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U.S. Department of State
Office of the Spokesman
Press Statement


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Statement by Richard Boucher, Spokesman
September 15, 2000

Belarus: First Anniversary of Victor Gonchar's Disappearance

September 16 will mark the one-year anniversary of the disappearance of 13th Supreme Soviet Deputy Chairman and Belarusian democratic opposition leader Victor Gonchar. Shortly before his disappearance, Mr. Gonchar phoned his wife to tell her he would be home soon. That was the last time anyone heard from Mr. Gonchar or his associate Anatoly Krasovsky, who also vanished. Immediately prior to their disappearance, Belarusian ruler Aleksandr Luskashenko had publicly called for a crackdown on "opposition scum."

In the year since Messrs. Gonchar and Krasovsky disappeared, the Lukashenko regime has ignored repeated calls by the international community to account for these men. Neither has the regime taken any serious steps to investigate the disappearances of either opposition leader and former interior minister Gen. Yury Zakhrenko, who also disappeared in 1999, or ORT journalist Dimitry Zavadsky, who disappeared this past summer.

We regret that the authorities in Belarus continue to make non-credible allegations that the democratic opposition is responsible for these disappearances. The regime has also banned an opposition rally scheduled for September 16 to mark the anniversary of Messrs. Gonchar's and Krasovsky's disappearance. Such a ban is inconsistent with Aleksandr Lukashenko's promise of a "period of peace" before upcoming parliamentary elections.

We again renew our call to the Belarusian authorities to investigate expeditiously, thoroughly, and openly all the disappearances and punish those truly responsible for them. We also renew our commitment to the Gonchar, Krasovsky, Zakharenko and Zavadsky families not to forget their loved ones.

[end of document]

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