'Goodbye to life, you will be killed': how detained protesters are bullied in Belarus
In Belarus, after the protest actions that began after the presidential elections, thousands of people were detained, arrested and abused. Many were beaten, humiliated and starved to death. Service BBC spoke with several people who were ill-treated in Belarusian police vehicles, prisons and police departments.
Alina Beresneva, 20 years old
From August 9 to August 10, my friends and I were returning from the center of Minsk and fell under the distribution of riot police. They didn’t take part in the protest action, but they threw me to the ground anyway (there are still scratches on my hand), and everyone was packed onto a bus.
We were brought to Akrestsin Street (to the isolation center of the Main Internal Affairs Directorate of the Minsk City Executive Committee. - Approx. BBC). A man stood at the entrance, he said: "Bitches, let's go faster!" I ask: "Why are you talking to us like that?" He took me by the neck, kicked me into the wall and said: "Bitches, examine the floor, you will know where to walk, where to walk."
We, 13 girls, were put in a cell for four. We asked the employee: can we make a call or call a lawyer? He answered us: “Have you seen enough of American films? This is not the States, you are not entitled to anything. "
The night passed, at about 12 noon they began to count us: they asked for our first and last name. We did not eat for more than a day - everyone's stomachs were twisted, everyone was hungry. Because they asked for food, they were even willing to pay. But we were told: "No, bitches, you will know who to vote for." We were terribly shocked that they answered us that way. It's horrible!
Then evening came, and we began to notice (we had a gap between the trough and the door) that people were taken out and forced to sign something, although they were shouting and indignant. It was our turn to sign these protocols. The girls and I agreed to give up what is attributed to us.
I tried to get acquainted with the protocol, began to read it, I said: “Let me, please, familiarize myself with what I am signing”. In response to me: “I will tell you now, bitch! Let's sign quickly, otherwise I'll ****** [rape] and put you in jail for another 20 days. ” I was in shock, tears flowed, traces of which remained on that protocol. I signed “I agree”, put my signature, did not even know what I was signing for.
We were promised that they would be released immediately. We thought that we would forget about everything, like about a bad dream, but that was not the case. We were taken back to the cell, then moved to another, where there were already 20 girls - there were 33 of us in total. It was a complete mockery.
Without food - it was the most terrible moment. By myself, I'm a strong person. But in such a situation, they broke me. My stomach was so twisted that I did not know what to do. You sit and understand how your body is trying to cope with the situation, but it fails. And you are like a small child: angry, but you have no strength, and no one will help you.
I didn't know what to do. I just sat curled up in a ball, and I got a cold sweat, after which they called me a doctor. I barely got up and through this trough I say: “You see, I can't stand, I feel bad, my head is spinning”. In response, I heard: "You will know where to go next time." In the end, I was given a pill of validol (on an empty stomach). Of course, she did not accept it, so as not to make herself worse.
Another night has passed. We decided that if food was not brought to us, then we would already start screaming and calling for help. By August 11, another paddy wagon arrived. Through the window they saw how the guys were being bullied. They were almost half-naked on their knees with their booty up, with their hands behind their heads. If someone moved, they beat them with sticks.
One of our girls started her period. She asked, "Please give me some toilet paper." She was told: "Wipe with your T-shirt." In the end, she just took off her underwear, washed it and walked until it got dirty again. Then, when there was a shift shift, a woman came and brought us the paper. We just idolized her.
The windows faced the street. We saw people shouting, "Let our children go!" In the next cell there was a man who screamed violently, he had problems with his leg. They could not call an ambulance for three days. So he broke down and started shouting out the window so that people could hear him. But the police officer opened the door (you could hear it well) and began to beat him with the words: “Bitch, knead your ass, now I’ll push your blood back into your ass”.
If there was an opportunity to somehow punish those people, I would gladly do it. All this divided life into “before” and “after”. I used to want to enter the Ministry of Internal Affairs, be a police officer, protect people, human rights, but after I was there, the desire disappeared. Now I just want to leave this country, take all my relatives and friends, so as not to stay here.
⚡️ Beaten with ten men, threatened to 'let go in a circle', put on their knees
The girl spoke about the attitude of the punishers to those detained in Belarusian prisons. pic.twitter.com/07xiJpmkps
- CORONAVIRUS ☢️Ukraine 🇺🇦 (@ Virus19Korona) August 13
Sergey (name changed at the request of the hero), 25 years old
I was detained on the third day of the action, on August 11, near a shopping center. He worked not just in the OMON, it was the Almaz special detachment - the elite that fights against terrorists.
When we saw a convoy of special equipment approaching us, we realized that we could only hide. I sat in a secluded place, for some time they could not find me. It so happened that I saw people kneeling on the ground in front of the shopping center being beaten. One of them fell, a riot policeman leaned towards him, he raised his eyes, and we met. At that moment I thought I was ***** [the end].
I was also taken to the site. Those who said something were beaten. They put me down, beat me a little. I had a backpack with me with respirators and masks. One of the officers looked at him and said, "Oh, this is some kind of organizer." We started looking for the owner.
I decided not to confess - I understood that additional violence would be used. After several minutes of beating, I was again asked if my backpack was. I said I’m not mine. Three special forces men took me around the corner of the shopping center. My hands were tied. They took out a combat grenade (I know how they are outwardly different from flash and noise) and said that they would now take out the check, put it in my panties, I would blow myself up, and then they would say that the guy was blown up by an improvised explosive device. That no one will prove anything and nothing will happen to them.
I kept saying that the backpack was not mine. They put a grenade in my pants and ran away. Then they came back and said that I ****** [became insolent], they started beating me again - in the groin, in the face. The backpack was ordered to be carried in the teeth. While we were going to the paddy wagon, they continued to hit me in the face with their hands. If I dropped my backpack, they beat me. Now my teeth are chipped.
They took me to a paddy wagon, there were 20 people. We were thrown at each other. Above was a riot policeman who walked around the people. They put their feet on the neck and began to choke. People's hands were swollen due to the ties - whoever complained was beaten on the hands. There was an asthmatic in our car, he began to choke. The riot policeman approached him, put his foot on his throat, began to strangle him and said: "If you die, we don't care."
When we were taken outside, paint was spilled on the ground. They smeared it on my face, marked it this way. Then I was transferred to another car. There were four officers with truncheons: they put you on the floor and beat you in your legs, saying: “This is not to run! I got it already! " There I was alone, perhaps others were taken there. The girls were not beaten in front of me.
Then they returned me to the general paddy wagon. There were two girls of 18 years old. Their fault was that they raised their heads and paid attention to the fact that someone in the cabin was getting sick. After several such calls, a riot policeman approached one of them, started shouting at her, and grabbed her by the hair. He somehow cut off part of her hair and said: "You are whores, we will send you to a pre-trial detention center, we will put you in a cell with the men, you will be ****** [raped] there, and then we will take you to the forest."
There was a guy who didn't want to unlock the phone. He was stripped naked and told that if he did not tell the password, he would be raped with sticks. He agreed, then they threw him to lie with the others.
We were brought to some crossing point. We left the paddy wagon. There was a corridor of 40 people to another bus. When you walk on it, they beat you. You fall - they beat you until you get up (on the legs, on the head). When I got to the bus, I fell from a blow. The special forces drew attention to me again, because I had a T-shirt of solidarity with Russian political prisoners. They additionally beat me, and then took me by the arms and legs and threw me into the bus like a sack.
They yelled at me, told me to crawl to a certain point. I crawled slowly, they beat me again. When I crawled, I simply could not move. Another employee came up to me, put his foot on his back and began to beat me on the head with a truncheon - no longer a simple rubber one, but with a metal rod. I understood this, because after the first blow it turned me off. I stopped feeling something.
He beat for a while. Then people piled on top of me, it was hard to breathe. Those who were on top continued to beat. It was not clear where it was worse - above, where you are with air, but they beat, or below, where you are suffocating, but you are not beaten.
Then they dropped us off, there was another “corridor” where they beat us. We were transferred to a paddy wagon in a “glass” cell. It was designed for three people, eight were pushed into it. I was pressed against the wall and saw blood - only then I realized that my head was broken. At some point he lost consciousness, this was repeated several times.
When we were brought to the institution, due to injuries and stuffiness, I simply could not stand and fell out of the cell. They said, "It looks like this one is ready." I was thrown out of the paddy wagon and thrown. The doctors immediately approached me, they said that my head was cut, everything was beaten, as if there was a concussion. I was nauseous and drooling. After that, they didn't touch me. The riot police themselves were already standing and arguing whether I would die or not.
There weren't enough ambulances to take everyone out, I lay for an hour. As a result, they came for me. In the ambulance I asked to be taken home, and not to the hospital, because from there the protesters are taken away. But because of a broken head and a suspicion of a broken leg, they still took me to the hospital.
The doctors understand that people are being tortured, they try to take out whoever they can. In total, they put 12 stitches on three wounds, did operations, and photographs. A few hours later my friends took me out of the hospital. Due to the fact that I had neither a passport nor a telephone, my identity was never established.
While they beat me, I didn't think about anything most of the time. I was scared, I did not expect such violence. I thought about how to group in order to stay healthy. To be honest, I also thought about emigration. That if nothing changes, I will be scared to live in a country where you can be killed at any moment and no one will be punished. It is scary to think that employees of these structures live next to us, torturing people and continuing to live their normal lives.
Oleg, 24 years old (name changed at the request of the hero)
I am a trucker, I have nothing to do with politics, not an enemy of the people. Came a week ago from a flight from Siberia. I looked at what was happening on the Internet. I saw the children go out, grandmothers. I thought: I, a young guy, will sit at home? And he went too.
I was detained [on the night] from 10 to 11 August, closer to midnight. There was cotton not far from me. I was stunned. I saw a guy lying on the ground. I wanted to help him up, but his leg was practically ripped off. A flash-bang grenade hit him directly in the cup, his knee was gone.
The phone fell somewhere, I ran to look for an ambulance. One drove by, asked the doctors to drive up. They asked me and a few other guys to stay to help. About twenty meters away were riot policemen - with shields, weapons, machine guns.
They did not take us away, they told others not to touch us. And then they ran up from behind, put them down quickly, hit me on the legs. They put their hands behind their heads and kicked them. The doctor tried to explain, shouted: "What are you doing, we cannot cope here, people are helping!"
First they lifted us up, and then after a minute and a half they ran up again and beat us with truncheons. On the way to the paddy wagon, they beat me, in the paddy wagon they also beat me, shouted: "Oh, you are finished creatures." Were legs, hands, flew all over the body. With us sat a man of about fifty, a disabled person of the second group. He asked for a pill, said that he felt bad. He was constantly beaten.
When the big cell in the paddy wagon was full, they began to sort us into small ones - six people each. There was nothing to breathe, since the window is very small and one. We sat in this smoke channel for an hour and a half. After that we were taken to Akrestsin Street. When we ran out, a corridor of police officers and riot policemen lined up. We ran to the fence - they beat us. They smiled and said: “Did you want a change? There will be changes for you! "
For an hour and a half we stood with our heads bowed on our knees in front of a concrete fence. There were stones, my knees are still blue. If someone was indignant, they beat him. One man shouted that he was an FSB officer. He was surrounded, given to the solar plexus, his men were kneaded with clubs for five. The reporter from Russia was beaten, he shouted to the point of horror. They beat me for any question.
I stood still, not thinking about anything. I felt very sorry for the people who were beaten. I also flew periodically. Then they took us into the building, while we ran to hand over our belongings, they continued to beat us with truncheons. After we were driven into the exercise yard, there were about a hundred and thirty people, everyone was standing one on top of the other. Once every two hours, ten people were taken to the toilet and once again an hour they were given two two-liter bottles of water. Some did not have time to look at them, as they were already over.
Then they again took us out into the street, beating us along the way - they brought us to our knees and interrogated. Then everyone was sent to a cell: while we were running there, we continued to fly. There were 120 people in the cell; during the day they were given only water and one loaf of bread for everyone.
The next morning there were trials, by that time there were about 25 people in the cell. At the trial they agreed to release me, but no arrest was ordered. But after that they still kept him until the evening. My personal belongings were never found, they promised to give them back later. They took me out into the street - I saw a crowd of guys lying face down. They were beaten and shouted. And their relatives were standing over the fence.
The policeman himself, who was standing with us, said that it was horror, it was scary. When they took us out through the backyard, we were told that if we went up to the crowd, where there were relatives and the press, they would take us away, and we would be blue. But when we left, people ran up to us like heroes - they offered cigarettes, they gave us a call to relatives. As a result, my legs, back and shoulder blades were completely beaten off.
- Burt (@burtstengl) August 12
Marylya, 31 years old
On August 12, my friends and I, after 23 pm, were returning home by car along an empty avenue - there were no more traffic jams in Minsk, as in the first days of protests, when cars were blocked. And not far from the Stele, where the people gathered on election day, a traffic cop stopped us and ordered us to pull over to the side of the road. In addition to the traffic police car, there were several "minibuses" (minibuses. - Approx. BBC). People in black protective uniforms, in black balaclavas came up - it seems they had the stripes of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, but I won't say for sure - I could not see it. There were a lot of them, only three people fell on our car. They did not introduce themselves, they told us to get out of the car.
We were told to unlock the phones, then the employees began to look at what photos and videos we had. They took me aside, and the guys put their hands on the car. The guys opened their phones, and in the gallery everyone had videos from previous nights - how cars are in traffic and buzzing and so on. We know that by law we are not obliged to show this, but when a bunch of black people with machine guns or some other weapon are standing near you ... They started cursing, shouting: “You wanted change? We will show you the changes now! ” They began to discuss what to do with us, they decided to take them to the police department.
They took the keys to our car, took them into the bus, we didn't see the driver's face either. Two people sat down with us with weapons, and someone was driving behind us in our car. Then they remembered about me, told to dial the password from the phone. I say, "My hands are shaking." One of them even said: "Leave her alone, why do you need this." The second - the most aggressive - took my phone away from me and also began to say: "Here, there is a video from the protests ..."
We were taken to the inner courtyard of the police department - there were already guys lying on the asphalt from the car that had been brought in front of us, and the girl was standing near the wall. They put me not far from her, too, facing the wall, and the guys along the other wall. And I heard the blows and realized that they were beating my husband - because the one who beat said: "Why do you need a white bracelet?" It was a white rubber bracelet on my husband's arm - a symbol of our support for Tikhanovskaya and for peaceful change. I wanted to take a look, but those who were behind me said, "Don't jerk your head."
They came to rewrite the data. An officer approached me, apparently the police department, without a mask and in civilian clothes - I could not see his face either, because I was facing the wall. He told me to enter the password on the phone, but he said: “Mashenka,” “If you need anything, please,” - such a super-kind policeman.
On the subject: Protests in Belarus: police opened fire on people to kill
While I unlocked the phone, I managed to remove Telegram and something else from it, because I heard them say that they would watch our subscriptions. He said, “I'll see what you deleted now,” but he failed.
The guys with the girl from another car were taken away somewhere and then they also began to call us by our last name. While I was walking, the one who looked like a riot policeman started shouting for me to lower my head. And the employee in civilian clothes says: "Don't go to her, everything is fine." And then such a story happened. We were already told to take our things, they gave us the phones - but one of the friends was called by his wife all the time, and he had Tsoi's song “Change!” Installed on his ringtone. He was told to turn off the sound, and someone from behind said: "Don't take them away, they haven't learned their lesson yet."
We were led and put facing another wall of the courtyard. Guys - with my hands behind my head, I just kept my hands behind my back. The husband, for the fact that he chuckled, was hit on the legs, told to spread his legs wider. At first they told me that I could stand as I wanted, but then another riot policeman came up and told me to put my legs wider too. All the time they gave different commands and it was difficult to understand what they wanted. One riot policeman allowed the guy, whose legs were numb, to squat, and another came up, kicked him in the legs and ordered him to stand up against the wall again.
They stood behind us and scoffed, said: "We would sit at home." Our friend's hand became numb, he was forbidden to move it, but they began to say: "Why are you hanging around with protests if you are so frail?" They said basically the same phrases that I had already heard from acquaintances who were detained: “You are throwing Molotov cocktails at us,” “It's the West that pays for everything.”
In the end, we heard another guy brought in, and the rhythmic sounds of truncheons on the body - several people beat him very severely. He asked not to beat, but they cursed and beat. This was really scary. Then they took him away, and we were told that we would stand until seven in the morning, the end of their shift. Then someone came up and asked: “Who is the most violent here? Not a girl. ” His colleagues started laughing and pointed at our friend. And they forced him to do push-ups, under the count, they told him to freeze in the most uncomfortable position, and promised that if he didn't push out normally, they would beat him - all with mockery and obscenities. Then they told me to squat.
Then we were told that they would be released without a protocol: "We hope you will not participate anywhere else." We returned home at about 2 am. The guys have big bruises from rubber sticks. But we are not going to stop, because it was their main goal - to intimidate, but they themselves are afraid of us and perceive more as enemies.
Nikita Telizhenko, journalist Znak.com, 29 years old
I went to the store, I needed to buy clothes, because after the previous promotions my old one was worn out. I took a package with things. I reached the Palace of Sports Street and halfway saw that all the young people who got off the bus were immediately transferred from the bus stop to the paddy wagons. I began to describe this for the editorial board. At the moment when I was doing this, a bus pulled up to me, people ran out from there, grabbed my hands.
They grabbed my phone. We decided that since I am writing something and I have the Internet, I am the coordinator. They saw photographs of special equipment and previous actions. They loaded me into a car and took me to a paddy wagon, in which I just sat for two hours. I tried to explain that I am a journalist, but this did not fascinate them.
Tin started near the “Moskovsky” police station, where they brought us. The vans are opening, people are wringing their hands. If the head is higher than necessary, it immediately flies over the back of the head either with a club or with a shield. They are dragging. I saw that the guy who was being led in front of me, just for the sake of a joke, was banging his head in full swing on the doorframe. He screamed, raised his head, he still fell.
Then what struck me the most was the “human carpet”. We were taken to the floor and the first thing I see are people who are just lying on the floor. On them are not only riot police, but you are forced too. I had to step on the man, because when I tried to get around him, I flew again.
Blood on the floor, stool. You are thrown on the floor, you cannot turn your head. I was lucky to have a mask. Nearby there was a guy who tried to turn around, he was hit on the head with full swing with ankle boots, although he had already been badly beaten before. There were people with broken hands who could not move them.
People were forced to pray. They brought in a guy who begged: "Dads, don't hit." He was told that they would now hide him, they would start counting his teeth. Several hits. He is already choking on blood, and the riot policeman says to him - "Read Our Father!" And here you sit and hear a guy reading with a broken mouth: "Our Father, like the One of Heaven."
The scariest moment is when you are sitting, and people in the corridors, one floor below, are beaten to such an extent that they cannot speak and howl. You turn your head - there is blood on the floor, people are shouting, and on the wall is a board of honor with smiling policemen who do it. You realize that you are in hell.
After the shift change, it turned out that two of the detainees were missing. They realized that they were already confusing people, they let us down into solitary confinement cells - 20-30 people each. There is no ventilation, you could stand near the wall. An hour later everything was wet from the fumes. For those who are older, it became bad, one guy lost consciousness.
Then, about 16 hours after arriving at the police station, they began to take us out very harshly and toss us into the paddy wagon. It was forbidden to sit, people were stacked in three layers. Some people with injuries were downstairs, they could not breathe. They screamed in pain - they just approached them, beat them on the head with truncheons, humiliated them. It was reminiscent of torture by the Gestapo, for in ordinary life it is unrealistic to imagine that this is possible.
It was impossible to go to the toilet. Those who asked were told to walk by themselves. As a result, people really did go for themselves, including by and large. By that time, everyone had already stopped asking for something - even in the police department they understood: there would be no help. Those who complained were severely beaten.
When the paddy wagon moved, the people were allowed to crawl. But if someone tried to lean on the seats or raised their head, they immediately flew in. Then the riot police got bored, and they told to kneel down and sing the anthem of Belarus. This was filmed on the phone. As the paddy wagon drove, the surrounding cars honked. But if the drivers knew what was going on inside, they would not be honking - they would have taken these paddy wagons by storm.
Lost my composure after an hour and a half. I said: "Sorry, I'm a Russian journalist, what have I done?" I began to fly in the kidneys, neck, head. Oveta never received. There was a guy with me who said: "Please shoot us, why are you torturing us." And he was told that they would not shoot anyone, because even more pain awaits us in prison and they will "cock" us in turn.
When we were brought to [the detention center] in Zhodino, we were told: "Goodbye to life, they will kill you here." But, to our surprise, they accepted us normally. The colony employees showed cruelty only until the SOBR members left. People were glad that they were in prison - most of all they were afraid that they would be taken back to Minsk by paddy wagons.
I stayed there for three or four hours. The colonel came for me, they took me out, went to look for my things. Those with whom I was, were glad that they let me go and I could tell about what was happening. At the exit we were met by a representative of the consulate. I was deported from Belarus with a ban on entry for five years and taken to Smolensk.
If there was no ban, I would return to work in Belarus. There are unique people. They perceive change with a plus sign and are united by one goal.
"It was scary when you take out a child covered in blood, and the child screams:" Mom, I don't want to die! "
An interview with the parents of a five-year-old girl from Belarus, who was wounded when the security forces began beating the car in which they were sitting with truncheons: pic.twitter.com/iiet6Wutwg
- Present Tense (@CurrentTimeTv) August 13
Natalia, 34 years
We walked along the street without incident with our friends. Then a crowd of people appeared behind us, running away from the Omomnites, then they themselves. Several of them ran past us, and one, apparently tired of running, clung to my friend and me. He said: “Why are you laughing? I see you're having fun. And the fact that today the face of a policeman was cut with a splinter of a bottle is funny to you too, right? ” And I didn't laugh, I wanted him to leave us in peace.
But somehow it made him angry, he dragged me into the minibus. There were already people in the minibus. We were asked: “Do you like being meat? Where is your Tikhanovskaya? Where is your Tie? "
We arrived at the Sovetskoye police station. On the street, everyone was put facing the fence, with their hands on the fence. And we stood near this wall until the next morning. We were periodically rearranged. They took me to the basement, where they confiscated my things, took my phone, and sent me back to this wall.
Someone [behind the wall] drove up in a car and tried to turn on Tsoi “Changes”. And we heard how the police were talking among themselves that they should also be dragged here - along with "changes". Some girl was looking for a guy. She probably got on the roof of the car, because we saw her face behind the fence. And the cops talked among themselves: "Look, there is some kind of mare, go drive her out of there!" They talk about people like that.
The guys were beaten. One of them, apparently, had a broken rib. The girl had a broken leg - apparently, she was [injured] when they were taken. The most daring ones received first. Soon the police van drove up and started loading the guys there. Someone was clearly beaten there. Apparently, a lot of people were loaded there, and I heard: “Legs under you! Legs under you! ”, From there came blows and shouts. They were taken by paddy wagons somewhere.
The girls remained. They started calling us into the building of the police department and offering to sign the protocol. The protocol contained nonsense: that I took an active part in the rally and shouted the slogans "Stop, cockroach!" For myself, I decided that I would not sign anything. Those who signed were released immediately home. Those who refused were taken to Akrestsin Street to the Center for Isolation of Offenders (TIC).
In fact, not all freaks are there. We came across a "kind policeman" who said: "Well, well, while no one sees, you can write a text message home." I don’t know if this is such a role or if he’s really good, but I want to think that there is something human in them.
Due to the influx of a huge number of people there was a complete mess. We were supposed to be placed in the CIP, but it turned out that there was no place there, and they decided to place us in a temporary detention center. There was no room in the IVS either, and then we were temporarily assigned to the so-called glass - a room a meter by a little less than a meter. The four of us were put in there.
Then we were placed in a cell for two people. They gave out one mattress. In addition to the beds already occupied by the two women, the surfaces included a table, a bench and a floor. We slept who where: who was on the table - one might say on the bookshelf, who was on the mattress across. Probably, we did not eat for a day, but then we began to feed.
When our third day came to an end and we said that we should be released, they answered us: "Nobody owes you anything here." They say to you that you are some kind of beast. Is it even possible with animals like that? This is a different kind of format of people who communicate with us, as with criminals, and with each other.
74 hours later, on the night of August 13, we were told to leave the cell, taken out into the street, and put facing the wall. They said that they would not give things back - and in my case it was a phone number, passport, driving license, money. Someone had the only keys to the apartment. The two girls continued to be indignant, then they were hit and told that they were going back to the cell.
I turned to them and asked: “What are you doing?”, For which I received a blow to the face with a hand and a truncheon on the legs. The evil cop asked: “Who else has things here?”, Then said to run away. All have boots without laces, but you have to run to the exit. We were told: "We have a cordon there, if you hit it, you will come back."
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