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Belarusian Special Services Plotted Murder of Journalist Pavel Sheremet

By order of Alexander Lukashenka, the Belarusian special services discussed the possibility of killing political rivals, including a car bomb explosion that killed journalist Pavel Sheremet, the Brussels-based independent online newspaper EUobserver reported following an investigation into Lukashenka’s possible involvement in eliminating his opponents.

The newspaper received an audio recording of conversations made at the office of the then head of the KGB of Belarus Vadim Zaitsev on 11 April 2012.

A similar audio recording was released by the Belarusian opposition Telegram channel Nexta, which noted that the file had been sent to Brussels for investigation by Igor Makar, a former member of the Belarusian Special Forces.

Journalists claim that in April 2012, while instructing officers of the KGB counterterrorism unit Alpha Group in Minsk, Zaitsev was discussing methods of killing Lukashenka’s opponents who were in Germany at that time, namely Oleg Alkaev (a Belarusian former prison director), Vladimir Borodach (an ex-colonel), and Vyacheslav Dudkin (a former anti-corruption chief).

In audio files, a speaker identified as Zaitsev said Lukashenka had transferred “more than $1.5 million to a special account” for an off-the-books operations of this type and wanted to “see some results.”

In addition, the KGB also discussed the murder of journalist Pavel Sheremet, who was living in the Russian Federation at the time. In particular, the task was to blow him up and make sure that his assassination becomes a “public message.”

“We should be working Sheremet, who is a massive pain in the arse… We’ll plant [a bomb] and so on and this fucking rat will be taken down in fucking pieces, legs in one direction, arms in the other direction. If everything [looks like] natural causes, it won’t get into people’s minds the same way… The President [Lukashenka] is waiting for these operations,” EUobserver quotes Zaitsev as saying.

The Belarusian special services put Sheremet under observation in Moscow, according to a KGB report, which was also leaked to EUobserver.

According to Catalin Grigoras, the director of the National Centre for Media Forensics at the University of Colorado in the US, the quality of the audio file was too poor to do biometric “speaker recognition analysis.” The expert examined the leaked file in 2020 at the request of EUobserver. He noted that it had been edited at least once, probably to delete a digital signature that could have identified the KGB mole who planted the recording device in Zaitsev’s office. But he “didn’t find” any obvious “trace of audio-manipulation” on the file. At the same time, Igor Makar stated that he was ready to testify in court that the voice in the audio file belonged to the then head of the Belarusian KGB Vadim Zaitsev.

As a reminder, Pavel Sheremet was killed in a car explosion in Kyiv in 2016. In December 2019, Ukrainian law enforcement officers named musician and ATO veteran Andrii Antonenko, pediatric surgeon and volunteer Yulia Kuzmenko, and paratrooper battalion nurse Yana Duhar as the main suspects in the murder case.

The investigators named Antonenko as the organiser of the murder; on suspicion of the murder, the law enforcement officers indicated “unidentified persons” as organisers.

Bohdan Marusyak

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