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Confess this is hard to believe
Written by   
, 14 2011

ImageBelarusian law enforcements took less than two days to identify and detain those suspected of committing the terrorist act

At ‘May Day’ station Iwalk through a metal detector, the likes of which had never been seen on the Minsk subway until after the April 11th terrorist attack, just as there never used to be police patrols. Thepeople in camouflage uniforms and berets showed up a few hours after the tragedy, while the stationary metal detectors were installed the following day.

My compact travel bag did not summon interest from law enforcement, but a disheveled guy who passed me just before the subway entrance was stopped and searched. Itdid not take long. Thepolice worked quickly, politely, and without irritation.

On the surface, the center of almost every building displays the national flag of Belarus with black mourning ribbons.

There are crowds at the bus stops, but no one gets it into their head to storm the public transport. People line up in calm, patient queues. TheMoscow line (the end station of the line is actually the beginning of the route that leads to Moscow) is closed, and so the load on surface transport in this area has increased many fold. According to Viktor Tozik, deputy general manager of Minsktrans, bus route number 100, which duplicates the line underground, instead of the usual 24buses has 78. Eventhe threefold increase in the amount of public transport, however, is unable to handle the passenger traffic.

On Independence Square, all eyes are turned to the entrance of ‘October’ station, where there are posted pictures of the twelve who died on April 11th. Under the photographs is a huge collection of flowers and lighted candles. Several dozen police officers block the entrance to the station itself, but do not prevent people from bringing flowers and candles.

Here Imeet Yulia Shoiga, director of the Center for Extreme Psychological Care of the Russian Emergencies Ministry. Tenspecialists from the center arrived in Minsk on April 12th, and on that same day they went to work at four Minsk medical institutions. Iasked if Belarusians differ in their reactions from people in other countries who have experienced similar tragedies. Yulia says that Belarusians suffer the deaths and injuries of loved ones more stoically, without hysteria, and when faced with the tragedy they become more united.

Eyewitnesses of the events of April 11th also indicate this. Hereis one detail from the evening: when the subway ceased operating after the blast, taxis and minibuses did not inflate their fares, but, conversely, started taking people home forfree.

In the city center on the morning of April 12th there were already lines of city residents forming up at the blood transfusion department of Hospital number 6, at the Emergency Hospital, in Medical Clinic number 9, and in the blood transfusion departments of other metropolitan hospitals. Theyhad come to donate blood, and all refused compensation.

Minsk political analyst Yuri Shevtsov believes that this was due to a powerful emotional surge that over the short term will unite the public around President Alexander Lukashenko. During this hour of tragedy, state institutions worked very well, he said, and objectively this can not but lead to increased confidence in the institutions of government.

Especially since Belarusian law enforcement took less than two days to identify and detain those suspected of committing the terroristact.

According to the Belarus Interior Minister Anatoly Kuleshov, at five o’clock in the morning of April 13th, an operation carried out by troops from the ‘Almaz’ commando unit ended, culminating in the arrest of three (by Thursday afternoon the number had increased to five ed.) alleged terrorists. Kuleshov also stated that at least one of the suspects was involved in the bombings in Vitebsk and Minsk in 2005and 2008.

Vadim Zaitsev, chairman of the Belarus KGB, delicately thanked his colleagues from Russia and Israel for their help in carrying out search operations, and revealed details of the investigation: more than 2,500 persons were questioned, surveillance camera recordings were analyzed to provided a detailed sketch of the alleged perpetrators as well as their psychological profiles. This, he said, also helped put the police on the trail of the terrorists, establish their whereabouts, and make arrests.

When asked about the identity of the perpetrators, the head of the Belarus KGB said: “These are sick people, not just because of their mental state, but also in their ambitions. Weassumed that the offender was some sort of a super-professional, but it turns out that some very unprofessional people can act like this.”

A little earlier Alexander Lukashenko reported on the terror attack being solved by saying: “It is monstrous, but the fact is that all these wretches who committed the crime worked in normal professions one was a lathe operator, another an electrician.” Comparing the words of the president with those of the Belarus KGB, we can assume that in the near future there will be a theory put forward, that the motive for the crime was the heinous unrealized ambition of someone who worked either as a lathe operator, or a mechanic, and with a learning disability to boot. Andmost importantly the crime was not formoney.

In Belarus, however, there are people who doubt the sincerity of the security services. Thevice-chairman of the United Civil Party, Lev Margolin, admitted that he was surprised at how rapid the crime was solved: “Given the severity of the offense, the public should expect exhaustive proof of these people’s guilt, because they have confessed to an act which carries the death penalty. Wedo not have a moratorium on the death penalty, and it is used rather regularly. Thatis why we hope that there will be a transparent, open trial. Notjust for the court and the prosecutor, but so that the public can assess whether there is sufficient evidence to be sure that those being punished are those actually responsible for it, that the perpetrators were actually found, rather than appointed. Because it is worrisome that these people confessed to involvement in all three attacks that have occurred in the republic. Thefirst bombing in 2005in Vitebsk occurred when one of the suspects was only 19.”

The events surrounding terrorist attack, the investigation, and arrest of suspects may well push the economic crisis from the public consciousness. Atthe beginning of April, the public was in a completely different mood. According to political scientist Shevtsov, they were in a panic. People lived in expectation of a default, and prices were soaring. Forexample, buckwheat in Minsk stores today, when converted to the Russian ruble, is much more expensive than in Russia, about 180rubles. Gasoline costs about 35rubles (again, when converted to the Russian ruble). OnApril 14th, a protest by motorists was planned, and this could have become the largest non-political, social protest ever. OnApril 14th, the Central Bank of Belarus immediately increased the refinancing rate by 1%.

Today there is no rush on the money exchange kiosks, but only because there is no foreign currency. Whenever Igo to the exchange, as soon as Ihand over my currency Russian rubles they are immediately bought by others.

Yuri Shevtsov explains that the shortage of foreign currency is because, during in the first quarter of 2011, Belarusians exchanged a very large amount of currency for this country about 1.8 billion US dollars, of which about a billion was spent on the used car market. People were trying to buy as many cars as possible before an almost sevenfold increase in import taxes expected in early summer due to the realignment of customs duties between Belarus and Russia.

Shevtsov is certain that the economic situation in the republic is quite tolerable. Hesays that even the IMF and World Bank predict GDP growth of around 6% for Belarus in 2011.

Categorically disagreeing with Shevtsov is another well-known Belarusian political scientist, Leonid Zaiko, head of the Minsk ‘Strategy’ center. Inhis view, the rise in prices for essential commodities leads to an acceleration of inflation. “We must honestly admit,” says the political scientist. “That the economic policy of subsidies in this country has failed. Lukashenko has instructed law enforcement to prevent the spreading of rumors about economic problems, and actually treats this with legal sanctions. Ofcourse, you can put rumors to rest, but even if there are no rumors about no foreign currency in the exchange kiosks that will not make foreign currency appear there. Suppressing rumors about rising prices will not stop rising prices or increase the amount of goods available.”

Zaiko is certain that Belarus has already de facto begun a transition to a wartime regimen of rationing.

What Shevtsov and Zaiko agree on is that Belarus urgently needs 3billion US dollars a Russian loan, the negotiations on which are almost complete. After the terrorist attack in the Minsk metro, according to Belarusian political analysts, Russia has practically no choice but to allocate the money, and without applying any severe conditions, since these funds would be viewed in Belarus and abroad as aid to a country that has suffered a terrorist attack.

Meanwhile

On April 13th, the very same day that President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus said that the perpetrators of terrorist attacks had been identified and arrested, an event occurred, which many Belarusians in the near future may never even know. Onthat same day in Minsk city court, the prosecutor’s office submitted a criminal case against Sergei Martselev, Pavel Severinets, and our own ‘Novaya Gazeta’ correspondent, Irina Khalip. Theyare charged with committing an offense under Article 342, paragraph 1of the Belarus Criminal Code: the organization and preparation of activities that constitute a breach of public order, or active participation in such. Thepenalty is either a fine, or arrest for up to six months, or restriction of liberty for up to three years, or imprisonment for the same period.

A source close to the president of Belarus on condition of anonymity told me that today, after the attack, Alexander Lukashenko no longer rules out a manifestation of humanity towards opposition members now under arrest. Itis possible that they will be released from prison and exiled from Belarus. “Today,” my companion told me. “Alexander Grigorievich (Lukashenko) may allow himself to show magnanimity towards those whom he imagines his political opponents.”

In ‘Novaya Gazeta’
http://www.novayagazeta.ru/data/2011/040/06.html


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