Whom to Blame for the 11 April Terrorist Attack?

In less than two days after the 11 April attack, Aliaksandr Lukashenka announced that the investigation resulted in capture of the suspected terrorist. According to Belarusian security services, the terrorist was a mentally ill person who had constructed a unique radio-controlled explosive device using the internet.

Police also detained a few more people from Vitsebsk, a regional center in Northern Belarus, in connection with the blast. The authorities also announced that the same people prepared two other blasts in public places in 2005 and 2008. The team of investigators, led by Andrei Shved, shared little evidence to support their findings. The authorities also made sure that their findings were not questioned in the state-controlled media. As a result, the Belarusian public remains very suspicious.

For instance, the leading Belarusian portal tut.by (which is not linked to the opposition) showed that over 60% of people polled linked the terrorist act with the authorities. The portal had to promptly remove those results from their website in order not to anger Belarusian authorities. Polls on opposition web sites showed even more mistrust towards the officially announced version.

President Lukashenka continues to hint at links between the opposition and the blast without giving any evidence to support it. Yesterday several human rights activists were detained in connection with the blast. No further details of their alleged involvement were given. In less than two days after the 11 April attack, Aliaksandr Lukashenka announced that the investigation resulted in capture of the suspected terrorist. According to Belarusian security services, the terrorist was a mentally ill person who had constructed a unique radio-controlled explosive device using the internet. Police also detained a few more people from Vitsebsk, a regional center in Northern Belarus, in connection with the blast.

The authorities also announced that the same people prepared two other blasts in public places in 2005 and 2008. The team of investigators, led by Andrei Shved, shared little evidence to support their findings. The authorities also made sure that their findings were not questioned in the state-controlled media. As a result, the Belarusian public remains very suspicious.

Belarusian authorities prevent any discussion of the terrorist act in state-controlled media. As a result, Belarusians have to relieve their thirst for uncensored information on Internet. The number of visits to independent and opposition web sites has grown significantly. Although web sites such as charter97.org were blocked in Belarusian state establishments and suffered from DOS attacks, their popularity is much higher than that of the state-run media. Last week, the authorities issued official warnings to the leading independent newspapers – Nasha Niva and Narodnaya Volya and several journalists. Nasha Niva may now be shut down at any time.

The reason for the Nasha Niva warning was that the newspaper published information that while Lukashenka was visiting the crime scene there was a young woman still alive. It appears that the woman was not there, but subsequently released pictures showed there were a number of uncovered dead bodies when Lukashenka visited the scene.

Belarusian authorities cracked down not only on independent newspapers and internet web sites, but also on individual bloggers for “spreading rumours”. Several people were detained for posting untruthful information on the internet. Massive repressions, however, against the opposition comparable to the post-election crackdown have not yet followed. With the exception of the yesterday’s detentions, the authorities primarily use the terrorist act for propaganda purposes.

Both the opposition and the authorities accuse each other of using the terrorist act to reach their immediate political goals. Mutual accusations of the regime and the opposition in organizing the terrorist act show just how bad the political climate in the country is. It is hardly possible to imagine that authorities in Russia or Ukraine, let alone Western countries, would blame their opposition for terrorists acts. In Belarus, however, it is becoming the norm.

YK

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