Candles and flowers litter the stairwell outside the apartment of Lyubou
Kavalyova, the mother of 1 of the 2 men executed for the April 2011 subway
bombing in the Belarusian capital, Minsk.
Dozens of people have gathered at the site to express their condolences to the
grieving mother, even forming a human chain winding up the stairs to the front
door of Kavalyova's modest Vitsebsk flat.
Inside, Kavalyova -- who fought a public battle to save the life of her son,
26-year-old Uladzislau Kavalyou -- sits shakily on a sofa, holding a photograph
of her child and fighting back tears. "I can't believe that my son is gone,"
Kavalyova says. "My soul -- I don't know -- it can't accept it."
Kavalyou and a childhood friend, Dzmitry Kanavalau, were each executed by a
single bullet to the back of the head shortly after the country's authoritarian
leader, Alyaksandr Lukashenka, denied a plea for clemency.
Their families then received a formal letter, dated March 16, informing them
that the sentences had been carried out.
In The Dark
Belarus, the only country in Europe that still uses the death penalty, has
maintained the Soviet-era practice of not informing family members ahead of
The 2 men were apprehended the day after the bombing, a rare act of terrorism
in Belarus that left 15 people dead and hundreds more wounded.
They were convicted and sentenced to death in November following a trial that
critics said suffered from a lack of due process and physical evidence linking
the men to the crime.
Kanavalau initially admitted to carrying out the bombing but then refused to
make an opening or closing statement or testify in his own defense.
Kavalyou, who was considered an accessory to the bombing, offered a confession
but later retracted, claiming he had confessed under pressure. Family members
claim both men were beaten and threatened during police interrogation.
Prosecutors offered no motive for the attacks, other than that the 2 men sought
to disrupt the country's social order.
The subway bombing struck at a time of political unrest in Belarus, just weeks
after hundreds of political opponents had been arrested in the wake of
controversial presidential elections handing Lukashenka a fresh term.
At the time, activists suggested Lukashenka was attempting to use the Minsk
attack as a pretext for additional security clampdowns, as well as an
opportunity to distract the public from a looming economic crisis.
Some observers suggested Kanavalau and Kavalyou may have been acting on the
orders of a 3rd party.
Vasil Kaptsiukh, whose 21-year-old son Raman was among those killed in the
April 11 blast, says Kanavalau and Kavalyou did nothing to protest their
innocence or implicate others during the trial.
Still, he says, the execution was far from welcome news.
"Regarding my opinion about the sentence, I've always been against the death
penalty," Kaptsiukh says. "For the parents, it's a very cruel thing. I've
experienced myself what it means to lose a child, and I can imagine how their
mothers must feel now."
(source: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty)