Belarusian dissidents worry that the regime will put them in jail camps. It could have already got constructed one

According to CNN videos and testimony, these are indications of a possible prison camp for political dissidents that was recently set up about an hour’s drive from the Belarusian capital Minsk near the Novokolosovo settlement. It is located on the site of a Soviet-era missile dump that extends over 200 hectares. It is unclear how much of the site has been renovated.

Belarusian opposition figures have been voicing fears for some time that the authoritarian regime could resort to crude detention camps if conventional prisons fill up. Concerns over another wave of raids and arrests in response to March 9 demonstrations. Further unrest could concern a constitutional referendum scheduled for late this year or early 2022.

Franak Viacorka, a senior adviser to Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, watched the footage and told CNN: “It’s not surprising that [President Alexander Lukashenko] tries to build something like a normal prison camp, because a new wave of protests will come anyway. It can be triggered by what he says, it can be triggered by the economic situation. But it will come. He understands that and wants to be better prepared in 2020 than last year. “

Belarusian dissidents said in August 2020 that police detained them for several days in a detention center temporarily built from an addictive substance treatment facility.

In October, a group of former security officials, ByPol, released a recording allegedly taken by Deputy Interior Minister Mikalay Karpyankou saying that “relocation” detention centers would need to be built for “sharp-edged” protesters in order to reform them. In the recording, Karpyankou suggested building a camp out of an existing prison in the city of Ivatsevichy.

The Belarusian government condemned the recordings as “fake news” at the time of their publication. The government did not respond to CNN’s request for comment on the article.

CNN does not have access to the interior of the facility near Novokolosovo and there is no evidence that the camp was still holding prisoners. A Western intelligence official told CNN that using the facility as a prison camp was “possible” although they had no direct evidence of it. Locals in the city of Novokolosovo refer to the facility as “the camp”. A local resident recently ordered by military guards to leave the area as he approached the construction site said, “My friend Sasha, a builder, told me they were renovating this place. There are three levels of barbed wire and it’s electrified. Mushrooms here when a soldier came up to me and said I couldn’t walk there. ”Two other witnesses were also watching military patrols.

The images of the camp are created after weeks of crackdown on the remaining independent media in Belarus and after heightened international awareness of the crisis within the authoritarian country.

On Sunday, Olympic athlete Kristina Timanovskaya said she was forced to the Tokyo airport after criticizing Belarusian Olympic officials on Instagram. She landed in Warsaw, Poland on Wednesday, where she was offered refuge and a humanitarian visa.

The Belarusian National Olympic Committee said she was removed from the Olympic team because of emotional problems and mental health problems, which she denies.

On Tuesday, fears about the growing diaspora of dissidents in Belarus grew when activist Vitaly Shishov was found dead in a park outside the Ukrainian capital Kiev, apparently hanged, with abrasions on his body. The police are investigating the possibility of suicide or murder. In May, the country’s regime brazenly rerouted a passenger plane to Minsk and arrested dissident journalist Roman Protasevich, an incident described by some Western leaders as a “state-sanctioned kidnapping”. The protest movement in Belarus has declined significantly due to the brutality of the police, so that many demonstrations are now taking place in the form of a flash mob, filmed and put online. Still, there are signs that activists are taking new measures to actively disrupt.

CNN has spoken to activists who say they sabotaged the Belarusian government-run rail lines. They sent a series of videos to CNN showing them how to use an established technique of delaying trains without causing damage. CNN does not disclose the location or the type of tactic and has not been able to independently confirm the effectiveness of the protests.

One of the organizers, who said that its activities have caused trains to slow down to around 20 kilometers per hour (12 mph) in some areas, told CNN, “The main goal is to inflict economic damage on the regime because the delays cause it that they pay huge fines. “

Many of the railways that run through Belarus carry goods from China to the European Union, which means that frequent delays are of greater concern for the entire continent and for international trade and could hit Lukashenko’s regime hard.

Comments are closed.