Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Belarus Videotape Tells of 2 Murders

A videotape released in Belarus added new weight to allegations that a government-sponsored death squad murdered two major political opponents of President Alexander Lukashenko.

On the videotape, distributed Monday, two men, one identifying himself as an investigator for Belarus' KGB, say that members of a special military unit abducted the two Lukashenko opponents as they left a banya in September 1999, shot them in a forest and buried the bodies in a jeep in a sand-covered pit outside a military base.

The account is the latest in a series of accusations about how Lukashenko's government has terrorized and repressed its critics. With a presidential election set for Sept. 9, Lukashenko's opponents are hoping these reports will persuade the country's 10 million people to depose the president.

Lukashenko struck back at the opposition Tuesday and threatened to take harsh measures against his opponents after the election. "These missing people are only useful to them until Sept. 9," he told journalists in Minsk, Interfax reported. Lukashenko said he intended to "put up with it until Sept. 9, but after the 9th would impose order, as in France or as is done in the United States or, if you wish, in Russia."

Only one of the three television stations in Belarus aired the tape, and that station has the fewest number of viewers, according to Alexander Tomkovich, editor of Den, an independent newspaper in Minsk.

"The majority of people haven't seen this tape," Tomkovich said in a telephone interview. "The polls indicate that 40 percent of the people here in Belarus know nothing about these disappearances."

The tape was aired Monday on Russian channels NTV and TV6, though not on state channels ORT and RTR.

Lukashenko on Tuesday demanded that Russian channels provide "objective information," Interfax reported. If they do not, "those channels will not work on Belarussian territory after the election," he was quoted as saying.

Lukashenko said that in any case he will win the election and "you will have to live with this president, but we will not sell the country to anyone."

According to a transcript of the videotape posted on the web site of Charter 97, a human rights group in Belarus, the two men were filmed Saturday.

The men say on the tape that they decided to independently pursue the disappearance of opposition leader Viktor Gonchar and his business associate Anatoly Krasovsky after an official inquiry produced no results.

"Everyone seemed fine with the idea that these people vanished and the guilty ones could not be traced," says Gennady Uglyanitsa, who identifies himself as a KGB investigator.

Uglyanitsa had told his wife before going to work Monday that he would not come back, Interfax reported Tuesday, citing his father-in-law, scientist Radim Goretsky. Uglenitsa's family does not know where he is, the report said.

The two men based their account on the account of a driver for the military unit who witnessed the killings and has since gone into hiding, Uglyanitsa said.

According to Andrei Zhernosek, the second man on the tape, four soldiers abducted Gonchar and Krasovsky in a jeep, shot them, and returned to their barracks for dinner. The next day, according to Zhernosek, the soldiers dug a deep ditch, drove the jeep into it and concealed it with sand.

Zhernosek said he and Uglyanitsa, wearing camouflage and equipped with night-vision tools, located the pit with a U.S.-made metal detector.

The president said the men who made the tapes were taken to the West and "paid a lot of money."

Belarussian Interior Minister Vladimir Naumov said he traveled to the spot Tuesday. The earth had not been disturbed and no bodies were found.

Two former investigators at the Belarussian Prosecutor General's Office — Dmitry Petrushkevich and Oleg Sluchek — were given asylum in the United States in June. The U.S. State Department said they have provided credible evidence that Lukashenko's regime created a death squad in 1996 to dispose of political opponents.

(WP, MT, AP)