On April 18, Minsk district court considered the cases of Kurapaty defenders – Zmitser Dashkevich, Valery Rabtsau, Mikhail Sabaleuski, Pavel Sevyarynets, Vital Tryhubau, Dzynis Urbanovich, Filip Shaurou and Valyantsina Yaromenak.
Judges Pavel Zhechka, Anzhalika Kazlova, Anton Kolabau and Alyaksei Krapachou found 9 activists guilty of petty crime and disobedience to police and punished them by fines totalling to 5,763 rubles (appr. $2800), human rights centre Viasna reports.
On April 4, the news about driving bulldozers and other building machinery to Kurapaty Forest hit the headlines in domestic and foreign media outlets. About 70 crosses were rooted out; over a dozen activists and politicians who were trying to stop workers, were detained.
Kurapaty is a Stalin-era mass grave site near Minsk, where the NKVD executed and buried tens of thousands of people in 1930-40s. On April 13, representatives of pro-government organizations took part in a ‘subbotnik’, a so-called volunteer clean-up, in Kurapaty. At the same time, the special services continued to remove Kurapaty crosses.
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.
It should be noted that the crosses and the work on their installation cost the Belarusian people thousands of rubles. The state did not allocate a penny; a fundraising campaign was launched to collect the corresponding sum of money.
As reported earlier, the decision the ‘anti-cross’ campaign started after 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’.
However, while the authorities call the dismantling of the crosses ‘site improvement’, Kurapaty defenders believe it to be a state-run vandalism act. Apparently, the so-called ‘improvement’ has tarnished the image of the Belarusian authorities.