Artists at Risk (AR) calls for heightened protection of all Belarusian dissidents
Direct death threats have been received over the past days by Andrei Kureichik, the prominent Belarusian filmmaker, playwright and member of the Coordinating Council of Belarus (CCB) – effectively the Belarusian government in exile – who has been an AR-Resident since June 2021.
The horrific death of fellow Belarusian opposition activist Vitaliy Shishov in Kyiv, Ukraine this week and a pattern of deaths and supposed suicides among opposition figures and activists in Belarus give reason to take these recent threats very seriously. Artists at Risk (AR) is gravely concerned and is taking all necessary precautions to ensure Andrei Kureichik’s safety.
Andrei has given clear instructions to publicize these circumstances widely, to both raise awareness of the very real risks (and thuggish methods) Belarusian dissidents face, and to return strengthened from these tragedies, drawing on them as a springboard for international attention to the #FreeBelarus movement.
“Kurei, still traveling, eh? You can disappear unexpectedly – think they’ll even look for you? They’ll blame it on the machinations of the regime; provocations need sacred sacrifices, don’t they.”
Artists at Risk (AR) is at the highest level of vigilance.
Evidence has emerged that Shishov, founder of the Belarusian House in Ukraine and a leader among the exiled opposition in Kyiv was under surveillance and being followed in the weeks leading up to his death. Further information released by the investigative outlet Bellingcat suggests that Belarusian opposition circles in Kyiv have been infiltrated by agents of the Russian FSB, which works in coordination with the secret service of Alexander Lukashenko’s regime in Belarus, still called the KGB. Awareness of these methods is important to ensuring the safety of opposition figures in the Belarusian diaspora.
As a vocal activist for Belarusian democracy – especially through his recent plays which have toured the world – and as a prominent member of the opposition Coordinating Council of Belarus (CCB), Andrei has one of the largest followings of anti-Lukashenko figures on YouTube.
The threatening messages Kureichik has received are often in the preferred prison-cant-cum-mafia-manner of the FSB and KGB. They range from warnings against international travel (a clear reference to the fate of Belarusian opposition blogger Roman Protasevich, whose airplane was hijacked and force-landed in Minsk) to blunt sarcasm about how “[opposition] provocations need sacred sacrifices”, and explicit threats that he may experience a fate similar to either Protasevich or Shishov.
Username “Stalin’s”: “Don’t play the cock or you’ll cock it up, and come to the same end as Protasevich or Shishov.”
Kureichik has received threats on social media in the past, but the language, content and timing of these new threats are indicative of the very serious intent of Belarusian agents / advocates of the Lukashenko regime.
The authors and backers of these repeated and brazen violations of human rights and international law must be held to account.
Artists at Risk (AR) calls on all countries hosting Belarusian dissidents to take all necessary steps to guarantee their safety and freedom, enabling them to carry out their artistic and political activities.
#FreeBelarus #StandWithBelarus #ЖывеБеларусь #supportbelarustheatre
Andrei Kureichyk is an AR-ICORN Resident at Artists at Risk (AR)-Safe Haven Helsinki. The programme is co-funded by the City of Helsinki Culture and Leisure Division and the Creative Europe programme of European Union, curated by Perpetuum Mobile (PM) as part of Artists at Risk – A European Network of Safe Havens (AR-ENSH). The AR-Network is coordinated by the AR-Secretariat with support from the Swedish Arts Council and Kone Foundation and curated by Perpetuum Mobile (PM).