U.S.-Belarusian Lawyer 'Abducted' In Moscow, Transferred To Minsk


 

MINSK -- Yuras Zyankovich, a Belarusian lawyer who also has U.S. citizenship, has been detained in Moscow and transferred to a detention center in Minsk amid an ongoing crackdown on dissent in Belarus following a disputed presidential election last year.

Zyankovich's wife, Alena Dzenisavets, told RFE/RL on April 13 that Russian security officers "abducted" her husband from the Nordic Rooms Hotel in Moscow on April 11 and brought him to the Belarusian capital.

"I learned about that only yesterday. I talked to a manager of the hotel. According to him, the hotel's personnel saw how men in civilian clothes took Yuras away, saying that he was suspected of terrorism. They showed their documents saying that they are from security organs," Dzenisavets said, adding that Zyankovich is currently in the detention center for the Belarusian Committee of State Security (KGB) in Minsk.

 

Yuras Zyankovich, who used to be a regional leader of the opposition Belarusian Popular Front (BNF) party and once sought to be its presidential candidate, has been living in the United States since 2007.

He is a graduate of Fordham University's School of Law in New York and is permanently based in Houston, Texas. Zyankovich frequently visits Belarus and actively takes part in the country's political life.

On April 12, the day of Zyankovich’s detention in Moscow, a noted Belarusian political analyst, Alyaksandr Fyaduta, went incommunicado in the Russian capital, where he works as a media consultant.

Moscow police said at the time that they had started looking for him after his relatives raised concerns about his whereabouts.

On April 13, the Belarusian KGB said that Fyaduta is in custody in Minsk.

The KGB statement said that Fyaduta and BNF chairman Ryhor Kastusyou were being held on unspecified charges, adding that detailed information on the cases will be provided later.

 

Alyaksandr Lukashenka, who has ruled the country since 1994, was declared the landslide winner in the August election, which was widely viewed as rigged in his favor.

Thousands of citizens took to the streets for months to protest the results, saying Lukashenka's challenger, Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya, actually won the election.

Tsikhanouskaya left Belarus for Lithuania after the election for security reasons, while Lukashenka has directed a brutal postelection crackdown in which almost 30,000 have been detained, hundreds beaten, several killed, and journalists targeted.

Many other senior opposition figures have also left or were forced to leave Belarus, fearing for their safety, while several of those who haven't left have been detained by security officials.

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