Belarus regime removing crosses at Stalin-era mass grave site near Minsk

On Thursday morning, bulldozers and other building machinery have been driven to Kurapaty Forest near Minsk, where the NKVD, Stalin’s secret police executed and buried up to 250,000 persons in the 30-40s. The site is cordoned off by road police and special police forces (OMON).

About 70 wooden crosses have been rooted out; over a dozen activists and politicians defending Kurapaty have been detained, including Pavel Sevyarynets, Zmitser Dashkevich, Dzyanis Urbanovich, Valyantsina Yaromenak, Nina Bahinskaya. According to preliminary information, the local authorities are set to fence off the area.

“They used excavators to immediately take the crosses away. They knocked down all the crosses along Zaslauye Road. There are many vehicles in operation: excavators, tractors, dump trucks and others,” Pavel Sevyarynets, a co-chairman of the Belarusian Christian Democracy, told Belsat shortly before his being detained.

According to our correspondent, there are many policemen, both uniformed and plainclothed, some of them are preventing journalists from performing their professional duties. At the same time, a state-run ONT TV channel crew has been let into the secured area.

Both workers and policemen keep refusing to specify who has given the order to take the crosses down and where they will be delivered to.

The Belarusian officials are just fulfilling the order by president Alyaksandr Lukashenka, activist Hanna Shaputska believes. “He said he did not like the crosses and they have them destryed. demolished. No public consultation has been held,” she said.

It should be noted that Lukashenka slammed ‘ demonstrating with crosses’ in Kurapaty during The Big Conversation With President on March, 1. However, he also promised that there would never be sort of Stalinism in Belarus, even ‘under the dictatorship of Lukashenka’.

The activists state that considerable material damage has been suffered, as people donated about $5,500 to them for making and installing the crosses.

“Communists blew up churches; under Lukashenka, crosses are knocked down in Kurapaty,” Nasta Dashkevich, the wife of former political prisoner Zmitser Dashkevich who contributed to setting up crosses, said on Facebook.

At least 15 activists detained. Phot.
Blogger and activist Eduard Palchys, in Kurapaty. Phot.

Hundreds of crosses were installed by Belarusian activists who felt it their duty to pay the tribute to the memory of the executed. It was not until 2018 that the authorities directed their attention to Kurapaty: an official memorial to the victims was erected at the order of the Federation of the Trade Unions. Back in 1989, the BSSR Council of Ministers signed a decree to perpetuate the memory of the victims in Kurapaty. In 1993, the memorial was granted the status of historical and cultural value ​​of international importance. However, after Lukashenka came to power, the Kurapaty topic was silenced. Incidentally, over his 25-year rule, the head of the country has never visited the place.

Kurapaty, 4 April 2019. Phot.

Unfortunately, barbaric acts have become a fact of life in Kurapaty. In February, the so-called Clinton’s Bench was demolished; it was presented by the then U.S. President Bill Clinton who visited the mass grave site in 1994. It has been vandalized about 20 times, but the Belarusian authorities have never traced committers. In March, unknown individuals covered two monuments in Kurapaty with anti-Semitic slogans and Magen David drawings.

Since May 2018, the group of Belarusian activists is protesting against ‘dancing on the bones’, i.e.the activity of Let’s Go And Eat restaurant in the vicinity of the mass grave under the passive eye of the local authorities. According to the protesters, its construction and opening at the very place was illegal. Activists first asked the authorities to interfere with the situation, and then decided to act independently. They are trying not to let cars to the territory of the restaurant. The Minsk police have already drawn dozens of protocols against activists who had blocked the restaurant that opened at the site of the massacre.