Hoping to contain the growth of pro-democracy and pro-independence political forces, President Aleksandr Lukashenko’s authorities are now openly targeting opposition leaders across the political spectrum. In recent days, systematic acts of repression have been directed at: the forcibly dissolved parliament’s chairman, Syamyon Sharetsky (Agrarian); its first vice-chairman, Vasyl Novikau (moderate-wing Communist) and vice-chairman, Henadz Karpenka (head of the opposition’s "shadow government"); former parliamentary chairman, Myachislau Hryb; deputies Mikalay Statkevich (Social-Democrats), Stanislau Bahdankevich, Anatol Lyabedzka (United Civic party), Pavel Znavets, and Alyaksandr Kryzhanausky; Popular Front leader Yurii Khadyka; and other opposition figures. Measures against them variously include apartment searches and the posting of police squads outside their homes, interrogation at police precincts, fines up to the maximum level of 16 average monthly salaries (20 million Belarusan rubles), administrative detention up to five days, and initiation of criminal court cases against them.
These actions imply the lifting of the parliamentarians’ immunity. However, the OSCE, Council of Europe, and other international organizations, as well as most other countries (with the sole known exception of Russia) continue to recognize the dissolved parliament as legitimate and its members as enjoying immunity. (Belapan, Interfax, Western agencies, March 21-24. CPJ release March 24)
The repressive measures have also targeted, among others, former defense minister, Lt. Gen. Pavel Kazlausky; former internal affairs minister, Maj. Gen. Yurii Zakharenka; and former commander of the Security Ministry special troops brigade, Col. Uladzimir Baradach. These senior officers supported Belarusan independence before Lukashenko came to power and discharged them. Recently, the three have openly supported the opposition. (Belapan, March 21-23) Their stand suggests that the opposition has viable candidates for managing these ministries in the hypothetical event that Lukashenko is forced to give up power.
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