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(l-r) 'Unknown Belarus' sound engineer Maksim Gavrilenko, director Vladimir Mikhailovski, and documentary filmmaker Lyubov Zemtsova.

Remembering Our 'Unknown Belarus' Colleagues

RFE/RL is devastated by the loss of Vladimir Mikhailovski and Maksim Gavrilenko, two colleagues with the documentary project “Unknown Belarus,” who died in a car accident on May 14 in Belarus. We mourn Lyubov Zemtsova, the project's director, who died on May 22 from injuries sustained in the crash.

RFE/RL is devastated by the loss of Vladimir Mikhailovski and Maksim Gavrilenko, two colleagues with the documentary project “Unknown Belarus” who died in a car crash on May 13 in Belarus. A third colleague, the independent filmmaker Lyubov Zemtsova, was critically injured and remains in a coma in a Minsk hospital.

Speaking on behalf of the company on May 14, RFE/RL President Jamie Fly said, “These young filmmakers were brilliant, talented and inspiring people, and part of a new initiative we launched to bring the best stories from Belarus to audiences that know little or nothing about the country’s people.” He offered hope and prayers that Lyubov recovers.

In this space, we are posting tributes to Vladimir and Maksim, and messages of strength and hope to Lyubov.

May 16, 2020

Dear Jamie,

My condolences to you and colleagues. I was shocked to learn of the tragedy this week involving our colleagues in Belarus. I know very well how such an event touches the entire company.

To the families and friends of Vladimir Mikhailovski and Maksim Gavrilenko, my condolences. For Lyubov Zemtsova, my prayers for recovery.

The people at RFE/RL you lead are strong and resilient. The mission, as you and I both know, is noble. People will band together. I’m happy you are there.

I look forward to a visit with you again soon in Prague, perhaps in Fall.

Very best,


Jeff Gedmin was the president of RFE/RL from 2007 – 2010.

Note from USAGM Chairman Weinstein and CEO Turner

Mikhailovski, Gavrilenko and Zemtsova were striving to bring accurate, unbiased, and professional news and information about COVID-19 to audiences in Belarus, a country where disinformation about the pandemic persists in news headlines. Their work exemplifies how journalism is an essential lifeline, bringing the most consequential story of our time to the darkest corners of the globe.

May 19, 2020

Dear Jamie: I was very sorry to hear about the tragic accident on May 14 which carried away the lives of your colleagues Uladzimer Mikhaylouski and Maksim Haurylenka. I was also saddened to learn that Lyubou Zyamtsova was severely injured in the accident and that she remains in intensive care. I am as always impressed by the younger generation of Belarusians like Uladzimer, Maksim, and Lyubou. Their creativity, perseverance, and dedication was evident in their work. My thoughts are with you and the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty team. Once again, my sincere condolences to you on the loss of Ulazimer and Maksim, and my sincere hopes that Lyubou will recover quickly.


Jenifer H. Moore

Charge d'Affaires U.S. Embassy Minsk

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