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Opinions & Interviews

20 Apr 2019

Lukashenko calls to pay tribute to Kuropaty victims

Lukashenko calls to pay tribute to Kuropaty victims

MINSK, 20 April (BelTA) – Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko was asked about the situation around Kuropaty during the nationwide voluntary clean-up day on 20 April, BelTA has learned.

The head of state urged not to over-politicize the topic. “People work at enterprises, factories, sow grain understanding that this is how life goes on. They are not even aware of these heated debates. Those who are ask whether we have other, more important things, to attend to. Those who know more about the matter ask why again. Many opposition politicians have been speaking a lot about Kuropaty,” the head of state said. “And it seemed to me that the topic of Kuropaty was long accepted and reconciled with in the society. I thought that no one was going to politicize the topic, that no one was going to thrive on it as a politician. But I was wrong…”

Speaking about the landscaping of Kuropaty, Aleksandr Lukashenko remarked: “There were calls to do it. I was criticized all the time for not doing enough to keep the place tidied up. During the Big Conversation with the President I said that Kuropaty would be tidied up. Certain people were instructed, and they did they their best to get the territory cleaned up and had a small fence built around it. The landscaping work is not over yet. We will decorate the fence with flowers, just like we did at the Pobediteley Avenue. There will be a gate, and people will be able to come and go.”

The head of state mentioned other reasons for erecting the fence. In his words, some people even used the place to ease themselves and walk their dogs. According to the Belarusian leader, it is so disrespectful because people are buried there, and they have nothing to do with this policy. “This is a true cemetery, people are buried there, and no one knows where their graves exactly are,” he said.

“Look, there are more crosses than trees at the cemetery. And those who installed the crosses did not think that they were probably putting them into the heads and bodies of buried people. If you wanted to install crosses there, ask those ‘suffering’ Catholic and Orthodox priests to bless your crosses and attach them to trees. Do not hammer these crosses into the heads of buried people,” the president continued.

Aleksandr Lukashenko also mentioned big crosses which were erected along the perimeter of the forest. “Was it done for those people? This is politics, and some people wanted to show it. But I did not understand what they wanted to show,” he said.

“Therefore, I instructed to tidy up the place respecting Christian, Muslim, Jewish traditions (different people are buried in this forest). When Catholics started to complain some of the Muslims fairly remarked that Muslim, Jewish, Orthodox and Catholic people are buried there,” the president said. Aleksandr Lukashenko added that those crosses of 5-7 meters in height were not installed as an act of sincerity and mercy. “I wanted to do it wholeheartedly. And the job is not done yet. We will tidy up this forest. We will apologize to those people for disturbing their ashes. They just want to rest in peace. Dead people should rest in peace. And we are only disturbing them when trying to politicize the matter. It is not normal. This is my point of view. Perhaps, other people have different opinions,” the Belarusian leader said. “Maybe, a different president will come and start looking for some consensus. Maybe, he or she will dig over these graves again. It will not happen as long as I am the president.”

The head of state said that certain measures will be taken to maintain public order on the territory of Kuropaty, and it will not be prohibited to visit the place. “People will be free to come and pay tribute to those killed there in the 1930s, 1940s. We don’t even know whether there were victims of Stalinist purges only, whether people were buried and reburied there later, whether Nazis executed people there. We do not know it. I don’t think that it is a good idea to make excavations and scrutinize the archives once again. We must pay tribute to people buried there. Do not divide them into Jews, Ukrainians, Russians, Poles, Belarusians. These are our people, even if they were brought from Russia, Ukraine or Austria. Do not disturb them. We must pay tribute to them just like we do in Trostenets,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

“I think the time will come. We must think about these issues seriously. And we will revisit the topic when we finish to tidy up the forest,” the Belarusian leader concluded.

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