Updated at 15:34,14-12-2017

Pro-government newspaper publishes what it calls Haydukow`s letter to CIA

by Vyachaslaw Budkevich, naviny.by

The Presidential Administration`s newspaper Sovetskaya Belorussiya has published the full text of the letter that was allegedly sent by young opposition activist Andrey Haydukow to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), BelaPAN said.

On July 1, a judge of the Vitsyebsk Regional Court sentenced Mr. Haydukow, currently 23, to one and a half years in prison, finding him guilty of attempting to "establish contacts with foreign intelligence agencies without signs of high treason," an offense penalized under a recently adopted appendix to the Criminal Codes Article 356. His appeal is scheduled to be heard in the Supreme Court of Belarus on August 27.

The author of the letter introduces himself as a leader of an unregistered organization called the Union of Young Intellectuals, which "has existed since 2006, uniting intellectual youths of different interests, professions and ages," including university students, psychologists, lawyers, and IT experts.

"At present, human rights and constitutional norms are violated in Belarus on a regular basis, which makes democracy impossible," the letter says. "The opposition is inefficient. It has been routed; prominent leaders are not trusted by citizens, and the financial assistance they receive from Europe and the United States to fight against dictatorship and build democracy is spent inefficiently and inappropriately. We believe that the way out is to train young leaders, conduct information political campaigns and raise citizens` awareness of human rights, which will eventually result in the fall of the dictatorship."

The author asks the CIA for advisory and financial assistance with conducting "information political campaigns."

The letter says that activists of the Union of Young Intellectuals can travel to Lithuania to meet with a representative of the CIA. Such a meeting may also take place in Belarus, if the CIA considers this safe, the letter says.

The author says that he would like his letter to be sent to the office of the CIA in Lithuania, and that the office should encrypt its reply and send it to the author`s email address instead of writing back to the address provided on the envelope.

The letter is quoted in full in a caustic article by Ihar Dolin, who claims that "at the end of last year," Mr. Haydukow had given the message to a friend traveling to Germany and asked him to mail it from abroad.

Mr. Dolin says that the newspaper will continue to explore "this unique story" in its next issues.

The press office of the Committee for State Security (KGB) replied that although the agency knew about Mr. Dolin`s article, it had not released any letters by Mr. Haydukow to him.

Mr. Haydukow was initially charged with high treason, which carries penalties ranging from up to 15 years in prison to the death sentence.

The fifth-year student at the chemical engineering and technology department of Polatsk State University and fitter in charge of instrumentation at Naftan in Navapolatsk was arrested in Vitsyebsk on November 8, 2012.

KGB spokesman Alyaksandr Antanovich announced on November 13 that Mr. Haydukow had "gathered and passed political and economic information on the instructions of a foreign intelligence agency," and that he had been caught in the act of making a dead drop.

Mr. Haydukows trial began on June 12 and was held behind closed doors. His lawyer was prohibited from disclosing any information about the case against Mr. Haydukow or his trial.

In early July, the Belarus version of Russias tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda reported with reference to Alyaksandr Sidarovich, first deputy prosecutor of the Vitsyebsk region, that Mr. Haydukow attempted to contact the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and offer to pass sensitive information to it.

In August 2012, Mr. Haydukow wrote a letter to the CIA, which was intercepted by the KGB. The agency replied to Mr. Haydukows letter, misleading him into believing that he had been contacted by the CIA, said Mr. Sidarovich.

According to Aleh Barysevich, a senior investigator with the KGBs Vitsyebsk regional office, the agency spent three months playing a "counterintelligence game" with the man. "We had to understand whether he was indeed ready to commit a crime or these were just some unfulfilled adolescent fancies," he was quoted as saying. "He pursued the specific goal of establishing cooperation [with the CIA] and acting in the interests of this secret service."

The KGB accused Mr. Haydukow of having offered to infect computers at Naftan with spyware.

Mr. Haydukow even made a dead drop in Vitsyebsk to collect his payment from the CIA, Mr. Barysevich said.

The young man became aware that his letter had never reached the CIA only a few days after his arrest, said Mr. Barysevich.