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Monday, 18 June, 2001, 18:14 GMT 19:14 UK
Belarus dissidents 'killed by death squad'
Alexander Lukashenko
President Lukashenko faces elections in September
By Eurasia analyst Steven Eke

Belarus has been rocked in recent days by allegations that key political opponents of the country's President, Alexander Lukashenko, were assassinated by a death squad working for the country's senior leadership.

The idea that Mr Lukashenko's disappeared opponents might have been murdered is not a new one but until now, the allegations have remained just that.

Now new light has been shed by an e-mail, sent by two former staff members of the prosecutor's office, to Belarus's most popular state-owned and independent newspapers.

In it, they allege the complicity of the country's leadership in the murder of a former interior minister, a former deputy prime minister, and Dmitrii Zavadski, who once worked as Mr Lukashenko's personal cameraman.

'Deliberately scuppered'

One of the men to sign the e-mail was also one of the investigating officers in the Zavadski case.

He has revealed that the former head of Belarus's security council, Viktor Sheyman, who worked directly to the president, personally scuppered the investigation into the disappearances when he ordered the release of the murder suspects, who had been detained by the Belarussian security service.

Mr Sheyman was then promoted to be Prosecutor General of Belarus, despite his lack of legal education, and the investigation into the disappearances came to a sudden halt.

The current assistant to the Belarussian prosecutor general angrily dismissed the claims and promised to bring charges of "breaching secrecy".

But with Belarus's presidential elections due in September, the stakes in this normally apathetic country are higher than ever.

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See also:

07 Jun 01 | Europe
The disappeared of Belarus
19 Jun 98 | Europe
Alexander Lukashenko: a profile
16 Oct 00 | Europe
Belarus vote condemned
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