‘Cynical runaround’: Belarus not to relaunch probe into journo’s alleged abduction by death squad

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

The woman appealed to the Belarusian authorities with a request to interrogate the persons whose names had been previously revealed by Yury Garavski, an alleged member of the Belarusian death squad. On January 6, Svyatlana Zavadskaya received a written reply in which the Investigative Committee said there were no grounds for reopening the investigation. The agency stressed that the perpetrators of kidnapping – Maxim Malik and Valery Ihnatovich – were sentenced to life imprisonment in 2002.

The missing journalist’s wife considers the letter to be a ‘cynical reply with no real answer’. According to her, the convicts were found quilty only of the abduction of Dzmitry Zavadski, but it is still unknown what happened to him. She is going to appeal against the response by the Investigative Committee.

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.

Death squads involved? 19 years since abduction of journalist Dzmitry Zavadski

In the early 2000s, after the disappearance of Yury Zakharanka, ex-chairman of the CEC Viktar Hanchar, businessman 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 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

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