U.S. Department of State
Press Statement by Richard Boucher, Spokesman
Belarus: Disappearance of Journalist Dmitry Zavadskiy
Dmitry Zavadskiy, a Belarusian cameraman for the Russian public television station ORT, disappeared on July 7. He failed to appear to pick up his colleague, Pavel Sheremet, a Russian journalist, from the Minsk airport. Police found his car at the airport, but have no information about what happened to Zavadskiy.
The United States is deeply concerned by Mr. Zavadskiy's disappearance in light of a series of politically motivated disappearances in Belarus. Former Interior Minister and opposition figure Yuriy Zakharenko vanished while walking home on May 7, 1999, and has not been heard from since. On September 16, 1999, Belarusian opposition leader Victor Gonchar and his associate, Yuriy Krasovskiy, also disappeared without a trace. To date, Belarusian authorities have uncovered no leads nor provided any accounting of the whereabouts of these individuals.
Zavadskiy and Sheremet had recently returned from Chechnya, where they had filmed a documentary. Since his return, Zavadskiy had reportedly been harassed at his home by anonymous callers seeking to meet with him. Zavadskiy also suspected that he had been under surveillance by Belarusian security services for some time. Zavadskiy and Sheremet were arrested by Belarusian authorities in 1997 for allegedly illegally crossing the Belarus-Lithuania border during the filming of a documentary on smuggling. They were given suspended sentences in 1999.
Mr. Zavadskiy's disappearance adds significantly to our concerns about the harassment of journalists, restrictions on freedom of expression, and the growing climate of fear in Belarus. We are especially disturbed at the reaction of high-ranking Belarusian authorities, who have dismissed the disappearance as a provocation perpetrated by the democratic opposition.
The United States calls on the Belarusian authorities to make good on their commitment, most recently expressed at the OSCE Permanent Council meeting in Vienna, to conduct a thorough investigation into the disappearance of Mr. Zavadskiy and to account for the whereabouts of Zakharenko, Gonchar and Krasovskiy.
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