The Belarusian side must stop persecuting supporters of integration of Belarus and Russia, as it "exacerbates the mood of people who would like to see Belarus as a partner and ally," Konstantin Zatulin, Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Committee for CIS Affairs, Eurasian Integration and Relations with Compatriots (the "United Russia" faction) told EADaily on January 18, commenting on the progress of the trial of pro-Russian columnists Sergey Shiptenko, Yuri Pavlovets, and Dmitry Alimkin.
Zatulin was answering the question how to treat the fact that experts and witnesses in this case are in fact ideological opponents of the defendants who have traditional views on the Belarusian history and are supporters of integration with Russia.
“I have not tested views and judgments of the witnesses. Their views should be discussed by those familiar with the process and those who are listening to their answers to certain questions. But I have repeatedly said that I perceive this process as persecution undermining the freedom of expression. I believe that such trials should not take place. They don’t do credit to Belarusian justice, Belarus itself, and unfortunately, demonstrate certain trends that unfold in the social and political life of Belarus. Of course, the social and political life of Belarus has different trends, there is a struggle of views. But to supporters of the Russian world in Belarus, their opponents, who belong to the nationalistic trend of socio-political thought, do certainly have no mercy. This is what this process has been about from the very beginning. They are clearly not inclined to resort to arguments where one can follow the path of persecution. They prefer persecution to discussion.
“This process clearly does not contribute to strengthening the authority of Belarus in Russia. Although, of course, not everyone in Russia is following the trial, not everyone knows about it, but those who follow the development of Russian-Belarusian relations are upset that in Belarus they settle scores with people who, albeit in a harsh form, expressed concern about the ambiguity of many of the ideological designs that are now in progress in Belarus. That includes Russian-Belarusian relations, participation in integration associations and generally the position of Belarus in relation to the post-Soviet space, in particular, the situation in Ukraine. This process as a whole has an aggravating effect on the mood of people who would like to see in Belarus a partner and ally.
It should be noted that among the witnesses brought by the prosecution side, the journalist of the opposition newspaper Nasha Niva, Artyom Gorbatsevich, and activist Denis Rabenok, known for his nationalistic views, famous for his constantly writing various statements and denunciations of his ideological opponents, act in the publicists' case. Moreover, among the experts who conducted the expert examination of the articles on extremism was a state expert who during the interrogation in the courtroom spoke about supporting the processes of Belarusization, used the phrase "Russian imperialism", stated that Belarus was part of the Russian Empire "not on a voluntary basis". And the war of 1812 for the Belarusians was not Patriotic. An expert, who according to the norms of the Belarusian CPC should be disinterested and neutral, in fact demonstrated ideological bias and opposed the defendants.