The International Civil Initiatives Center Our House is calling for international attention to the case of Belarusian Valery Romanovsky, who faces the death penalty under the charge of “state treason”, but in reality for sharing information about the construction of the Ostrovets nuclear power plant with Lithuania.
On May 4, 2023, a closed-door court hearing began in the Vitebsk Regional Court regarding Valery Romanovski, a former chief of the Air Reconnaissance Service. He is being accused of state treason under Article 356 of the Criminal Code.
Little is known about this case, and even less is known about the truth. So far, most of the information about the “traitor” has been supplied by the Belarusian propaganda media. For instance, in December 2022, the TV channel “Belarus 1” released a film about the KGB counterintelligence, where they talked about Belarusians and citizens of other countries who were allegedly accused of working for foreign intelligence services.
Valery Romanovski was featured in this film, and the TV broadcasters referred to him as the “former chief of the Air Reconnaissance Service” (although it is unclear which specific agency they meant). In the film, it was mentioned that Romanovski could face up to 15 years in prison, but they did not specify the exact article he is being accused under.
According to the plot presented by the Belarus 1 TV channel, during Romanovski’s service, a certain relative of his, living in Lithuania, allegedly “connected” the suspect with employees of the Lithuanian Department of State Security. According to them, Romanovski supposedly photographed official documents and on one occasion provided intelligence agencies with information about the construction of the Belarusian Nuclear Power Plant.
In the film, Valery Romanovski himself was shown saying, “I didn’t even notice how I crossed that line. Highly classified information with ‘top secret’ stamps was being transmitted.”
A sinister coincidence: Valery Romanovski is not only the name of the accused person but also the name of a judge who, in September 2022, sentenced journalist Denis Ivashin of the newspaper “Novy Chas” to 13 years in prison. Ivashin was investigating the involvement of former Ukrainian “Berkut” officers in Belarusian security forces during the violent suppression of peaceful protests in 2020. Journalist Denis Ivashin was accused of… state treason and alleged collaboration with Ukrainian intelligence services. The fact that such name coincidences occur speaks to one thing: cases of “treason against the state” have become very common in Belarusian courts.
Valery Romanovski’s case in Vitebsk is being heard by Judge Yevgeny Burunov, who is known as the youngest chairman of a district court in Belarus. After graduating from the law faculty of Polotsk State University, he started as an assistant to the district prosecutor, then worked in the regional prosecutor’s office. At the age of 25, he became a judge, and at 34, he became the head of a court in one of the districts in Vitebsk.
This is far from the first time that very young judges, investigators, prosecutors, etc., have been involved in cases of “enemies of the people” and political cases. For the past couple of years, it has been increasingly evident that the fight against opponents of the Lukashenko regime has become a real career ladder for many young and ambitious employees of law enforcement agencies. Similar processes occurred in the USSR during the era of Stalin and his repressions.
The Belarusian human rights center Our House reminds about the Aarhus Convention signed on June 25, 1998, which was personally ratified by Alexander Lukashenko. We believe that any information related to environmental matters, particularly the construction of the Ostrovets Nuclear Power Plant, which may have an impact on the lives and health of Belarusian and Lithuanian citizens, should not be concealed from the public.
The Belarusian human rights center Our House does not recognize Decree No. 247, “On the withdrawal of the Republic of Belarus from an international treaty,” which was signed by Alexander Lukashenko on July 18, 2021, without having the required authority to do so.
The Belarusian human rights center Our House demands the immediate release of Belarusian citizen Valery Romanovski, the withdrawal of all absurd accusations against him, and the termination of the criminal case.
The Belarusian human rights center Our House demands international attention to this judicial process, particularly regarding the risks of imposing the death penalty on Valery Romanovski.