We'll hunt you and hang you side by side: Belarus dictator Alexander Lukashenko issues chilling death threat against two theatre direc
We’ll hunt you and hang you side by side: Belarus dictator Alexander Lukashenko issues chilling death threat against two theatre directors who fled to UK ten years ago
- Natalia Kaliada, 47, and husband Nicolai Khalezin, 56, fled Belarus a decade ago
- Couple have been told by official Belarus newspaper they will be hunted down
- Belarus Free Theatre, continues to stage secret shows in country’s capital Minsk
A chilling death threat has been made against two UK-based theatre directors – by the last dictatorship in Europe
Natalia Kaliada, 47, and her husband Nicolai Khalezin, 56, fled Belarus a decade ago when their theatre group enraged strongman president Alexander Lukashenko.
Despite gaining British citizenship, they have now been told by an official Belarus newspaper they will be hunted down and hanged ‘side by side’.
Natalia Kaliada, 47, and her husband Nicolai Khalezin, 56, (pictured in 2015) fled Belarus a decade ago when their theatre group enraged strongman president Alexander Lukashenko
The couple, who live in London, are well aware that Belarus’s ally Russia has previously carried out killings in Britain. After being given asylum in the UK, writer Miss Kaliada and former diplomat Mr Khalezin have continued campaigning for democracy in Belarus, a former Soviet republic bordering Poland.
The underground drama group the couple helped create, Belarus Free Theatre, continues to stage secret shows in the country’s capital Minsk. It has put on performances around the world to fight for freedom.
Supporters include Sherlock Holmes actor Jude Law and playwright Tom Stoppard. Former deputy prime minister Nick Clegg and ex-foreign secretary Lord Hague have also backed the group. However, the couple cannot relax despite now being 1,200 miles from Minsk.
They are now calling for the UK Government to step up sanctions against president Alexander Lukashenko (pictured in 2019) and his regime to include those who help finance Belarus
Over Christmas, Belarus’s main government-supporting newspaper carried an article threatening them. The piece in Sovietska Belarus said: ‘We will definitely find you…and we will hang you side by side.’
Miss Kaliada told the Mail: ‘Death threats were always part of our life – we were announced as public enemies on TV in Belarus ten years ago – but this is the first time the main columnist of Sovietska Belarus is using such language. Our close friends have been kidnapped and killed – some poisoned. And the question is how connected to Moscow is Belarus?’
She insisted: ‘I have a simple response to what’s been written in Belarus – if they are making death threats against us, it means we are doing the right thing. We will continue to do so.’ Miss Kaliada added: ‘Clearly, we’ve become a target… it’s getting more tense.
Lukashenko, 66, (pictured last August) who has been in power for 26 years, is reported to have set up a £1million ‘assassination slush fund’ in 2012 to pay for attacks overseas
‘We have British citizenship so they’re threatening citizens of other countries – and the UK needs to take responsibility.’ They are now calling for the UK Government to step up sanctions against Lukashenko and his regime to include those who help finance Belarus.
Miss Kaliada noted that Russia had defied international laws and conventions to launch attacks on British soil. In 2018 assassins used deadly nerve agent Novichok in Salisbury in a failed bid to kill former spy Sergei Skripal, 67. Mother-of-three Dawn Sturgess died after she handled a discarded perfume bottle containing the poison.
In 2006 former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko died after radioactive polonium-210 it was put in his tea at a London hotel. Miss Kaliada said: ‘People somehow continue to be killed and poisoned here.’
Lukashenko, 66, who has been in power for 26 years, is reported to have set up a £1million ‘assassination slush fund’ in 2012 to pay for attacks overseas. Miss Kaliada said four opposition members had ‘disappeared’ since 1999 and she pointed to the ‘staged suicide’ of Belarus journalist Oleg Bebenin in 2010.
She stressed: ‘Knowing what Lukashenko already did to our friends, we feel like anything could happen. And while Lukashenko has money to pay hired killers he will do so.
‘That’s why we’re appealing to the UK Government to not just condemn Lukashenko, but impose sanctions on his regime and those who finance it.’
The campaigner said the Foreign Office told her to speak to police about the death threat. A Foreign Office spokesman said: ‘The UK condemns the intimidation and persecution of Belarusian political opposition figures by Lukashenko’s regime.’