They are collecting information and waiting for their time.
On September 16, 1999 the leader of the Belarusian opposition Viktar Hanchar and his friend, a businessman Anatoly Krasouski, left a public bath house in central Minsk and disappeared without traces. Splinters of glass and traces of blood were found on the scene of the incident. Expert examination found out that the fragments of glass were from Krasouski’s jeep, and blood belonged to Hanchar. The abductors were not spotted.
In June 2001 officers of the Prosecutor’s Office Dzmitry Pyatrushkevich and Aleh Sluchak (Dmitry Petrushkevich and Oleg Sluchak) stated that a number of high-ranking officials and top officers of law-enforcing agencies of Belarus had been involved in abductions of opposition leaders and other serious crimes. The both officers immigrated to the US, where they were granted political asylum.
Today, on the day when Hanchar and Krasouski disappeared, the former investigator Aleh Sluchak answers the questions of charter97.org website.
Aleh, 15 years have passed since the day of kidnapping of Viktar Hanchar and Anatoly Krasouksi. In the nearest time the authorities plan to close investigation of these cases officially. In 2001 together with your colleague Zmitser Pyatrushkevich you revealed the awful truth: high-ranking Belarusian officials stand behind the abductions of the well-known persons in Belarus. “Squadrons of death” are active in the country. Your sensational evidence has been forgotten over these years. Let’s remind what you have been saying then.
After the referendum of 1996 the Secretary of the Security Council of Belarus Viktar Shejman gave an instruction to the commander of the Internal Troops Yury Sivakou to create a team which would be able to perform any orders including assassination. Sivakou ordered his subordinate officer of the special task brigade of the internal troops Dzmitry Paulichenka to choose people to carry out special operations.
A group was set up. Its members in different periods were former riot police officers Ihnatovich, Huz, Malik, Saushkin, as well as 5-6 persons who had not been established by investigation. The group was headed by Paulichenka. This group was ordered to elaborate a scheme of abduction, murder, and further burying of bodies. The scheme was to rule out discovery of the bodies. In fact, it was a task to work out a scheme of “ideal crime”, as if the body is not found, there is no crime.
In order to avoid identification in case the bodies are found, it was decided to use a handgun, which could not be established later, the gun which is used for carrying out a death penalty in Belarus. Paulichenka received that gun for one or two days, and after performing the order it was returned back.
After the detailed scheme of the “ideal crime” was elaborated and approved by the highest authorities, it was decided to try out this scheme on crime bosses. The first one was a mafia boss, “a thief in law” Shchavlik who went missing. Then a lesser crime boss Mamontyonok and other crime bosses living on the territory of Belarus disappear. Then rumors spread in criminal circles that the government had created a group which is engaged in abductions and murders.
After the abovementioned persons disappeared, no one made a fuss. This scheme was decided to be ideal, and the group was given more serious “orders”, political ones. The former Interior Affairs Minister Yury Zakharanka disappears, then Viktar Hanchar and Anatoly Krasouski, then a journalist Zmitser Zavadski.
All instructions for carrying out operations were received by Paulichenka directly from Sivakou. Sivakou received them from Sheiman. After Sivakou’s dismissal, the group fell under the full control of the new Interior Affairs Minister Uladzimir Navumau.
The investigation in the cases of the disappeared people was revitalized in autumn 2000. On November 23 the commander of the Interior Affairs’ Ministry’s Interior Troops task force brigade Dzmitry Paulichenko was arrested. His arrest was preceded by reports of the head of the remand prison #1 Aleh Alkaeu about seizure of the gun used for carrying out the death penalty, on the days preceeding disappearances of Zakharanka, Hanchar and Krasouski, and the report of the chief of the Main directoaret of the criminal police of the Interior Affairs Ministry Mikalai Lapatsik, who informed that all the missing had been killed (with mentioning the persons involved in the crimes) and the burial places (the special land lot in Northern (Paunochnyja) Cemetry) in Minsk.
However Paulichenka spent just a few hours in the remand prison. He was released on a personal order by Lukashenka. In a few days Prosecutor General Aleh Bazhelka and the Chairman of the KGB (State Security Committee) Uladzimir Matskevich lost their positions.
Out of all the heads of “death squadrons” mentioned by you only Sheiman remains in power. How can you explain his unsinkability?
Many times Shejman proved his irreplaceability and fidelity to Lukashenka. No matter what position he occupies today, he still has all the leverage. It is also not excluded that Sheiman has serious damaging information about his master.
He was given orders, wasn’t he? Yes, he was. All that could have been recorded. Who knows. He will not tell anything until placed to a prison cell…
Do you know what Paulichenka’s official occupation now is?
No, I do not know that. He is certainly allowed to earn crust. He is kept to hand, for him to keep his mouth shut.
If it was Paulichenka who was a commander of “death squadrons”, can he retire?
It is unlikely. Such monsters never retire. As after his release from the KGB remand prison in 2000 he repeated many times that in the future he was be ready to perform any order of president Lukashenka…
Are they the culprits of the assassination of Aleh Byabenin, charter97.org website’s founder?
As you have said yourself, the only one “unsinkable” person is left, and not all perpetrators had come to light.
Aleh was hanged indisputably. Who has done that? Who stands to gain from it? They do. Who was the perpetrator? I do not know. But the time will come when they will be asked questions, and they are to tell everything.
Have the international investigation and international public response made “death squadrons” change their tactics?
The pattern in crime is the same: “when there is no person – there is no problem”. The previous methods, abductions and murders, were a misstep, so why should they repeat the same. And the easiest thing is to imitate a suicide. But this time with Byabenin they have done everything in such an ungifted way, that it causes suspicion it had been done by the same people.
The events of December 2010 showed that “death squadrons” had not disappeared anywhere, and their participants were most likely to be in charge of disbanding protesters, kidnapping and beating of presidential candidates.
And the political field in Belarus had been “mopped up” already. Those who had not emigrated, are either imprisoned or have been just released and are going to be imprisoned again soon. Others are either pretending they are “a political sphere” or collaborate with the regime.
Many of those who had been called perpetrators of political crimes (former riot policemen Ihnatovich, Malik, Huz, Saushkin, Vasilyeu) – were locked up on charges related to criminal offenses. The crimes were so severe that they could have been sentenced to capital punishment. Why haven’t they been shot down, to cover all the things up by that?
A trial would sentence them to a capital punishment for sure now, but then they simply didn’t know what to do. They were still young and were learning.
But do we know whether these riot policemen are alive? Who knows where all those maliks and saushkins are now? Are they in prison at all? Or are they at large long ago? No one knows there whereabouts for sure.
Well, here is the latest news about Ihnatovich. His father claims that he is dying in prison now: he is almost blind, almost completely immobile, but every day he repeats he is innocent.
I do not know what is happening to Ihnatovich now, but the spade with the traces of biological material of Zmitser Zavadski was found in the trunk of his car. He is a real thug, he felt total impunity, so he didn’t find it necessary to hide it.
Why was it necessary to imprison them at all? The old tested “cadres” are always better than the new ones.
But they were caught. There are and there will always be decent people in the prosecutor’s office and in police. It’s impossible to stop everyone’s mouth.
Only Paulichenka was released on Lukashenka’s order. He was an intermediary, while others were executors, mere pawns.
After Sheiman became a Prosecutor General, the disappearances’ cases were simply soft-pedaled, and taken under total control. Such things that happened under Bazhelka, when Paulichenka was arrested, could not occur any more. So investigation was removed from the prosecutor’s office later.
Besides, the world community should have been calmed down. That is why pawns were imprisoned.
People engaged in investigation of “death squads” activities, died very strange deaths. The investigator S. Bajkova who started the investigation at the primary stage; the KGB criminal investigator S. Narkevich, who brought the materials of operational investigation to the prosecutor’s office, as well as M. Snyahir, a deputy prosecutor general then, when the time came, were sentenced to different penalties on different criminal charges. A. Tkachenka, who was in charge of the Operational and Analytical Centre, died under mysterious circumstances. Does it mean that law-enforcers are disposed of in the same way as oppositionists?
Yes, it’s true. It started in the prosecutor’s office even when we worked there with Dzmitry Pyatrushkevich. People started to die. Two young guys died of heart attacks within two weeks. Then a witness died. There was an impression a concrete “purge” started, so we decided to escape.
I think, Bajkova and Snyahir fell victims to the struggle of clans in the prosecutor’s office. As for Tkachenka… I remember that story, though there was so little information. He died in a car incident in Masherau Avenue, he was buried in a closed coffin. It’s a strange story.
It’s a pity no one is saying anything more any longer. They are afraid! We are going to learn the whole truth about these evens after the change of the regime and a full independent investigation of its activities, after every involved brought to responsibility.
After your evidence was published in 2001, one of the high-ranking KGB officers, on the condition of anonymity certainly, confirmed your evidence to charter97.org. What was the reason for his actions?
As I have said, there are normal people in the law-enforcement agencies. Many of them know the truth, but are not ready to tell yet, they are waiting in the wings.
Some of them shared their knowledge through us. We have not found out everything ourselves; there were people who helped us. We have lost touch with them now, as there was such a mayhem at the prosecutor’s office after our departure, that it hardly could be described by words…
Many key defendants in this high-profile case prefer to live in Russia now. Navumau, Bazhelka, Matskevich are in Moscow. Does it mean that today the leadership of Russia has “lethal” compromising materials against Lukashenka, and this allows keeping him on a short leash?
Though they belong to one gang, they certainly have compromising materials.
What could you say to policemen who are committing or covering over crimes today?
Study history. One has to answer for everything. Those who cover up crimes silently, would have to deal with their conscience, and those who are actively participating in crimes, are to be punished definitely.
I address my former collegaues. If you cannot speak now, collect information. Everything will be useful later.
They may close the disappearances cases. But investigation is sure to be renewed after the regime change.
Nazi criminals are still hunted for. The same expects Belarus. No one will be forgotten.
Do you regret you told the truth? You risked your life.
I do not think about that any more. It was to be done. Who would do that if not me?