By Vasily Fedosenko
The Soviet Union collapsed overnight more than two decades ago. In Belarus, which suffered most in the aftermath of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986, the sudden demise of the nuclear superpower five years later left enough lethal legacy of other types to endanger the lives of several future generations.
In a forest near the village of Savichi, some 160 km (100 miles) southwest of Minsk, one of these Soviet-era time bombs is still ticking. Here, under a thin layer of ground, hundreds of tons of highly toxic Soviet-made pesticides are stored in leaky dumps.
By Vasily Fedosenko
To Vladimir Ablogin, it may still seem like a fairy tale, but as he touches his new squeezebox “garmoshka” accordion, which had covered thousands of miles to find him in his dilapidated wood hut, he knows what has happened is real.
I arrived in his run-of-the-mill Russian village in the Smolensk region at Belarus’s border on an early December morning to take pictures of local peasants voting in Russia’s parliamentary election. Looking like it was still from the Soviet era, the election day soon turned into a rare holiday in this backwater settlement, which was until recently prosaically named “Gryaz” (Mud).
MINSK (Reuters) – A court in Belarus Thursday sentenced two political opponents of President Alexander Lukashenko to prison terms for organizing a mass protest against his re-election last December.
The move is likely to trigger new economic sanctions from Western governments at a time when Belarus is struggling with a financial crisis. But Lukashenko Wednesday hinted that he may pardon convicted opposition figures in what analysts said would be an attempt to rebuild relations.
Every year Orthodox Christians in Belarus throng to local cemeteries to commemorate their deceased relatives and loved ones on the ninth day after Easter, following an ancient Slavic rite on a revered day called Radunitsa. They tidy up tombs and adorn them with wreaths, and bow their heads in somber silence.
But in the southeast of Belarus, people stream to a tightly guarded area surrounded by solid fences and barbed wire, where whole villages were evicted 25 years ago after being contaminated with deadly radiation spewed by a blown up reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in neighboring Ukraine.