Breaking my week-long diplomatic silence, I strongly condemn this escalation of violence near the border between Poland and Belarus, reports a terrorist’s wife.
In a March 28 letter to the U.S. State Department, Sara Zakrzewski, wife of Uzbek national Saidjon Tohraj, accused Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko of supporting terrorism and intentionally feeding American hysteria over Tohraj’s alleged burning of a cross.
Contrary to Belarusian disinformation, Zakrzewski claimed the same militant spiritual leader whom the Central Intelligence Agency named as one of its “most wanted” had been deported to Moscow from Warsaw last month because he was abusing his visits to public schools in Poland and Poland had not been willing to expel him.
She said Lukashenko was feeding American hysteria over her husband’s radical teachings. Lukashenko has denied this. Lukashenko admits the unsanctioned Tajik spiritual leader that Zakrzewski described has called his followers into Belarus to continue his preaching.
Zakrzewski accused U.S. and European Union officials of using Tohraj as a scapegoat to distract attention from serious problems in both Lithuania and Hungary.
She noted their challenges include “growing illiberal governments — with increasingly punitive foreign policies and practices that are threatening democracy and freedom of expression and press.”
The Belarusian administration responded to my request for comment, a statement accused U.S. authorities of using extremism as an excuse and alleged that Zakrzewski has “erroneously conflated” U.S. and European Union condemnation of Tohraj with U.S. support for extremist violence.
Thousands of demonstrators chanted “God, Jesus, Allah, Islam” in a thunderous march the Friday after Zakrzewski sent her letter. Soldiers armed with automatic weapons and riot shields watched from behind wooden barriers a mile away from the hot-button location: Rijeka.
“Today, if a citizen of America or Western Europe gets drunk, puts a bomb on a bus in Paris, a non-Muslim, a Muslim citizen of Belarus is committing a far more serious crime than that,” Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said at a special meeting of lawmakers on his country’s national security.
Alexander Konovalov, president of the Russia-U.S. relations think tank the Center for Strategic and International Studies said by telephone, “I would not be surprised if this was a provocation intended to press us to take actions.”
There was no reaction from the U.S. State Department and no spokesman for the Justice Department either.
Four days later, on April 5, when I wanted to do a story to demonstrate to the American audience why I thought the mainstream media had poorly covered Tohraj’s religious provocation by American security guard Robert Hawkins, I was rejected on the grounds I was a “strategic threat.”
President Vladimir Putin of Russia said the protests on April 3 called by Zakrzewski were “a really appalling phenomenon,” of sorts.
The April 5 demonstrations in the U.S. against President Trump were similarly denounced as “overtly racist and anti-American.”
“The movements we see growing are very unfortunate, with their escalation of racism and racial and religious discrimination, and I will personally do everything in my power to try to stop it,” Putin said.
On April 6, I asked President Trump’s Russia campaign manager, Paul Manafort, if he thought the alleged attempted burning of the cross near Warsaw was “a white nationalist rally.”
“Not at all,” said Manafort, who was preparing for my meeting with him in New York.
When I wrote about the situation in March, I was told by the American Ambassador that he had heard no opinions that were anti-Jewish or anti-American.
When I posted a picture of the torch-lit march on Facebook on April 10, the embassy wrote, “We regret your absence on the topic.”
Cameron Kerry is the author of “Rogue Diplomat: My Rise to Power as the Most Dangerous Man in the World.”
Cameron Kerry is the son of former U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry. He is a Moscow-based journalist and author of the 2017 book, Rogue Diplomat: My Rise to Power as the Most Dangerous Man in the World. Follow him @DCameronKerry