Belarus executions draw anger against Lukashenko
MINSK - The Associated Press
A portrait of Vladislav Kovalyov is seen among candles and flowers in central Minsk. REUTERS photoTwo men convicted of carrying out a deadly subway bombing last year in Belarus’ capital have been executed, drawing strong condemnation from activists and the European Union.
State television reported late on March17 that both Vladislav Kovalyov and Dmitry Konovalov had been put to death, which in Belarus is done with a shot to the back of the head. Human rights activists condemned the hasty executions, saying they deprived society of the opportunity to learn the truth. The men were convicted in November of planting a bomb in Minsk’s busiest subway station that killed 15 people and wounded more than 300 in April.
Konovalov had acknowledged his guilt. Investigators said Kovalyov was aware of the plans to bomb the subway, but he insisted he did not take part and pleaded not guilty. Their defense lawyers said the evidence presented in court was circumstantial and inconclusive.
Critics of authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko accused his government of staging the bombing to divert attention from the worst economic crisis in the country’s post-Soviet history.
Belarusians angered by the executions came to lay flowers or light candles outside the subway station on yesterday.
Flowers also were laid outside Belarus’ embassy in Moscow, where someone had placed a sign with photographs of the two men and the words: “They were killed on Lukashenko’s whim.” EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton is “aware of the terrible crimes that these two men were accused of and her thoughts are with the victims and their families,” her spokesman said in a statement.”At the same time, the high representative notes that the two accused were not accorded due process, including the right to defend themselves.” Lukashenko last week ignored appeals from Ashton and others for clemency.