Updated at 16:42,06-12-2016

Prosecutor General Office Makes First-ever Reply to Appeals from Mother of Missing Politician Yury Zakharanka

The Prosecutor General's Office has written to Ulyana Zakharanka in the first-ever reply to appeals from the mother of opposition politician Yury Zakharanka since his unsolved disappearance in 1999.

Ms. Zakharanka, 86, has repeatedly urged the Office to provide her with full information about the investigation of her son's disappearance but it is only her latest appeal that has drawn a formal response, human rights defender Aleh Volchak told BelaPAN.

In the letter to the elderly woman, Deputy Prosecutor General Viktar Konan said that the Minsk City Prosecutor's Office had extended the inquiry's period until September 24, 2010. "Work to solve and investigate the crime continues," the official said, adding that the prosecutor's office was investigating different theories, including the one linking Mr. Zakharanka's disappearance to his political activities.

Mr. Volchak said that the letter offered no information about specific investigative activities. "In particular, [it didn’t say] whether they have questioned Viktar Sheyman, Yury Sivakow, Dzmitry Pawlichenka, Uladzimir Navumaw, as well as Alyaksandr Lukashenka, who once said that he knew that Zakharanka was alive and staying in Germany and later said that he had been murdered over criminal money," the activist said.

Mr. Volchak said that the politician's family would send another appeal to the Prosecutor General's Office, asking it to comment on a documentary recently aired on Russia's NTV channel that accused Mr. Lukashenka of involvement in the disappearances of his political opponents, including Mr. Zakharanka. "Prosecutor's offices must respond to and check up on information distributed by the media," he said.

Yury Zakharanka, who was 47 when he went missing, was the interior minister in 1994-95 but joined the opposition after being dismissed for allegedly misusing public funds. He became known for his effort to establish an organization of police and army officers.

An opposition-formed investigative group led by Mr. Volchak, a former prosecutor, insisted that it had five witnesses to the general being forced into a car by a group of five or six people in civilian clothes on a street in Minsk on May 7, 1999. The witnesses described the alleged kidnappers and the car.

The abduction of Yury Zakharanka ranks with the disappearance of former Central Election Commission Chairman Viktar Hanchar and his friend, businessman Anatol Krasowski, in September 1999, and the case of Dzmitry Zavadski, a Minsk-based cameraman for Russia's ORT television network, who went missing in July 2000.

Earlier this month, a group of leading opposition politicians have asked the UN Security Council to conduct an international inquiry into the disappearances.