Interview with Svetlana Zavadskaya on the occasion of the 15th anniversary of Dmitry Zavadsky involuntary disappearance


Belarusian journalist Dmitry Zavadski was kidnapped 15 years ago on July 7, 2000. Sviatlana Zavadskaya, the wife of Zmitser Zavadski, talked to

“I want to escape somewhere on this day,” she says about the anniversary of the tragic date. “Dzima's mother and I meet on his birthday on August 28. This is our tradition. Today is the mourning day. We call each other and give to understand each other that we remember him, but we try not to talk on the topic. It is really very hard to recall it.”

– What happened on July 7, 2000? How did you learn about Zmitser's disappearance?

– It was a warm summer day, just like today. Dzima woke up in the morning. He was late. He left home at about 10:10, took a car and drove away. I heard him running down the stairs (we can hear if one runs down or up the stairs in our block of flats). I remember I was waiting for him to come for dinner. I called the ORT office. They said he was working out of the office. They later explained they were unable to believe what had happened. They thought he would come soon and didn't want to scare me. It was 11 p.m. when the ORT film crew came and said his car was found at the airport and Dzima had disappeared.

It was an awful night. I had a feeling that I would never see him again. My mother later told me I was shouting at night that they wouldn't find him. At that time we could hope that he would return and that it was a misunderstanding. It was the most terrible day of my life.

– You attended the trial against Valery Ihnatovich and his people. What do you think about the trial and its outcome?

– I remember well it was strange that the court failed to establish the exact motive, the place and the time of the crime. It wasn't established where Zmitser had been kidnapped: on the way to the airport, in the yard or at the airport. Everything was far-fetched that even I, the person who had never taken part in such court proceedings before, understood that something was wrong and that the crime had roots deep in government bodies. I always had a feeling that Ihnatovich is just a scapegoat who was found to make him guilty for the crime.

He has been in prison for almost 15 years, but investigators still don't work with him because they don't need it. They understand perfectly that he hadn't done it, so there's no need in working with him. I cannot understand it even today. I know how our re-enforcement bodies can obtain evidence. And it's very strange that they haven't learnt yet where Ihnatovich got rid of Zavadski's body, where they hid it, whom they gave it and so on.

We had these questions 15 years ago, but we still don't have answers. And this is very sad.

– Famous politicians and activists are kidnapped not only in Belarus but also in Russia. Do you see parallels?

– Today, when Boris Nemtsov was killed in Moscow, I found some links to a certain degree. When the authorities give a certain group carte blanche to kill, destroy, intimidate people and so on, this group foes out of control sooner or later and does whatever they want. For some reason I think Dzima became a victim of such a situation. He personally didn't pose a threat to Lukashenka or someone else. Someone just decided to punish him for his actions. When Lukashenka learnt it had been done by the same people who had kidnapped and killed famous politicians he couldn't but cover them.

– Lukashenka promised several times to investigate high-profile abductions in Belarus. Do instigators work now?

– Note that he didn't raise this question himself. He said it only if journalists asked about the cases and he had to react. It seems today that no one raises these questions any more and journalists don't ask him about it. It's a pity. I don't know who can be blamed for it. Perhaps,we, relatives, are to be blamed because we decidedwe did everything we could. Perhaps, our opposition politicians are to be blamed because they still visit Europe and America and don't raise this question. I don't know who can be blamed, but the theme is forgotten today. It's a pity that they try to represent Lukashenka as a peacekeeper. I'd like to remind these people what was happening in the country in the late 1990s – early 2000s. I'd like European politicians to understand whom they deal with. This person will never change. He will always carry out such an aggressive policy.

The case was suspended in 2006. It hasn't been reopened so far. It's more than 9 years. We don't have news from a prosecutor's office and other agencies. We try to file requests every year, but we receive the same formal replies. We got used to it. But we try to keep the case afloat so they can understand we remember it. I don't know what other people think, we, relatives of the abducted people, wait for any results.

– When do you think we will learn the truth about the disappearance of Zmitser Zavadski, Yury Zakharanka, Viktar Hanchar and Anatol Krasouski?

– I am sure it won't happen under the current authorities. They did everything not to investigate the case. They want to bury it so that we can never learn details and never find the bodies of our relatives. We are just waiting for a miracle and changes. And we are doing our best.