A man sentenced to death in connection with the bombing of a subway station in
Belarus has been executed, the man’s family said Saturday.
The man, Vladislav Kovalyov, 25, was convicted of helping his childhood friend
carry out the April 2011 bombing, but human rights groups and Western
governments have cast serious doubt on the verdict, pointing to flaws in the
Confirmation of Mr. Kovalyov’s execution came in a letter from the Supreme
Court delivered on Saturday to his family’s residence in Vitsyebsk, a town in
northeastern Belarus. Tatyana Kozyar, Mr. Kovalyov’s sister, uploaded a copy of
the letter to the Russian social networking site VKontakte with the caption
“They’ve killed Vlad.”
The letter, dated March 16, said, “I inform you that the sentence of the
Supreme Court of the Republic of Belarus from 30 November 2011 in relation to
your son, Kovalyov Vladislav Yuryevich, has been carried out.”
Ms. Kozyar told Radio Liberty that her mother was in shock after reading the
letter and could not speak.
“They killed him,” she said, sobbing. “All was in vain, all was in vain.”
The authorities have not yet publicly confirmed the execution, though they
rarely do in capital punishment cases.
Mr. Kovalyov was convicted as an accessory to the bombing, which killed 15
people and wounded about 200 during the evening rush hour at a crowded subway
station in Belarus’s capital, Minsk. Dmitri Konovalov, a childhood friend, was
said to have built and detonated the explosive device. Mr. Konovalov was also
sentenced to death, but there has been no confirmation that his sentence has
been carried out.
For months, human rights groups and Western governments have been urging
Belarus’s president, Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, to call off the execution, citing
a failure by prosecutors to offer conclusive evidence linking the men to the
Though both men initially confessed, Mr. Kovalyov later testified that he had
been beaten by investigators and forced to accept responsibility for the
bombing. Mr. Konovalov never retracted his confession but was not able to offer
a clear motive.
The men were both factory workers from Vitsyebsk who had gone to school
together and lived in the same apartment complex. Months before the bombing,
Mr. Kovalyov moved to Minsk in search of better employment, his family said.
Their last hope for clemency dissipated last week, when Mr. Lukashenko refused
to grant them a presidential pardon.
Belarus, a former Soviet republic of about 10 million people, is the only
country in Europe that still has the death penalty. Its system of capital
punishment, which has changed little since Soviet days, has been criticized as
barbaric. Prisoners are told of their impending execution only moments before
it is carried out. Typically, the condemned are shot in the back of the head.
Bodies are buried in unmarked graves that are kept secret from family and
Speaking to journalists in December, Mr. Lukashenko said he personally reviewed
all death penalty cases before the sentences were carried out.
“I take all death penalty sentences to heart,” he said. “When I open those
folders with documents and photographs, it is terrifying.”
(source: New York Times)