Belarus Complicating the Hlybokaye Case

Andrzej Poczobut, Grodno

Based on a preliminary medical examination of the human remnants in the cellar of the Orthodox cathedral in Hlybokaye, there are reasons to believe that the victims died a violent death - writes the official daily Sovetskaya Belorussiya. This could confirm the hypothesis that the murderers were from the NKVD and the victims were Poles.

The article in Sovetskaya Belorussiya marks an unexpected shift in Minsk's position. As recently as Friday the local prosecutor's office abandoned the version that the victims had been killed by the Nazis. It said, though, that there was no evidence to indicate violent death. In other words, that those were not NKVD victims, although it is known from elsewhere that between 1949-1941 in Hlybokaye and thereabouts special NKVD units executed Poles, such as those kept in the major prison in the nearby monastery complex in Berezvech. Among the objects found with the remnants discovered in the vaults of the Birth of the Holiest Mother of God cathedral were, for instance, a cigarette pack from Warsaw's Progress tobacco factory and fragments of a pre-1939 Polish passport.

Sovetskaya Belorussiya invalidates the prosecutor office's version, without settling who is responsible for the death of the Hlybokaye victims. Another government paper, Vecherniy Minsk, published an interview yesterday with father Alexander Ledokhovich, the Orthodox priest who was among the first people to see the remnants. 'They were killed with inhuman brutality,' said father Ledokhovich, but he doesn't say how the victims were killed.

Jaroslav Bernikovich, leader of the Hlybokaye branch of the opposition For Freedom movement, says that the divergence between the prosecutor's office and the official media suggests that the authorities was to exploit the case for their own purposes.

'This is a message, to Russia in the first place, that it is Minsk that decides what to do with this case. It can sat that the NKVD is responsible or that these are bones from the 18th century,' Mr Bernikovich told Gazeta.

He also pointed out that president Alexander Lukashenko's relations with Moscow had recently become much cooler, including, for instance, Russia introducing an embargo on Belarussian dairy imports. Mr Bernikovich says it is possible that Minsk wants to put prime minister Vladimir Putin in an awkward position ahead of his planned 1 September visit to Warsaw.

Mr Lukashenko, the Belarussian dictator, has long been openly fascinated with Felix Dzerzhinsky, the creator of the Soviet terror apparatus, who was born in what is Belarus today, and with Joseph Stalin. On 17 September, Belarus will hold major celebrations of the 70th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Poland in 1939, presented by the official propaganda as an act of the country's unification. Some of the major ceremonies are to take place in Brest, where in 1939 the German and Soviet troops held a joint parade to celebrate the victory over Poland.

An ultimate answer to the question of when and how the Hlybokaye victims died is to be provided by Belarussian medical experts on the basis of a detailed examination. Gazeta has learned unofficially that the experts are not expected to issue an official report before end-August.

translated by Marcin Wawrzynczak

Zrodlo: Gazeta Wyborcza



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