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Opposition politicians discuss hazing, Russian bases with defense minister

Belarus' Defense Minister Andrei Raukou. Photo:

The leaders of two opposition political forces - United Civil Party's Anatol Lyabedzka and Movement for Freedom's Yury Hubarevich met with Belarus Defense Minister Andrei Raukou during his retreat to Navahrudak in western Belarus on 17 January.

Anatol Lyabedzka told Euroradio that during the meeting each of the opposition activists raised two issues. The UCP leader invited Defense Ministry representative to take part in the European Dialogue events. In March-April, a round table will be organized to discuss hazing in the Belarusian army.

Lyabedzka: "As of today, this is one of the most acute and relevant problems. We monitor the situation, what the defense ministry has done but those are somewhat targeted actions focused on the particular military unit. We need to talk about systemic changes... We said that we would be inviting experts and guests from other countries and it would be very important for people with different views and stances to meet and to have such a discussion with conrete actions as an outcome."

The second issue on the agenda dealt with changes in the legislation. Lyabedzka says that in 2017 amendments to eight laws were introduced but they did not tackle hazing. He proposed to set up a working group to remain in contact with the defense ministry in order to know its position. "If Defense Ministry is against, it is clear that no amendments will be made," opposition activist reckons.

Yury Hubarevich proposed to hold a round table meeting on Belarusian history and rename the Suvorov Military School. In Belarus, Russian military commander Alexander Suvorov is known for suppressing Tadeusz Kosciuszko's uprising against Imperial Russia and the Kingdom of Prussia in 1794.

The politicians also asked if Belarus was set to host new Russian military bases.

Lyabedzka: "Regarding the issue of military bases, he gave us the word of the minister that no such plans actually exist and that all the talks on this matter are nothing but insinuations and tales."