MINSK, Belarus >> Two suspects have confessed to carrying out the deadly subway bombing in Belarus, President Alexander Lukashenko announced Wednesday, claiming that his political opponents might know who “ordered the attack.”
The bombing killed 12 people and wounded over 200 during Monday evening rush hour in the main subway station in Minsk, the capital. No group or individual has claimed responsibility for the bombing, which officials have called a terrorist attack.
In a televised statement, Lukashenko said the suspects admitted taking part in the attack but said authorities still did not know who ordered the bombing.
The authoritarian president said he has asked the prosecutor general to interrogate leading opposition figures in connection with the blast “regardless of democracy, and cries and wailing of foreign sufferers.”
“Maybe those politicians from the fifth column will open their cards and show who ordered it,” he said.
Lukashenko, dubbed “Europe’s last dictator” by the West, had already launched a massive crackdown on opposition members in Belarus after tens of thousands protested the presidential election in December. Lukashenko was declared the overwhelming winner of that vote, which international observers described as rigged.
He has run the former Soviet nation of 10 million with an iron fist for nearly 17 years, retaining Soviet-style controls over the economy and cracking down on opposition and independent media. Hundreds of dissidents were arrested after the presidential vote, including seven of the nine presidential candidates.
Opposition leaders pressing for democratic reforms had already voiced fears that authorities would use the subway bombing as a new excuse to persecute them.
Lukashenko called the dissidents “a fifth column” threatening the country.
“Opposition must exist in our country but we will not have a fifth column. All this rant about democracy has nothing to do with people’s power and the democracy that we have in our country,” he said Wednesday.
CCTV footage showed one of the two suspects leaving a bag in the Oktyabrskaya subway station in central Minsk and feeling around for something in his pocket shortly before the explosion, Deputy Prosecutor General Andrey Shved said earlier Wednesday.
Authorities have said the bomb was remote-controlled.
The country also observed a day of mourning for the victims on Wednesday. Flags flew with black ribbons and residents sobbed as they viewed portraits of the victims in the Minsk subway station.