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Organisers of acts of terror in Minsk underground put to death

March 19, 2012, 12:09 UTC+3

The sentence was enforced after only three and a half months after being imposed

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MOSCOW, March 19 (Itar-Tass) — Dmitry Konovalov and Vladislav Kovalev found guilty of having organised an act of terror in Minsk’s underground were put to death in Belarus. Media points to strange haste of the execution. The sentence was enforced after only three and a half months after being imposed. Usually those sentenced to death wait for their fate for about a year. The haste shooting would be considered by the West as a major challenge, experts say. Newspapers wonder why President Lukashenko would want that demonstration of cruelty.

Konovalov and Kovalev were accused of committing an act of terror in the Oktyabrskaya Station of the Minsk underground in April of 2011, the Rossiiskaya Gazeta writes. The explosion claimed 15 victims, and 300 people were wounded. Investigation managed to find the suspects due to video recording. During the investigation, Konovalov confirmed he had made the explosive device. Besides, he was accused of the act of terror in Vitebsk in 2005. That time, the explosion killed 50.

The suspected terrorists were found within several days of the explosion, the Nezavisimaya Gazeta reports. On September 15, open court hearings began, and the death sentence was voiced on November 30. During the court and after presentation of the sentence, experts doubted the guilt of the young men was proved. Reporters wrote many publications on conflicting proofs. Vladislav Kovalev, who was by the way accused not of an act of terror, but of a failure to report, told the court about having been pressed during the investigation. His death sentence seemed too cruel even for supporters of strict measures.

Besides the “Medieval character of the punishment”, local experts pay attention to violation of procedures. “This quick enforcement of the sentence is outrageous. The supervisory claim had not been considered yet by the UN human rights committee,” human rights activist Tatyana Revyako said. Commenting on the reasons of the immediate execution, experts say that the power simply wanted to get rid of evidences as soon as possible.

Many people in Belarus doubt the accused were guilty, the Kommersant reports. The reasons of Belarus’ investigators were not shared by specialists invited from the Russian Federation or Israel. The Russian experts doubted a non-professional could make the explosive device which went off in the underground in Minsk. The main aspect being that the execution of Dmitry Konovalov and Vladislav Kovalev was made in clear hurry: three and a half months after presentation of the verdict and immediately following the presidential denial to pardon them.

“Usually, death sentences in Belarus are executed a year or two after the verdict, in case any new aspects of the case may appear,” political scientist Viktor Demidov told reporters. “I do not rule out this abnormally quick execution under the high-profile case is explained by fear that during a fair investigation Konovalov and Kovalev might tell something, about what they should be silent forever. The version about a provocation of intelligence services remains very popular in Belarus’ society.”

The West has condemned the execution in Belarus considering it an “insult” from Alexander Lukashenko, the newspaper writes. A reaction from the international community, without any doubt, will be very tough, MEP Kristina Ojuland of Estonia said. The same is true about the European Union, she continued. In two weeks we shall reiterate the delayed resolution on Belarus. The executions will without doubt affect contents of the document, she said.

Belarusian political scientist Olga Abramova told the Kommersant Alexander Lukashenko is not desperate about normalisation of relations with the EU now. The expert explains this position by the “factor of Moscow”: while Alexander Lukashenko enjoys the oil and gas subsidies from Russia, he does not care much about new financial investments from the West.

Europe must have doubted the sentence of Kovalev and Konovalov would be immediate, the Novye Izvestia writes. This is why the European Parliament adopted on March 15 a decision to postpone for late March the final voting on the draft resolution on Belarus, which introduces economic sanctions and contains a call to deprive Minsk of the World Hockey Championship in 2014. Only a couple days earlier, several European politicians asked Lukashenko not to kill Konovalov and Kovalev. Now they are presenting to relatives of the executed their condolences and condemn unanimously the execution of the death sentence.

So why did Alexander Lukashenko want that demonstrative and rather senseless cruelty, the Vedomosti asks. There seems to be two answers. First of all, anyone planning to start fighting Lukashenko should mind his own life is at stake. Secondly, Belarus’ citizens may be proud of their unbending president.

What is positive at least is that the integration of Russia and Belarus has not as yet reached a stage of unifying law enforcement practice, and Russians may also be proud of unbending Dmitry Medvedev, who observes the moratorium on state murder, the newspaper writes.

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