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Belarusian Activists Not Welcome In Russia's Smolensk

The Smolensk branch of the Communist Party picketed near the Katyn memorial on August 23.

Some 50 representatives of Belarusian opposition groups faced problems while visiting Russia's Smolensk region, where they commemorated the 22,000 Polish officers executed by the Soviets 77 years ago.

On August 23, the European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Stalinism and Nazism, the activists of the For Freedom and Together movements, as well as representatives of the Belarus Popular Front and the Belarus Christian Democratic parties, arrived at the forest of Katyn in the Smolensk area, where many of the mass killings of Polish officers took place in April-May 1940.

The activists told RFE/RL that a Russian police car followed them all way from the airport to Katyn.

Then, when the activists arrived at the Katyn memorial, police checked their passports and held two journalists of the Warsaw-based Belsat TV channel, Lyubou Lunyova and Ales Silich, for more than an hour.

Dozens of local communist activists were also at the site with banners saying: "Lackeys of the West and NATO have NOT been invited here!" and remained at the site until late afternoon.

The Smolensk branch of the Russian Federation's Communist Party told RFE/RL that their presence there was in protest to the visit of what he called "Belarusian nationalists" who promote the "Katyn falsification."

"These people speak only bad things about the Soviet period, while memorials like the Katyn one are sacred for them," the local communist activist said.

A police spokeswoman, Major Natalia Ivaka of the regional police department, refused to explain to RFE/RL why authorities monitored the Belarusian activists's movements.

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    RFE/RL's Belarus Service

    RFE/RL's Belarus Service is one of the leading providers of news and analysis to Belarusian audiences in their own language. It is a bulwark against pervasive Russian propaganda and defies the government’s virtual monopoly on domestic broadcast media.