Hunting Pedophiles in Belarus
On 2 August, the “Occupy Pedophilia” group posted a new video online, which went viral on the Belarusian internet. In the video teenagers interrogated a potential pedophile, and in the end poured urine on his head.
They call themselves “Occupy Pedophilia” or pedophile hunters, the group has become a significant phenomenon in post-Soviet nations. Autonomous groups under the guise of 15-year olds acquainted over the Internet with potential pedophiles who offer them sex. After that, the hunters meet with a potential pedophile and shoot a video of them.
A large part of society supports such vigilantes. Moreover, thanks to the hunters people have learned that there were more pedophiles in society than had originally been assumed. The authorities keep silent on the statistics of sexual offences against children, and the police appear less effective than the hunters in dealing with them.
Thus, through the fight against pedophiles, extreme right groups can get support in society, enlarge their structures and become more visible actors in the public life of Belarus. Vigilante justice can become a big threat to Belarusian society and have unexpected consequences. According to a police spokesman, a potential pedophile, shot on video by Minsk hunters, planned to commit suicide.
Pedophile hunters operate in more than twenty cities in Russia. They also have imitators in Belarus and Ukraine. A russian far-right activist with Belarusian roots, Maxim Martsinkievich, began to shoot videos with disclosures of pedophiles several years ago. Since then the idea spread throughout the post-Soviet space. The age of the hunters tends to be quite young. The leader of the Minsk hunters is only 17.
Hunters of pedophiles act as autonomous groups in their cities. Today the “Occupy Pedophilia” groups operate not only in Minsk, but also some small towns, for example Zhodzina, a town near Minsk. Last month, the majority of the independent media resources published news about the pedophilia inclination of one of the activists of the pro-Lukashenka Belarusian Republican Youth Union (BRYU) Uladzimir Tsyukhai.
According to the published video and hunters’ statement, the BRYU activist came to Zhodzina on a date with a 15-year-old boy. Before that, Tsyukhai wrote on the Internet to this boy about his sexual fantasies. In Zhodzina, a group of ultra-right young people met the BRYU activist in place of the expected 15-year-old boy.
They began to question the BRYU activist, mock and beat him, and then took him to the police. The police did not hold the young people accountable for vigilante justice, because their victim did not submit any complaints against the hunters.
Later, the police confirmed to the youths, that this person really was a prominent member of the BRYU. The Belarusian independent community has known Tsyukhai since 2008, when he brought about 30 students to the trial against the opposition activist Barazienka. As a result, students occupied every seat in the hall, and human rights activists and journalists could not attend the trial. Later, Barazienka`s mother asked Tsyukhai if he had any conscience. In response, a member of the Belarusian Republican Youth Union strongly pushed the woman.
Pedophilia in Belarus
The authorities suppressed the facts of pedophilia in Belarus for a long time. According to the news agency Interfax, the government does not publish full statistics of sexual violence against children, although they have such data.
The police reported that in 2011 they recorded about 30 rapes of under-aged individuals and about 40 in 2012. These figures do not look all that large as the hunters of pedophiles from Minsk have exposed five potential pedophiles in one month.
According to Interfax news agency, pedophilia in Belarus usually is characterised by seduction, not rape. For a long time a pedophile ran a section of a youth club for 10-14 year-old children. Police started a criminal case against the head of the section.
The police often remain ineffective in acting against pedophiles. In 2010 a Belarusian court failed to prosecute a pedophile on several cases that dated back to the 90s, because the statue of limitations had expired. The pedophile himself actually pleaded guilty to the judge, despite the status of the cases.
Under the Criminal Code of Belarus, adults can receive up to 15 years in prison for the rape of minors and up to 5 years in prison for having sex with a person under 16. Pedophiles fear not only being caught, but also other prisoners. Courts in Russia may condemn pedophiles to 20 years, and in Germany to 10 year sentences.
New Extreme Right Movement
Hunting pedophiles has become a new niche for ultra-right groups in Post-Soviet countries. Although human rights activists call it vigilante justice, and lawyers bring up criminal responsibility, pedophile hunters can count on public support.
34% of visitors of the liberal Belarusian Radio Liberty support the actions of the hunters. This percentage would certainly be bigger among more conservative people. Thus, the far-right groups have become the norm for society, and even the defenders of the common good.
Belarusian lawyer Nastassia Lojka said that “from the point of view of human rights no one has the right to be a vigilante, for that there is a legitimate way. But, on the other hand, law enforcement agencies must be responsive to such manifestations, and not wait for the video to show up on social networks. “
For Belarus, it is noteworthy that the new ultra rights are not based on ideological grounds. If a significant part of the far-right organisations in Belarus divide themselves into pro-Belarusian and pro-Russian, the new far-right groups avoid this division on ideological differences.
However, there comes a possibility that after such activities, supported by society, the new far-right will start to carry out the realisation of their more dangerous ideas.
The only way out is for law enforcement agencies to fight against pedophiles more assertively. It is the police that should protect children from pedophiles, not 17-year-old pedophile hunters.
Belarusian Defence Industry Recovers from The Last Year’s Scandal
Last month, Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro promised his people that very soon Venezuela would possess the most powerful air defence system possible, capable of stopping any attempt at illegal entrances into the country’s air space. For years, Belarusian specialists were working on the construction of this facility.
The statement by the Venezuelan head of state means that the Belarusian side managed to sort out this serious crisis which the Belarusian military industry encountered abroad just a year ago. Back then, a light airplane of a Swedish PR-agency illegally entered Belarusian air space. Allegedly, it did so to promote democracy by symbolically bombarding Belarus with teddy-bears. But as the leading Belarusian military expert Alexandr Alesin recently noted on naviny.by, it might just as well have served to discredit Belarus’ military capabilities and defence industry. Recent news show, however, that this has not happened.
Belarusian “Contract of the Century”
The national defence industry has achieved some success over the last decade by specialising in the modernisation of equipment and the development of its own new systems along Soviet technological lines. Especially impressive are its innovations in air defence – no wonder, Belarus has maintained from Soviet times probably the most comprehensive air defence system among all the former Soviet states.
In recent years, Belarus achieved some qualitative breakthroughs by developing new systems and extending its own arms exports – which are not leftovers from Soviet times – and defence products. For example, Belarusians received contracts for the modernisation of the air defence in Azerbaijan and apparently sold some of their products to Iran (though Minsk has not admitted as much). Yet the most lucrative contract was, of course, its Venezuelan one.
While visiting Caracas in December 2007 Aleksandr Lukashenka signed with the then president Hugo Chavez of Venezuela an agreement on the construction of a unified air defence system and radio-electronic warfare system in Venezuela. Belarus had to coordinate the project, while cooperating with Russian, Chinese and Iranian companies.
Afterwards, Belarus sent numerous military advisors to Venezuela who had to ensure the complete creation of the air defence system in six years time. It went well up until the Swedish incident of last summer. After the incident, Hugo Chavez allegedly thought twice about the reliability of his Belarusian partners.
Belarusian Defence Industry Vindicated After Last Summer Failure
To reassure him, Belarus sent its leading air defence expert Aleh Paferau to serve as ambassador to Venezuela. He was a perfect figure for that assignment, being the former Belarusian air force and air defence commander. In addition Paferau, while serving as a deputy chairman of the State Military Industrial Committee of Belarus actually participated in the conclusion of the “contract of the century” with Venezuela. And he succeeded. By autumn, the Venezuelan air defence and electronic warfare systems shall be essentially completed, says both Venezuelan and Belarusian officials.
The film demonstrated how Iran deployed Belarusian-made Vostok-E system to intercept the American aircraft. Read more
Of course, another accident also vindicated Belarusian defence industry after its “Swedish failure.” In February, Iranian TV broadcasted a film about intercection of a US drone which entered Iranian air space in December 2011. The film demonstrated how Iran deployed Belarusian-made Vostok-E system to intercept the American remotely piloted vehicle.
It had an effect and although the US immediately sanctioned two Belarusian enterprises, Minsk could demonstrate some tangible and battle-proven achievements to its foreign friends. In May, as the Vietnamese prime minister visited Minsk, Belarusian officials claimed to have achieved an agreement with Hanoi on selling Belarusian unmanned aerial vehicles to Vietnam. A month ago, Belarus agreed to sell about 20 Vostok-E radar systems to Vietnam, as well as send advisers to train Vietnamese operators for them.
Forever With Moscow?
But Belarus is still rather limited in its weapons business abroad. Any big deal requires the involvement of Russia. Sophisticated Belarusian military products require components produced in Russia or other post-Soviet republics. And it this dependence on Russia that has increased in the last decade as Minsk has exhausted its stocks of Soviet-era equipment or, often, this equipment simply became obsolete. Now Belarusians are producing the equipment themselves, but their dependence hampers their growth in this field.
The creation of the Venezuelan air defence system illustrates this complementary feature of Belarusian defence industry. Thus, as the command center of the system, Belarus chose its native automated fire control station Bor-1M. In addition, Minsk provides Venezuela with radar equipment and radio-electronic combat systems of its own production. Among them, of course, the above-mentioned Vostok-E developed by the firm KB Radar in Minsk. But that is essentially all, for the remaining components of the Venezuelan air defence system Belarus has to resort to Russian weapons.
As for surface-to-air missiles, most likely the S-125 Pechora-2M on chassis from the Minsk Wheel Tractor Plant (MZKT) will be used in Venezuela, after their modernisation at select Belarusian and Russian factories. Some other important components of the Pechoras are also being developed and produced by Belarusian firms, yet essentially the Pechora is a Russian product.
In addition, Venezuela ordered from Russia some items of more modern systems such as the S-300 and Buk-M2E. Once more, Minsk cannot provide such arms itself independently, although the Buk launchers are also installed on Belarusian MZKT chassis. Caracas had also to complement these purchases by buying from Russia some Zu-23s cannons and Igla-S man-portable surface-to-air missiles.
Is Russia Ready to Recognise Belarus as an Ally?
Russian policies towards defence cooperation with Belarus look more like a desire to grab the most efficient Belarusian firms in its defence industry. Read more
Evidently, Belarus has to cooperate with Russia on big arms and defence modernisation deals. There is nothing particularly extraordinary about this, as allied states usually cooperate with regards to their defence industries. Yet Russian policies towards defence cooperation with Belarus look more like a desire to grab the most efficient Belarusian firms in its defence industry than cooperate with them.
The best example is the same MZKT which produces chassis of world-renown quality. The Kremlin some years ago launched a policy of replacing all the components of Russian weapons produced in former Soviet republics with Russian-made ones. Since at least the early 2010s, it made no exception to this rule even for for its closest ally – Belarus. The Russian military decided to replace Belarusian chassis of the Russian missile systems with their Russian equivalents which were not even available at the time when the decision was made.
It further led Russia to the idea of buying the MZKT – one of the best Belarusian firms. Moscow has many means to pressure Minsk with its financial troubles into selling the works. This would both undermine the future prospects of Belarusian economic development and will further diminish the importance of Belarus to Russia.
It is precisely these kinds of situations that show Belarusian officials and businessmen the risks of cooperating with Russia. The Russian side apparently is not eager to do business together with Belarusians, but rather it wants to take their business from them. Moscow simply refuses to accept Belarus as a partner despite its geopolitical significance and strategic proximity and commitments of Belarus concerning its alliance with Russia.
The Belarusian opposition and Western politicians should avoid demonising the Belarusian defence industry and military. It would be wiser to provide them with realistic prospects with a positive future – an alternative to being strangled by Russia. The demonisation of the defence industries and military by reformist forces in the former Soviet republics in 1990s – especially in Russia and Ukraine – brought no good and led to backlash with grave political consequences.