Aleh Alkayew insists that there exists video of execution of Yury Zakharanka

2012 2012-12-18T12:33:05+0300 1970-01-01T03:00:00+0300 en

“This video exists and I’ll see it soon,” he said. “Those who made copies were not simple minded. Last year I was offered to buy a cassette for $250,000, but I don’t have such money.”

According to Mr. Alkayew, he stayed in Belarus for two days in mid-November. He entered and exited the country at night through the Russian border.

In his book titled The Death Squad, Mr. Alkayew alleges that General Zakharanka, a former interior minister turned opposition politician who disappeared in Minsk on May 7, 1999, Viktar Hanchar, an ex-lawmaker and former chairman of the central election commission, and his friend, businessman Anatol Krasowski, who disappeared on September 16, 1999, were murdered by a government-run death squad.

He insists that the squad killed their victims with a pistol used for executions of people sentenced to death, and that he was the one who, by order of the then interior minister, Yury Sivakow, issued the pistol to Dzmitry Pawlichenka, the commander of an elite anti-terror police unit, shortly before the disappearances of both Zakharanka and Hanchar and Krasowski.

In the run-up to Belarus` 2001 presidential election, Uladzimir Hancharyk, chairman of the Federation of Trade Unions of Belarus who was one of the candidates, published what appeared to be a handwritten report addressed by the then criminal police chief, Mikalay Lapatsik, to the then interior minister, Uladzimir Navumaw. The report, dated November 21, 2000, said that Zakharanka, Hanchar and Krasowski were physically eliminated by a group led by Dzmitry Pawlichenka by order of Viktar Sheyman, the then state secretary of the Security Council of Belarus.

Authorities initially denied the existence of such a report, saying that the opposition had fabricated the document to discredit the Lukashenka government, but Minister Navumaw later admitted its authenticity.

In a videotaped statement sent to the press in June 2001, a member of the Prosecutor General`s Office`s team that was in charge of the case and a former prosecutorial investigator insisted that acting on orders from Mr. Sheyman, Yury Sivakow formed a death squad led by Mr. Pawlichenka to eliminate political opponents.

Mr. Alkayew’s secret visit came days before Mr. Sivakow admitted on November 16 that he shared the blame for the high-profile disappearances in an interview with Belarus’ privately owned sports newspaper Pressbol.

The 66-year-old Sivakow described the allegation that he is responsible for those disappearances as the most frequent accusation leveled against him. "Any reasonable person who has never met with me and knows about Sivakow only by hearsay probably links this name to the missing politicians," he said. "Well then. I'm responsible for this, there was, there is and there will be my guilt in it."

Mr. Alkayew believes that the statement was a signal to Western politicians who could guarantee Mr. Sivakow’s safety and a hint that any attempts to assassinate him should be viewed as an attack on a key witness.

In his report on the disappearances, made in 2004 by order of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, Cypriot MP Christos Pourgourides charged that officials at the highest level of the Lukashenka government might have been involved and obstructed attempts to investigate the disappearances.

"As a criminal lawyer, I have no doubt in my mind that these disappearances were ordered at the highest possible level in the establishment of Belarus," Mr. Pourgourides told reporters in Strasbourg in 2004. "I cannot be certain that the order was given by the president himself, but I`m absolutely certain that the order for their abductions was given by people very, very close to the president."

“I sincerely believed that the president knew nothing,” Mr. Alkayew said in the interview with Deutsche Welle. “During an accidental meeting, I told everything to Uladzimir Navumaw, who was soon appointed interior minister. Pawlichenka was arrested and Security Council Secretary Viktar Sheyman was going to be arrested. But a reverse process started. The officials who were in charge of the case – the then KGB head [Uladzimir Matskevich] and the then prosecutor general [Aleh Bazhelka] – were dismissed [in late November 2000] and I was warned that I should keep my mouth shut.”

It was Messrs. Matskevich and Bazhelka who warranted the arrest of Dzmitry Pawlichenka in November 2000. They were dismissed and Mr. Pawlichenka was released from a KGB jail by order of Alyaksandr Lukashenka after less than 24 hours.