Dashkevich complains to prosecutors about demolition of Kurapaty crosses

Opposition activist Zmitser Dashkevich submitted a complaint about last week’s demolition of memorial crosses at a Stalin-era mass execution site to the Prosecutor General’s Office on Monday.

The complaint described the demolition of the crosses at Kurapaty as an “act of state vandalism.” Noting that the crosses had been made and erected by him and his associates, Mr. Dashkevich said that their removal from the site was nothing but the “theft of property belonging to hundreds of people who donated their money for the crosses.”

Mr. Dashkevich stressed that the crosses had been pulled down and taken away without any formal orders or permits issued by authorities.

The activist noted that a state-owned road construction and maintenance company had given him and his five associates until April 19 to remove the 13 crosses marking Kurapaty’s northern boundary along a section of the Kalodzishchy-Zaslawye highway.

“The order was signed on April 1 and arrived at our mailboxes on April 5, one day after the crosses were demolished,” said Mr. Dashkevich. “We were ordered to remove the crosses by April 19 while the crosses were barbarically destroyed on April 4. The order applied to 13 crosses but 70 were pulled down.”

Mr. Dashkevich demanded that the Prosecutor General’s Office explain why the crosses had been removed 15 days before the deadline and why the activists had not been given an opportunity to contest the company’s order in court.

He also demanded that the agency explain why workers had demolished 70 crosses and not just the 13 crosses mentioned by the company.

“I demand that the prosecutor’s office answer these questions and also say where we can collect the 70 crosses that belong not to state vandals but to the people who donated money for them,” said the complaint.

Kurapaty is a woody place just outside Minsk where thousands of people are believed to have been executed by the NKVD secret police in the 1930s and 1940s.

Speaking on the day when the crosses were removed, Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s press secretary said that Kurapaty was being put to rights by order of the Belarusian leader.

“During the [March 1] ‘Big Conversation with the President,’ the head of state promised that Kurapaty would be put to rights,” Natallya Eysmant said. “The relevant agencies were given a directive to do this. This place should be landscaped. This is an unambiguous position of the president. Our people are buried there, you know. But everything should be done in a proper manner, in accordance with our customs and religious traditions, and according to plan. Everything will be done for this place to look proper and be free of politics.”

Mr. Lukashenka claimed on March 1 that opposition activists used the commemoration of those killed at Kurapaty for their own propaganda purposes.

As the Belarusian leader said, a modest memorial was put up at the site by his order to commemorate those executed there, but his opponents attacked him for allegedly trying to seize the initiative from them.

According to him, it does not matter to him who killed people at Kurapaty, the Stalin regime or the Nazis. “Are you sure that it was not the Nazis who shot dead Jews, Belarusians, Ukrainians, Russians at that place?” he said.

Mr. Lukashenka said that he was opposed to unauthorized demonstrations staged at Kurapaty and indicated his discontent with the so-called people’s memorial at the site.

“There should be no demonstrations and crosses there,” he said. “Why did you put up those white crosses there? Were you permitted by the Church to do that?”