Potential Lukashenka Challenger And His Son Detained In Minsk
By RFE/RL's Belarus Service June 18, 2020
MINSK -- A potential challenger to Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka in an upcoming presidential election has been detained along with his son for questioning at the Committee For State Control (KDK).
The state-run Television and Radio Corporation confirmed reports from activists for Viktar Babaryka's election campaign on June 18 that Babaryka and his son "had been brought" to the KDK's Financial Investigations Department for questioning in an ongoing probe into suspected money laundering and tax evasion by Belgazprombank, a financial institution that Babaryka led for 20 years before he recently stepped down to be eligible to run against Lukashenka in an August 9 election.
Babaryka's election campaign staff said lawyers for the two men were not allowed to be present during the questioning and that Babaryka's home in Minsk was searched by law enforcement officers.
On June 15, authorities took control of Belgazprombank as part of a wider money-laundering and corruption probe that has already led to the arrest of 15 executives.
Major shareholders of the Belgazprombank are Russian energy giant Gazprom and its Gazprombank.
Babaryka has said that the probes were designed to apply political pressure on him.
He has reportedly collected the 100,000 signatures needed to be registered as a candidate for the vote and was expected to submit his documentation in the near future.
In recent weeks, opposition rallies and gatherings in support of would-be candidates have attracted thousands of people across Belarus as the authoritarian Lukashenka seeks a sixth term.
Several opposition activists, politicians, and bloggers were sentenced to up to 15 days in jail this week for taking part in what authorities called "unsanctioned rallies."
Copyright (c) 2020. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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