Appendix No. 2 The Afghanistan War Veterans Movement in the Republic of Belarus. Achievements and problems

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Appendix No. 2
The Afghanistan War Veterans Movement in the Republic of Belarus. Achievements and problems.
Within the period following World War II, about 32.2 thousand Belorussian citizens took part in local wars and military conflicts, including the Afghanistan War (30 thousand). During these military actions, 789 men died and over 1.5 thousand were injured or mutilated. 718 men returned home as disabled soldiers. To date, there is an estimated 1000 of invalids in Belarus. Twelve men were considered missing in action during the Afghanistan War.

  1. Legal Framework.

    1. Laws, resolutions, edicts

  1. The Law of the Republic of Belarus “On Veterans” of 17 April 1992, as amended.

  2. The Law of the Republic of Belarus “On Social Welfare of Invalids in the Republic of Belarus” of 11 November 1991.

  3. The Law of the Republic of Belarus “On Social Security” of 17 April 1992, as amended.

  4. The Law of the Republic of Belarus “On Pension Allowances for Servicemen, Senior Officers and Members of Personnel of Law Enforcement Bodies” of 17 December 1992, as amended.

  5. “Agreement on Reciprocal Acceptance of Benefits and Guarantees for Participants in and Invalids of World War II, for those Who Were Engaged in Action in Territories of other States, for Families of Killed Servicemen” of 15 April 1994.

  6. “Agreement on Reciprocal Acceptance of Rights to Privileged Transport Fares for Invalids and WW II Veterans, as well as for Persons of Similar Status” of 12 March 1993.

  7. The Decree of the President of the Republic of Belarus of 12 April 2000 No. 11 “On Extra Measures to Increase Pension Allowances to Invalids, WW II Veterans and Certain Other Categories of Citizens”.

  8. The Edict of the President of the Republic of Belarus of 21 November 1996 No. 483 “On Extra Measures to Speed up Construction (Reconstruction) of Housing for Servicemen and Certain Other Categories of Citizens in the Republic of Belarus”.

  9. The Programme of Support for Persons Affected by the War in Afghanistan or in Other Countries of Military Conflict approved by a resolution of the Council of Ministers of 22 October 1999 No. 1637.

  10. The Republican Comprehensive Programme of Registration and Medical Rehabilitation for Afghanistan War Veterans approved by a resolution of the Council of Ministers of 16 April 1996 No. 261.

  11. Draft Inter-State Comprehensive Programme of Rehabilitation of War Veterans and Persons Who Participated in Local Conflicts and Fell Victim to Terrorism for the Period 2001 — 2005. The Draft is under consideration by the CIS Economic Council.

The basic law setting the norms of social protection for war veterans has been revised on several occasions. Gradually, there has been a decrease in certain measures of social protection. At present a new draft law of the Republic of Belarus “On Amending the Law of the Republic of Belarus “On Veterans” is discussed by the National Assembly House of Representatives. The BLAWV has initiated introduction of amendments in the Law, through members of Parliament and war veterans, aimed at raising war veterans’ welfare.

1.2. According to Article 2 of the “Law on Veterans”, veterans of war are the persons who have taken part in military action defending their Motherland in the Army or Navy, in partisan or clandestine groups, as well as those who have participated in local wars and military conflicts in territories of other countries as experts and advisers of the Armed Forces, State Security Committee of the USSR, Ministry of the Interior of the USSR.
The new draft “Law on Veterans” provides for a revision of the above Article after which the Afghanistan War veterans will be viewed as war veterans in a generic sense. Today they are regarded as veterans of military action performed in territories of other countries. The drafters of the amendment are aiming, inter alia, at changing this definition.

The rules for defining the status of war veterans will be established by the National Assembly of the Republic of Belarus.

Legal and social guarantees for Belorussians — participants of WW II and for those who have participated in local wars and military conflicts differ considerably.
1.3. Rules of veteran organisations do not provide definitions of the Afghan war veterans. They just set the procedure of acquiring membership in the organisations. Thus, for example, Belorussians, foreign citizens, persons without citizenship who are Afghanistan War veterans, members of their families and relatives of those who were killed in the war, as well as persons of a similar status and other persons rendering sufficient assistance and support to the ends and objectives of the Organisation, acknowledging its Statutes, abiding by the provisions thereof, paying the membership fees and contributing to the work of the Organisation may become members of the country’s largest Afghanistan War veterans organisation BLAWV.

1.4. In conformity with the current Republic’s legislation, the state-supported guarantees of social welfare and medical benefits, as well as pension increases, housing, tax, transport fares, employment and educational advantages will be granted to the following categories of war veterans:

  • disabled military servicemen, officers and members of law enforcement bodies who were injured, wounded, mutilated or became ill while participating in local wars or military conflicts, as well as workers and employees of appropriate categories of disability who performed logistic services for the military units in foreign countries and became disabled as a result of injury, concussion, mutilation or illness acquired in action;

  • Army servicemen, State Security Committee personnel, officers and personnel of the Ministry of the Interior (including military experts and advisers) who, following resolutions of high authorities of the USSR, participated in combat action in territories of other states;

  • conscripts who were called up for military retraining and sent to Afghanistan to participate in combat action;

  • workers and employees who performed logistic services for the Soviet military unit in Afghanistan and became disabled as a result of injury, concussion, mutilation or illness acquired in action or who were awarded USSR medals and orders for contributing to combat action;

  • workers and employees who were sent to work in Afghanistan during December 1979 — December 1989 or to other countries where military action was taking place;

  • personnel of the State Security Committee who was temporarily stationed in the territory of Afghanistan but did not form a part of the limited unit of the USSR troops;

  • families of military servicemen who were killed or died as a result of injury, mutiliation, concussion or illness acquired during military operations in Afghanistan or other countries where military action was taking place.

1.5 Extra privileges and guarantees due in connection with the received military honours falling under the Republic’s Law “On the Status of Hero of the Soviet Union, Hero of Socialist Labour, winners of three orders of Glory and Labour Glory”, as amended, are to be granted only to persons who participated in military action in territories of other states and were awarded the title of the Hero of the Soviet Union.

  1. Brief summary of active veteran organizations.

The most numerous organization of the veterans of local wars and military conflicts in Belarus is The Republican Public Organization “The Belorussian League of Afghanistan War Veterans”(BLAWV) (the chairman of the organization V.Toestev, ACM of the WVF).

BLAWV objectives: protection of BLAWV members’ constitutional rights and liberties in order to improve their financial position, housing conditions, consumer and other kinds of services, social protection of invalids, family members of the veterans and victims of local wars and conflicts; working out the concept of veterans movement’s development in Belarus.

The membership of BLAWV is fixed since 1999. The organization possesses its own banner and emblem. The members are presented with IDs and badges of a corresponding type. The organization consists of 8.5 thousand members. The supreme body of BLAWV is The Congress, which is held every four years. The rest of the time the managing role is vested in The BLAWV Council.

BLAWV structure is made up of 6 regional organizations and Minsk Municipal Organization, which, in turn, unite all municipal and regional organizations (more than 90) throughout the Belarus territory.

BLAWV has a number of economic structures (commercial enterprises), conducting business undertakings and providing financial base for the organization’s activity.

Nine of BLAWV members are deputies of The National Assembly of The Republic of Belarus (Parliament).

Other Afghanistan War veteran organizations (The Republican Organization of Families of the Servicemen who died in Afghanistan “Memory and Duty”, The Belorussian Public Association, “Afghanistan Invalids Help Fund”, The Republican Public Association of Afghanistan War Invalids) are rather scanty and aimed at specific tasks. The objectives of the Afghanistan War veteran organizations do not contradict each other. The organizations cooperate closely. The reasons for the lack of organizational coordination are primarily of traditional nature.

3. The veterans’ movement situation in The Republic of Belarus.

In accordance with the legislation currently in force, the administration guarantees and basically implements measures on social security and healthcare, provision of pensions and housing services, tax and public transport privileges, employment and education advantages. Nevertheless, the Republic still faces a few problems:

  • absence of possibility for invalids to exercise their right to receive free medical supplies;

  • failure to complete the construction of the second 100-bed building of the republican clinic intended for the rehabilitation of Afghanistan War veterans;

  • absence of agreement on the matter of the veteran family members voucher provision;

  • the situation of making a prosthetic appliance to 125 invalids from among veterans of local wars and conflicts is considerably problematic;

  • it is necessary to reach an agreement on the possibility of state subsidized veterans medical treatment in CIS countries and abroad;

  • the process of veterans housing building is very slow;

  • the pensions of invalids and veterans widows are extremely low (from 18 to 68 $).

  1. BLAWV activity and international links.

BLAWV fulfils veterans rights protection in the following basic directions:

  • the perfection of the legal framework while contributing to the drafting of laws pertinent to the veterans of local wars and conflicts, and through their representatives-deputies in The Republic of Belarus National Assembly.

  • participation in the development of the state programme on the veterans movement support.

  • providing legal advice to the organization’s members, and standing for their interests through legal action, if necessary.

  • working out and implementation of BLAWV programmes on invalids, families of veterans who died in local wars and indigent veterans families support.

Within the framework of mutual cooperation, The Ministry of Social Protection and veteran organizations work out and implement programmes on The Republic of Belarus veteran organizations support, and provide veterans’ interests protection in republican and regional government bodies.

The organizations have rather fruitful cooperation with The Ministry of Defense, military commissariats and youth organizations on the matter of youth patriotic education and public and sport events arrangement.

Considering that The Republic of Belarus public veteran organizations do not have their own publications, BLAWV intends to start publishing its own newspaper by 2001. The Republic of Belarus Ministry of Defense newspaper “Vo slavu Rodini” has a periodic column “Pobratim” (published once in 1-2 months) dedicated to the problems of Belorussian veteran organizations’ activity. The problems of veterans are also tackled in The Republic of Belarus Ministry of Defense TV programme. The separate regional BLAWV organizations take care of publication of similar columns in their regional newspapers.

In order to promote its activity, BLAWV also holds traditional republican and international contests and tournaments in different types of sport, organized in memory of those who died in Afghanistan, and annual musical festival “Afghanistan hurts in my soul”.

BLAWV is a member of The World Federation of War Veterans. At BLAWV’s initiative, The Republic of Belarus took part in the implementation of basic measures of The Intergovernmental CIS Complex Programme on Healthcare and Rehabilitation of Soldiers-Internationalists and their Families during 1997-2000.

BLAWV forms part of the Committee on Soldiers-Internationalists Affaires at CIS governments.

BLAWV maintains close contacts with similar veteran organizations of all CIS countries through work experience exchange, joint development of The Intergovernmental Complex Programme on CIS Countries Veteran Movement Support, celebration of memorable dates, and arrangement of public and sport events.
5. Conclusions and suggestions.
Lacking the experience of management of their members’ interests in relevant ministries and departments, public organizations of Afghanistan War veterans are interested in work experience exchange and seek help of veteran organizations that are members of The International Federation of Afghanistan War Veterans. The issues they are concerned with are:

  • rehabilitation and healthcare of Afghanistan War veterans, its organization and aid provision (diagnostic medical equipment and specialized medications).

  • humanitarian aid provision (specialized prosthetic appliances and modern electric wheelchairs ).

  • arrangement for specialized surgical treatment of Afghanistan War veterans abroad.

Due to the unstable economic situation in the country, Belorussian public organizations have to engage in commercial activity to achieve their targets and provide financial support to their indigent members. The organizations need assistance in establishing commercial links with similar veteran businesses abroad to create joint ventures for business management and to attract foreign investment to implement joint commercial projects.

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