viasna on patreon

"Paulichenka came up and shot both of them in the back." In Switzerland, there began a trial of an ex-special forces officer in the case of the missing opponents of Lukashenka

2023 2023-09-20T10:58:10+0300 2023-09-20T10:59:24+0300 en The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”

On September 19, Switzerland began to try ex-fighter of the Belarusian special quick reaction unit (SOBR) Yuryi Harauski, who in 2019 publicly declared his involvement in the abduction of opposition politicians. The trial began in the court of the Canton of St. Gallen. Harauski is being tried within the universal jurisdiction: he is accused under the article on the disappearance of people. The prosecutor requested three years of imprisonment for him. At the same time, the ex-special forces fighter must spend only a year in prison, the other two at freedom with a probation period of four years. Former SOBR officer Yurui Harauski began to testify and spoke of the details of the abduction and murder of Yuryi Zakharanka and Anatol Krasouski.

Recall that in 2019, Yuryi Harauski, having received asylum in Switzerland, confessed to the German news outlet DW to involvement in the abduction and murder of opposition politicians of the late 1990s: former Interior Minister Yuryi Zakharanka, former Central Electoral Commission chairman Viktar Hanchar, and businessman Anatol Krasouski.

FIDH, TRIAL International, as well as human rights activist of Viasna Pavel Sapelka are present at the trial. They were photographed with #JusticeForBelarus posters in front of the courtroom in St. Gallen, a few minutes before the trial of a former special forces fighter who confessed to complicity in the abduction of political opponents of Lukashenka.

Human rights defenders before the court hearing in the case of Yuryi Harauski

According to Novy Chas, Yuryi Harauski was brought to court under the protection of Swiss special services. He is guarded very closely, and the minibus with him stopped literally at the door of the court. Harauski wore a hood and hid his face. Shooting in the courthouse was prohibited.

"Harauski speaks very quietly and looks depressed. He came to court with a crutch. When asked by the judge how he felt, the defendant replied that he was fine," the correspondent of Novy Chas reports from the courtroom. 

Garavsky refused to answer some of the judge's questions. The judge asked about SOBR and Dzmitryi Paulichenka and some other commanders of the unit.

"How did you get to know colonel Smirnou?" the judge asked.

"I will not answer this question."

"Why? You said this during the preliminary investigation."

"Yes. But I asked the prosecutor not to disclose this information."

The search engine indicates that colonel Smirnou was the head of military unit 5525, and this unit is the 6th separate special police brigade of the internal troops of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Belarus.

At the trial, Harauski spoke about the abduction and murder of Yuryi Zakharanka:

"When, on Pavlichenka's orders, we put Zakharanka in the car trunk, I already wanted to leave."

"Did you know that this person was Zakharanka?" the judge asks.

"At the time when I served, Zakharanka was the Minister of the Interior, of course, I knew who he was."

Harauski said that Yuryi Zakharanka was shot from the back. He added that he thought that Zakharanka would simply be taken out of the city for "a conversation", and did not know where he was being taken.

Yuryi Harauski in a blue hoody under vigilant guard. Photo: volhaklas / Telegram

The judge asked: 

"The gun which Zakharanka was shot with, is it used to carry out executions in Belarus?"


"How do you know? Had you held it in your hands?"

Harauski after a pause:

"I held a similar one."

"When did it become clear to you that Zakharanka was going to be killed?"

"When Paulichenka shot him."

Then Harauski said:

"Paulichenka gathered everyone in the morning and said that we were going to detain one or two people. We drove up to the sauna in two cars. Paulichenka told Uladzimir Butsko and me to go and see where and how we would carry out the detention. Pankou and I took Hanchar out of the car and put him on the ground. When breaking the glass, I already comprehended the gravity of the crime. I broke Hancharou's nose on purpose to make it bleed. Butsko and Baradach detained Krasouski. After that, the driver got into the car. The car was a black jeep. We drove towards Biahoml. On the way, when we drove to the ring road, we stopped in the parking lot, Paulichenka got out of the car, five minutes later another man came up and looked into the car. He ordered: raise your heads. And I heard this man's answer: yes, it's him. Paulichenka got into the car and we drove to Biahoml. In Biahoml, Paulichenka said to get them out of the car and put them next to each other. After that, Paulichenka came up and shot both of them in the back. He fired two shots each. After 5-10 minutes, he told me to undress them, and when I undressed Hanchar, I saw that he had no thumb on his left foot. I reached into his shoe and pulled out a special insole. We put all the things in one pile. Balynin came and took all the things."

Harauski claims that the bodies of Hanchar and Krasouski were subsequently buried by the participants of the "death squad", and their belongings were burned, except for shoes.

"Because they burn for a long time," Paulichenka added.

Harauski refuses previous testimony that he had the gun. He tells the judge that this is the result of a "bad translation".

Harauski answers the judge's questions very irritably.

The judge asks Harauski about the bloodstains that were found at the scene of the forcible abduction of Hanchar and Krasouski, asks what these stains are.

Harausky says that these are Hanchar's bloodstains and emphasizes that he deliberately broke the bridge of Hanchar's nose so that bloodstains would remain on the spot so that an investigation could begin, "because I already understood then that this was a crime."

The judge says that "it's very cruel." "You are completely right," Harauski replies. "But in many countries, when a person is detained, they put him on the ground to put handcuffs on him."

Those present in the hall reacted to this remark of Harauski with indignation.

Yuryi Harauski accused Paulichenka of attempting to murder him, Harausky, in 2008. At the same time, the judge mentioned his other words.

"You told Deutsche Welle that Paulichenka provided you with medicines when you were in the hospital after an accident, is that true?" the judge asks.

Harauski answers reluctantly, bypassing a direct answer.

The judge asked Harauski about his criminal past if it was true that he was convicted of extortion and was released early for "good behavior". Harauski nods his head.

"Does this mean that you are not some kind of a special agent, but an ordinary criminal?" the judge clarifies.

"I don't have an answer," Harauski says.

"DW made a killer out of me," Harauski continues. "Thanks. I didn't kill anyone. Other people did, why should I be responsible for it?"  Harauski says very emotionally.

"I want to convey to everyone that there is a terrible dictatorship in Belarus that kills people," he noted and added that at the time Paulichenka was released personally by dictator Lukashenka.

Harauski stated:

"First of all, I apologize to the family. I deeply regret my complicity in this."

Behind Harauski's back sits the daughter of Yuryi Zakharanka — Alena. But, reading out these words of forgiveness from the paper, Harauski continued to sit with his back to her and did not even turn around.

Harauski very often enters into disputes with the judge and often uses the expression "it was a wrong translation."

"What kind of punishment do you see for yourself?" the judge asks

Harauski replies that he cannot dictate to the court. "You know the laws of Switzerland and it's up to you to decide," Harauski said.

"The Migration Service did not believe your story. You were denied asylum. What are you going to do now?" the judge clarifies.

"I do not know. My passport expires next year, and dictator Lukashenka forbade renewing the passport abroad," says Harauski.

The judge asks who can confirm that Harauski is not in the service of the intelligence agencies.

"I don't know who can confirm this," says the defendant. "But if I stay in Switzerland, I will work, pay taxes, and be a law-abiding citizen."

When Harauski's interrogation by the prosecutor began, the latter immediately moved on to contradictions between the previous testimony of the ex-SOBR fighter and his current testimony, Novy Chas notes.

"You yourself said earlier that you took a gun out of the car and gave it to Paulichenka?

"Paulichenka took the gun out of the car and I saw it," Harauski snapped with irritation.

The prosecutor insists that the defendant had previously said three times that he himself took the gun and handed it to Paulichenka.

Harauski gets out of balance and says very loudly: "The questions were incorrectly formulated. Please formulate your questions correctly."

He continues to insist that he did not give Paulichenka the gun.

A representative of the migration service spoke at the trial. Harauski did not want to answer his questions. The migration official explained to the defendant that the migration service is not a court, and while he can refuse to testify in court, he must cooperate with the migration service.

"What documents do you have now, what gives you the right to stay in Switzerland?" the representative of the migration service asks.

"What's the difference, it's irrelevant. I am in Switzerland legally," Harauski replies.

"During the meeting, you turned off your microphone several times. Why did you do that?" the representative of the migration service asks.

Harauski looks lost and asks: "Did I turn it off? It was accidental, sorry."

The migration officer adds: "You did it each time Smirnou was mentioned..."

Harauski loses his temper and says: "I won't answer that question."

A break is announced.

The Swiss Prosecutor's Office has accused the ex-SOBR fighter of involvement in enforced disappearances. The authenticity of his words will be assessed by a judge and two jurors.

Latest news