Amid media exposure: Belarus resumes probe into disappearance of Lukashenka’s strong rival

The Belarusian Investigative Committee reopened a criminal case over the disappearance of former Interior minister Yury Zakharanka, reports with reference to human rights activist Aleh Volchak.

According to Volchak, he received a corresponding report signed by Yury Varauka, Head of one of the committee’s departments

The document says that the decision to resume the probe was taken on 18 December 2019, i.e. two days after Deutsche Welle published its bombshell interview with Yury Garavski, an alleged member of the Belarusian ‘death squad’.

As reported earlier, in November-December 2018, previous investigations into the disappearance of Yury Zakharanka, Viktar Hanchar and Anatol Krasouski were terminated.

Yury Zakharanka was a member of Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s team during the 1994 presidential elections. After Lukashenka’s victory. he was appointed Interior Minister, but later their roads parted. After leaving the position of Interior Minister, Yury Zakharanka joined the opposition. He had authority with servicemen and initiated establishing of the independent Union of Officers which could have stood up against the Belarusian leader.

General Zakharanka was 47 when he went missing in 1999. He tops the list of allegedly abducted opponents of the first and still the only Belarusian president.

Mother of abducted opposition politician Yury Zakharanka dies

In the early 2000s, after the disappearance of ex-Interior Minister Yury Zakharanka, ex-chairman of the CEC Viktar Hanchar, businessman Anatol Krasouski and cameraman 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 has 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