Three activists in Belarus could face execution after allegedly carrying out acts of sabotage on the railway system to hinder the movement of Russian troops in the early phases of their invasion of Ukraine.
According to Belarusian investigators Wednesday, the three were charged after being arrested on March 1. The men were accused of terrorism after allegedly setting fire to relay boxes on the railway network at night, the Belarusian Investigative Committee said.
“The men could face a maximum penalty as serious as the death penalty,” it said in a statement, Yahoo News reported.
The men have been identified as Dzmitry Ravich, Dzyanis Dzikun, and Aleh Malchanau, all from the southeastern city of Svietlahorsk, Rferl reported, citing a Minsk-based Vyasna (Spring) human rights center. The accused are 29, 33 and 51 years old.
Executions by ex-Soviet Belarus are carried out with a single shot to the back of the head, local media reports said. Relatives of the convicts are not informed once the penalty has been carried out and the bodies are also not returned.
The conviction to execute the activists could come in connection with the alleged anti-war railway sabotage carried out from February to April. This was done to slow down the deployment of Russian troops and hardware in the war in Ukraine, according to Belarus. Russia had used Belarus as a staging ground for its assault on Kyiv when it launched its offensive on Feb. 24. However, it remains unclear to what extent the sabotage had affected the Russian troops, Al Arabiya News reported.
Belarus, a close ally of Russia, is the only country in Europe that still uses the death penalty.
The country has also been slapped with a long list of financial sanctions by Western countries in response to the Kremlin’s war on Ukraine. It is also facing condemnation for its efforts to aid the Russian invasion. Belarus, however, is not a direct participant in the war in Ukraine.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Saturday his country will transfer nuclear-capable Iskander-M missile systems to Belarus over the coming months. He made the commitment at a meeting in St. Petersburg, saying the missile systems “can use both ballistic and cruise missiles, both in conventional and nuclear versions,” according to the Kremlin. According to intelligence collected by NATO surveillance planes, Russia has used Minsk as a satellite base including for many of their air operations in Ukraine.