“This is atrocity…” Victims and detainees talk about trials and injuries.
More than 6 thousand people were detained in Belarus during the last few days. They are accused of participating in illegal protests. More than 1000 people were released within a few days. Onliner’s editorial office receives details of these detentions and what happened to the people further in prison trucks, police departments, and prisons. Attention: the text below contains information that can shock impressionable people.
Yuri: “From time to time, a major came out into the yard, shouting that he would shoot everyone, and he has a direct order for this.”
Yuri works as a loader. He says that he did not participate in any rallies. He had a birthday on August 9, so he went to celebrate it with friends the following day. He was returning home at about 5 p.m. The bus stopped at the Minsk City Executive Committee, and the driver said that he would not go further because of the blocked avenue.
- My wife and I carefully reached the Circus. We wanted to go to Nemiga, take public transport and go home, — says Yuri. — When we were near the Yanka Kupala park, I heard a shout: “Take him!”. People in uniform pounced on me and twisted my arms. My wife tried to hold me, and they beat her on the arm with a truncheon. I shouted: “Masha, go away, run faster! Three kids are at home. There will be trouble!” They started beating me at once, leading to the yellow bus. About ten detainees were on the bus. The policemen began to beat the woman. She was hit on the head and lost consciousness. We demanded an ambulance, but everyone who voiced was severely beaten. They shouted that “fresh meat” had arrived. They pushed five people into the so-called “glasses” in the prison truck.
We were brought to the Sovetskiy district police department, lined up along the wall. There were about 80 people in total. We “hung on the fence” for exactly one day: our hands were behind the heads. From time to time the major came out into the yard, shouting that he would shoot everyone, he has a direct order for this. He walked along the line of people and beat them with a truncheon; some of them passed away. A man with a broken arm stood next to me — no help was provided to him. Only at night, we were sometimes allowed to sit down for 15 minutes. But after that, they raised us again.”
According to Yuri, the real nightmare started the next day, when prison trucks arrived to deliver the detainees to prisons.
“People were beaten severely. Each one was forced to run along the corridor of policemen. While the one was running, he was beaten,” Yuri recalls. “It didn’t end there, they put us on the floor of the prison truck, wringing our hands behind our backs and tightening them in loops so that it was impossible to move. There was a guy next to me who shouted that he was an STV journalist, asked to call his superiors, no one responded. They continued to beat us, for example, for raising our head. There were 26 of us in the truck. Only at the entrance to the prison in Zhodino, they untied us, allowed us to sit down, and gave us a drink of water.
We stood in line in Zhodino for 2.5 hours. We waited for our turn, and there were a lot of trucks with detainees. At the entrance, we were met by the officers in green uniforms. They lined up in a corridor of 20 people, and each detainee was let through it, beating. I saw the prison staff only when they brought us to the second floor. A doctor began to examine us. People were assigned to cells.
The prison staff were horrified and asked: “What’s going on in Minsk? Our cells are created for 10 people, and we have to throw 60 there. People “hang” on top of each other.”
I did not reach the cell, the doctor who examined me said: “This one needs medical help.” A guy with a gunshot wound in the groin area was taken with me. An ambulance arrived in 2.5 hours only. At the hospital, we were examined and provided first aid. Those who were able to move were allowed to go home.
The old doctor who recorded the beatings said: “During these three days, I saw as many sprains as I have not seen in my entire life.”
In the volunteers’ car, which transported the victims from the hospital to their homes, only Yuri was able to move by himself.
While the man was in prison, his wife tried to find out the fate of her husband. She chased all over Minsk, visited the “Okrestina” detain center, and Zhodino prison. She still cannot get along with what happened. In the nearest days, she will go to prison to pick up his stuff. The wife is afraid that her husband will be taken away and beaten again if he comes there himself.
Yuri asked to note that the prison guards, including the authorities, were the only ones who humanely treated the detainees.
- What can I think about what is happening? It is an atrocity. It’s scary to go through it and imagine that someone else can go through it in the future, — admits Yuri. — I can show the beatings, but the most evident traces are in a not very attractive place. Although today I will calmly show this place to all those who mocked me.
Kirill: “We, about fifteen people, were taken to the basement, where they made us sing the national anthem of Belarus and beat us with truncheons at that time.”
Kirill is 21 years old. On August 12, after training, he went to the store where he works as an administrator. He stood at the crossing on Masherova Street, 50 meters from the workplace. A minibus with tinted windows drove up, the doors opened. The people in the car said: “Come on, don’t be afraid. Nothing will happen to you.” They put me on a bus, took my phone and took me somewhere. They hit me on the head several times in the car. They brought me to the prison truck.
- In the truck, the riot policeman put me on the floor face down. He asked: “Do you want changes?” — and started kicking. The other 15 detainees were sitting around. I was put in a ‘pencil case’ with three more men. The car was driving around the city for some time; a few more people were picked up. They took us to the Partizansky district police department. I was taken out of the truck to the police courtyard. Everyone was asked their last name, first name, date of birth, and asked to lie down on the floor. After that, police officers began to kick us, also in the face. About 30 detainees were there, beaten each one in turn. It seems that it was a moment when my nose was broken.
After that, about 15 people were taken to the basement, where they made us sing the national anthem of Belarus and beat us with truncheons at that time. Then they made property inventory and again sent us to the basement to lie on the floor. An hour and a half passed, the riot police came, put everyone on the knees, and made us sing the hymn again. Then the other detainees and I were transferred to the cells. After an hour and a half, we were taken out, beaten, and taken to the prison truck.
The detainees were taken to Akrestsin Street. According to Kirill, he and other people were put in a walking yard. There were about 50 people, called by their surnames. Someone was sent to court, someone — to Zhodino. It continued until about 18:00. After that, the people were transferred to a cell for 7–8 places, but 36 people were put into it.
- It’s hard to be in such a cell, — says Kirill. — People changed every hour and a half just to sit and sleep. It was very stuffy, hard to breathe. The first time they fed me a day later, brought food to the cell: a piece of bread and half a sausage per person. Not enough for everyone, I had to share. An hour and a half later, they gave me porridge, cucumber, and bread. There were no problems with water — we drank from the tap. At about two o’clock in the morning, we were told that everyone would be released.
Before the release, I was forced to sign a warning about participation in unauthorized rallies. I tried to explain that I hadn’t participated in a rally, I just went to work, but no one listened to me.
All this time, Kirill’s relatives did not know where he was and what was happening. The last time he talked to his mother was before training. She was looking for her son through acquaintances, friends, hospitals, prisons. As it turned out later, the detention report data were incorrectly indicated. The surname was correct, but the name and patronymic were not.
Anya: they said that they would take me home, put me in a prison truck, and started beating.
Anna, 30, is a leading graphic designer. On August 11, after 11:30 PM, she returned home from Moskovskaya Street and went to the City Val area. She was walking along the bridge between the Institute of Culture and Independence Square, and when she was descending, she saw several police officers.
“I went up to them and asked how I can get home,” Anna recalls. — I was told that there is no alternative; they offered to drive me. During a walk, we got into conversation, and the policeman said that they were escorting me for my own safety. We reached their chief in a suit of an “astronaut”, he volunteered to take me further. He said he would check my stuff on the way.
We approached the Red Church, near which a bus was parked. There was a lot of riot police around it. Suddenly they threw me into a van and started beating. They beat me with their legs, truncheons. Once they hit on the head, and a large hematoma immediately grew on the forehead (its consequences can still be seen on the face). They shouted at me that I was the protest coordinator, demanded to confess who was paying me. I replied that I did not understand what they were talking about. For every such answer, I was beaten again. It was the scariest evening of my life.
At the moment when the hematoma on my head became too large, it seems that they decided that they had gone too far. And they sent me to the Moskovsky district police department. When we arrived at the police station, they took other people and me into a large room. There was blood and vomit on the floor, about 40 people were around. They threw me on the floor, looking at the dreadlocks, and began to say that they would now cut my hair.
After that, I was taken to the office for interrogation. They put me on a chair. Seven police officers were sitting around and demanded to tell me who had paid for my “subversive activities.” I tried to explain again that I did not understand what they were talking about. A chair was knocked out from under me. I was told to lie on the floor. They continued to ask the same questions and, if the answer did not suit them, they beat me with truncheons below the back.
Then I was taken to a room like an assembly hall, where there were more than 40 guys and girls. They put me in. A policeman came up from behind and painted something on my sweatshirt with a spray can.
As it turned out later, it was a sign used to mark the most active protesters.
We sat in this hall all night. Someone claimed to call an ambulance, someone felt sick, but no one was helped.
In the morning, half of those people received protocols. If they signed them, they were released. A truck arrived, and some of the people were packed for Akrestsin Street. The guys were very tightly seated in a shared room. Three girls, including me, were seated in a “glass.” All windows were closed, and people soon began to suffocate.
On Akrestsin Street, they took us out into the courtyard and put us facing the wall. The guys were laid face down on the ground. There were about 80 people in total. The girls were left in the yard, while the guys were taken away somewhere.
We sat all night in a room with concrete walls without a roof. Many of us were terribly cold in T-shirts and shorts. At that time, men were severely beaten behind the wall: we heard screams, groans, sounds of hits. The girls recognized their boys by their voice and thrilled with horror. It continued all night long.
During the day, we were put in a four-bed cell. At different times from 35 to 40 people were sitting in it. Some people did not eat for a day, some — for two. It was scary to look at the woman who was detained with her husband. She asked to make a phone call because kids were left at home alone.
On the third day after my arrest, I was told that I had to sign a paper. It was a warning that in case of future detention, I will be on a trial under a criminal case. I packed my things and went out into the street, where volunteers greeted me and all released.
Yana: “We agreed to be silent so that everyone had enough air.”
Yana is a creative worker. On Sunday, she came to the stele “Minsk — Hero City.” She says she went to a peaceful protest. The girl dressed accordingly: dress, sneakers, jewelry.
- At about 9 PM, we stood at the intersection of Masherov and Independence. The riot police passed by as the main crowd was near the Sports Palace. Then they moved back and detained my friend, — says the girl. — I approached the riot police. They shouted at me to leave, but I decided that I would not go anywhere. Then the doors were opened for me, and I went into the prison truck. The men who were there greeted me with applause.
The truck was completely packed. Like all the other detainees, Yana was taken to Akrestsin Street in a van divided into small cells — “glasses.” Yana was in a four-bed cell with 19 girls on Akrestin’s first and then — in a six-bed cell with 50 inmates. She had a trial, like everyone else, in a pre-trial detention center. She disagreed with what was written and received 4 days.
- There was an English teacher, a mother of five children, a designer. Everyone was detained differently. For example, a girl who came to wait for a friend near Akrestsin Street was with us,” Yana recalls. — We were not fed; drinking water was from the tap. It is impossible to drink it there. We refused for one day and then began to drink. We slept as best we could. Four girls sat on the beds and upstairs. Somebody sat under the table or on the nightstand, even in the nightstand or under the beds. On the last night before leaving for Zhodino, they knocked on our doors every hour. Everyone needed to stand up and line up.
There was not enough air. We agreed to be silent so that everyone had enough air. When the “feeder” was opened, it became a little easier. But it was closed when the men were taken out and beaten. They were taken out mainly at night to make no one hear. But everything was perfectly heard, and the support of people near the fence also. We could see and hear everything that was happening, but we could not give a response. Because if we answered, the windows would be closed.
- Women-employees of Zhodino prison cried when they heard our stories. We were fed for the first time in three days there, — says Yana. — On Thursday night, they let me go. I was looking for my staff in all the cells. We were told that they don’t have belongings of those who came from “Auschwitz”. We have no human rights here. It seems that they can do everything here. On the third day, I had a hysterical reaction. It seemed to me that I would stay here forever.
By the way, few people know that they will have to pay 13.5 BYN per day for food. Such sum Yana was counted for staying in Zhodino.
Alexei: “At first, we stood on our fours. Everyone — wounded, injured and the rest.”
Alexei Shchitnikov, 47, was detained on Dzerzhinsky Avenue on August 12. In the car in front of him, the glass was broken, and a man was pulled out. Then the same happened to Alexei.
- Riot police detained me. I even thought that it was not Belarusian. I heard them saying, ‘let’s send “guests.” In the prison truck, they beat me all the way. They beat me hard. They really mashed these children, — the man recalls. — On the 13th, we arrived here from the Moscow district police department. We stayed on the street almost until the evening. First, on our fours. The same position was for wounded, injured, and the rest. We were not allowed to go to the toilet, and water was provided only a day later. Then we were all laid face down on the floor in the assembly hall. Then we were seated in such a position that our necks were numb. After that we spent the night in a “glass” — this is a small cell in which it was impossible to breathe.
Alexei was released yesterday morning. But before that, he signed a “warning” about riots.
- It means, they say, like you are on a pencil. If you participate, next time, you will get the maximum, — he noted.
Yulia: “We heard the guys who were beaten at night. There was blood on the corridor’s walls.”
Designer Yulia Golievskaya decided to become an independent observer at the polls at school # 205. She says she wanted the votes to be counted correctly, and the elections were transparent. She recorded violations and filed complaints with the commission. On August 9, at 17:30, riot police arrived at the polls. Julia still does not know who called them.
- 20 people arrived. They came up to me, took me by the shoulder, saying: “Let’s go.” I went — the girl recalls. — I was pushed into the bus to 10 riot police officers, and we went to Akrestsin Street.
Yulia was not immediately explained the reason for detention. The officers did not introduce themselves. The girl was sitting with 35 inmates in a four-bed cell.
- There was no air, and every centimeter was occupied. We asked to disband us somehow. After that, the door was opened, and a bucket of water was poured out right on us. We were not fed and not allowed any stuff from relatives or medicines, nothing. Even hygienic pads were not allowed. They constantly humiliated, cursed, and shouted: “Why didn’t you sit at home? Why didn’t you cook the cutlets?” Yulia sobs. — We heard how the guys were taken out of the cells at night. We heard how they were beaten and how they were screaming. And then, when we were taken out to the formation, I saw blood on the corridor’s walls.
Yulia had two trials in different parts of the city. She doesn’t know why two. Moreover, all the trials were in jail. They did not go at all like in ordinary life.
- I was called to the office. There was a judge there. She asked, “Do you trust the court?” Yes, I do. She asked what I was doing on the 9th in the evening. I wrote down the testimony. Then was “Wait for a decision.” The decision was voiced in the cell by a completely different person — a man in civilian clothes. Everyone was given 15 days. Then there was the second trial. The protocol said that I was arrested at 22:00 on Pobediteley Avenue for shouting “Long live Belarus” and other slogans.
I disagreed with the protocol, and this court gave me 4 days. Many detainees listened to the court’s decision standing facing the wall and not having the opportunity to communicate with the judges at all.
Yulia was transferred to the Zhodino prison. She says that there were better conditions than at Akrestin’s: 13 people in a cell on 2 beds.
- We were already fed there and treated normally. They weren’t rude, nothing,” she says. — There was no information or documents about people in Zhodino at all. So I sat out for a day because they could not figure out the papers for me.
- It’s tough to survive. Akrestsin Street was like hell. I suffer from panic attacks and take pills for it. I asked for medical help and was given ammonia. Women asked for insulin, and they were refused, — she recalls. — There was just a thought to survive and not fall into despair. We tried to support each other.
Yulia says that she will not leave this situation like that. She says that she, along with her cellmates, wants to bring justice to all those who exceeded their official powers.