In Logoisk a Ministry of Emergency Situations employee was detained, beaten, forced to resign, and sentenced to administrative arrest…
…but then released under pressure from protesters.
Yuri Krivoshey lives in the town of Pleshchenitsy, Logoisk district. He has served in the Ministry of Emergency Situations (MES) for about 11 years. Two weeks ago, his career ended unexpectedly: he claims he was detained for no reason and therefore fired. He was soon released at the request of the local community. Now, he plans to seek justice in the Investigative Committee and the Supreme Court.
Yuri Krivoshey says that on 11 August, he went shopping in Logoisk with his wife and 4-month-old child. They were stopped by traffic police. The traffic inspector asked to check Yuri’s documents and instructed him to get out of the car. While the inspector was checking the documents in the database, more police cars appeared nearby. Suddenly, a minibus stopped three feet away from them. Several masked men in black uniforms with no identifying insignia, who were carrying truncheons, jumped out of the bus, pushed him inside, and drove him in a seemingly unknown direction. The traffic police officer drove Yuri’s confused wife and child home in their family car. His response to Yuri’s wife asking what was going on, was only
“you would know better.”
He made no further comments on the situation. Meanwhile, Yuri was violently beaten in the bus and brought to the local police station.
“Along the way, they hit me with truncheons all over my body. One of them put his knee on my head and pressed my head to the floor. As I found out later, they brought me to the Logoisk Police Station. They twisted my arms behind my back, took me to the basement, and laid me on the tiled floor. I lay there in this position, hands behind my back, for about three hours.”
Shortly thereafter, officers from the Minsk city department of the MES, where Yuri worked, arrived at the Logoisk Police Office and demanded that he sign a letter of resignation.
“My personnel officer and a person from Internal Affairs arrived immediately. They brought a pre-printed letter of resignation stating that I want to resign at my own request. They threatened to dismiss me for cause if I didn’t sign.”
Yuri was then shown the protocol of arrest. It stated that he had refused to present his documents to the traffic police officer and resisted demands to proceed to the Logoisk police office for an identity check and administrative processing. It also stated that these actions fall under Article 23.4 (Disobedience to the legal request of an executive officer) of the Code of Administrative Offences.
“They did not allow me to see the other case materials, nor did they notify me of my rights and obligations. Eventually, they took my laces and belt and sent me to a detention center. Two days later, a Logoisk court judge arrived there. I petitioned her to add the footage from the bodycam and dashboard camera from the traffic police car to my case file and to summon witnesses who had seen the detention. However, the judge denied my requests. Her decision was based solely on the traffic police officer’s report, so I was sentenced to 10 days of administrative arrest.”
Yuri says he didn’t participate in any protests, but he knew they took place in the town. According to him, it seemed like the police were not ready for the 9 August protests. He is aware that the following day, people went to the district council to file a collective complaint and were detained — men were sent to a temporary detention center and women were fined. However, when Yuri and his family were driving home on the evening of 11 August, there seemed to be no protest rallies around town. Security forces began to fence in the central square, which was full of police cars, which Yuri posted in his local traffic police chat on Telegram [editor’s note: a messenger app].
Later in Pleshchenitsy, outraged by the actions of the authorities, locals went to the square to protest. On 14 August, Sergei Losich, head of the police office, spoke to them. Residents expressed their outrage at the detention of Yury Krivoshey and questioned its reasons. As Yury was later informed, people delivered an ultimatum that police release him or they will march to the police office and hold a rally to demand his release. As a result, Yuri was up for parole ahead of schedule — the evening of the very next day.
The young man suspects that his detention may have been planned in advance as there had been rumors to that effect among his acquaintances. Possibly, this was related to his activity in the city Telegram-channel and the local traffic police chat.
“What’s interesting is that two days prior to the incident, people started calling me and asking if it was true that I had been detained. And it was a lot of people who called. I suppose the rumor about my arrest started around that time. At that moment, I overlooked these rumors, but now I see it was planned. I was sort of one of the moderators in the local Telegram-channel covering regular incidents and problems in the city. Maybe they thought that if they detained me, people would stop writing there. But they achieved the opposite effect: people actually became more active after my arrest, there were a lot of messages on this topic. When I was in the detention center, policemen came to my cell to find my phone and remove them all,” says Yuri Krivoshey.
In the detention center, Yuri met many people detained for protest activity. Some people stated that they were detained for made up reasons related to the post-election situation.
“Almost the entire detention center in Logoisk was packed with people. Someone went to the rally, someone posted an appeal on VKontakte [editor’s note: a social network] to come to the elections only on the evening of 9 August and photograph the ballots — there were different people.”
After his release, the young man wrote a statement about the beating to the Investigative Committee and recorded the injuries received during an official medical examination: serious hematomas on his legs, shoulder, and arm. He cannot say with absolute certainty who exactly beat him in the car, but he tends to think that they were local police officers.
“I suspect that the people in black uniforms without identifying insignia were from the Logoisk Police Department. When I was brought there, I saw some of the employees wearing similar uniforms without masks, and I know many by sight. When we were in the minibus, of course, we could not see anyone: I was lying down and could not move, there was no question of any resistance, because I knew that if I did anything, they’d beat me even more”.
Yuri is also going to file a complaint with the Supreme Court against the decision on administrative arrest and hopes that justice will prevail. Although, according to him, the higher authority can either cancel the decision made by the local court, or send him to serve out the term, or even increase it to 15 days. However, Yuri does not want “administrative arrest” on his record since that would make it more difficult to get a job with the Ministry of Emergency Situations in the future.
“There has been a recent practice in the Ministry of Emergency Situations: to terminate the contract of everyone who participated in protest events or came to the attention of law enforcement agencies, even those who were detained for no reason and did not even have protocols of arrest drawn up. However, these terminations were made with the opportunity for reinstatement at a future date. I know about this personally, having talked it over with colleagues. They offered this to me, too: write a resignation now of your own free will, and someday in the future, you will be reinstated. But then I saw the attitude of the management, as if I were really a malicious violator, and as if everything for which I had been tried were true. They didn’t even listen to me when I said that I had witnesses. They had the following position: anyone detained was guilty”.
The young man says that his colleagues reacted to these events in different ways and were mostly shocked by what was happening in the country. Some of them expressed their support, but there were also those who said that they believed him guilty. Yuri graduated from the Gomel Engineering Institute of the Ministry of Emergency Situations (MES) and worked in his specialty for almost 11 years. According to him, he would like to return to the service, but, apparently, in the current conditions it will be impossible in the near future. Meanwhile, Yuri is busy looking for work, as the family has a fairly large mortgage to build a house.
Ministry of Emergency Situations spokesperson Vitaly Novitsky gave TUT.BY a comment on the incident.
“In any type of organization, there are procedures, requirements and rules that each employee undertakes to observe when hired and for the term of service. On 11 August, our former colleague filed a letter of resignation thereby expressing his disagreement with established procedure, which until that time had suited him. His request was granted. With regard to re-admission to service in the department and units for emergency situations, such a practice exists.”