr and Kampari. She has no relation to the managers of these companies. However, Svyatlana is a friend of Viktar Babaryka’s family and a member of his initiative group, its coordinator in one of the districts of Minsk,” the statement by Babaryka’s election office reads.

The authorities are barring Kupreyeva’s lawyers from visiting her under the pretext of the epidemiological situation in the country. Their complaints have not been considered either.

Election-2020: Unexpected candidates spark Belarusian civil society

As reported earlier, presidential hopeful Viktar Babaryka had been Chairman of Belgazprombank Board since 2000. On May 12, when he revealed his presidential ambitions, he voluntarily resigned from his senior management job. Belgazprombank’s main shareholders from the Russian side are Gazprom and Gazprombank; in this view, Babaryka is often faulted for allegedly being linked to Moscow. At the same time, the prospective candidate has repeatedly put an emphasis on his being Belarusian. In his opinion, it is impossible to build an independent state when there is no solid foundation, i.e. culture and national identity.

On June 11, officers of the Financial Investigations Department (part of the State Control Committee) came to the head office of Belgazprombank. The department opened a criminal case under Art. 243-2 (large-scale tax evasion) and Art. 235-2 (legalisation of particularly large sums of money obtained through crime). Around 15 top managers and bank employees have been arrested as part of the case. Since June 15, the provisional administration has been in place in Belgazprombank in order to ‘protect the interests of depositors and creditors’, the Belarusian officials state. Viktar Babaryka called placing the bank under the state’s control ‘forcible takeover’.

‘Forcible takeover’. Authorities get bank linked to Lukashenka’s rival under control

Last week, the Belarusian officials claimed they had ‘strong evidence’ of Babaryka’s being complicit in ‘illegal activities’.

In early June, incumbent president Alyaksandr Lukashenka hinted that one of the presidential hopefuls might be involved in fraud. He suggested Belarusian people ask the would-be candidate the following questions: “What is PrivatLeasing?” and “Where do you keep the money you fraudulently got in Belarus?” However, he failed to go into detail and give any name. In turn, Viktar Babaryka said that he knew PrivatLeasing company, since it was a long-time customer of Belgazprombank.

The former banker submitted an appeal to the Central Election Commission (CEC), pointing out the facts of Lukashenka’s alleged violations of the law, but election officials refused to issue a warning to the Belarusian leader.

With over 330,000 signatures collected for his presidency nomination, Viktar Babaryka is currently taking the lead among alternative candidates.

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