(Washington, DC--July 26, 2001) Lyudmilla Karpenko, the wife of dead opposition leader Gennady Karpenko, told an RFE/RL audience that "2001 is a crucial year for Belarus, because the presidential election to be held September 9 will determine the future of our country and ourselves."
Along with the wives of three others who have "disappeared" in Alyaksandr Lukashenka's Belarus, she called for the establishment of an international commission to look into these cases and into the state of human rights in Belarus.
If Lukashenka remains in office after the election, Karpenko said, "the fear, bitterness, and poverty will continue; human rights will be abused further and labor, the free press and even the right to life will be threatened."
Karpenko and the three others stressed that their cases are no longer exceptional and that they had come to the West to call attention to this tragedy.
Lyudmilla Karpenko believes that her husband, Gennady, the Vice Speaker of Belarus' disbanded 13th Supreme Soviet and a leading member of the democratic opposition who launched impeachment procedures against Lukashenka, was killed by the Belarusian KGB when he died in hospital on April 1999 of a brain hemorrhage. Karpenko's death ended five years of KGB harassment.
Irina Krasovskaya said that her husband, Anatoly Krasovsky, was a businessman who supported the opposition and was a good friend of Victor Gonchar, the chair of the Central Electoral Commission. He and Gonchar were abducted by masked men in public on September 16, 1999. Their whereabouts now are unknown. She said that they both are presumed dead.
Svetlana Zavadskaya said that her husband, Dimitry Zavadsky, who was formerly a cameraman in Lukashenka's entourage but left that job to work for the Russian TV channel ORT, disappeared on July 7, 2000. He has not been seen or heard from since.
And Tatiana Klimova said her husband, Andrei Klimov, a member of Belarus' disbanded parliament and an active opposition leader, was arrested in February 1998 on politically motivated charges and sentenced to six years in prison. Thanks to the intervention of the OSCE, Klimov has since been transferred to a penal colony to serve out his term. Mrs. Klimova called on the international community to continue to speak out on behalf of him and all the others.