Thursday, October 20, 2005

Murder in Belarus

The Belarus resistance site Charter 97 has some disturbing articles about political murders of journalists in Belarus.
The body of Vasil Grodnikov, a writer on political and social affairs for the independent Minsk-based Narodna Wola newspaper, was discovered by his brother lying next to a telephone in his home in Zaslaul, near the capital, on Tuesday (18 October) morning.

The reporter`s family claims he was murdered, saying his head and the wallpaper were covered with blood but with no signs of a break-in to the property, according to a statement forwarded to the Belarusian NGO Charter 97.

One western embassy in Minsk told EUobserver that an internal police report confirms the family`s fears and states that Mr Grodnikov was killed by a blow to the head with a blunt instrument.

But a different opinion appears to have been given by the editor-in-chief of Narodna Wola, Iosif Syaredzich, who was quoted by the BelPAN news agency as saying that following telephone conversations with government investigators, he had "no grounds even for supposing that he has been murdered".

The Brussels office chief of NGO Democratic Belarus, Olga Stuzhinksaya, indicated that "No one really wants to make any statements at this stage", adding "It [the BelPAN report] doesn`t make any sense to me".

Narodna Wola is currently printed in small runs in Smolensk, Russia, after Belarusian state printers pulled the paper`s contract earlier this month.
There is also an item about journalist Veranika Charkasava, who was brutally murdered one year ago today in her own apartment in Minsk:
The criminals have not been found. Professionalism of our policemen has failed again. And again investigators are unproductive in the high-profile case.

The body of Veranika Charkasava was found by her son and step-father. Veranika’s colleagues were alarmed when punctual Veranika had not come to the editorial office in the morning, and was not answering the phone. Worried journalists contacted her family. When her son and stepfather came to the apartment, Veranika was dead…

In the first days of investigation investigators inclined to an opinion that Veranika’s murder was caused by everyday reasons. At the same time the version of the murder’s connection to with her professional activities was voiced. Charkasava wrote about religious sects at the territory of Belarus. However, her colleagues specified that she wrote about sects long ago. Recently she wrote bright articles about interesting people. At the same time, journalists wanted to attract attention of the investigators to the fact that in spring of the year 2004 the “Solidarity” newspaper published a series of articles headlined “The KGB is still watching you”. Earlier the journalist was writing about contracts of Iraqi firms connected with Infobank (which is called Trustbank now).
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