“If we find you in five minutes, beg for life”

Aliaksei, election observer

15 March 2021 | BELSAT
Source: BELSAT

After having recorded several violations, observer Aliaksei and his colleagues headed to the territorial election commission of Savetski district of Minsk. The police were detaining them straight on the porch of the administration building: they grabbed those who came to hand. Aliaksei was indignant, he told them he was going to file a complaint, but the policemen made no bones about it.

When taken to Savetski district police department, Aliaksei realised that something was going on in the city, as new police groups were forming all the time and officers were leaving. One of the policemen (he did not get into a group), was even upset: “It’s a pity, I really wanted to do some fighting.” Aliaksei and other detainees were guarded by cadets. After a while, the riot police brought new detainees and flung them down, straight to Aliaksei’s feet. White shoes slipped off a detainee’s feet; the policeman threw them to the guy, saying: “You will definitely need white sneakers.”

Aliaksei thought to the last that they would be freed after the protocols were drawn up. But two hours later, riot policemen came, tied the detainees’ hands with flags and took them to the car. The man has a good sense of direction in the city; although he had to stare at the floor of the vehicle all the way, he realised that the next stop would be the detention centre in Akrestsina Street.

There the policemen ordered the detainees to face the wall and stand with their feet shoulder-width apart. When the man was sent to a lockup, he thought at first that the confinement conditions were moderately good, but later he found himself in a six-place cell with 36 persons in it. It was so stuffy that they could not breathe, but there was only one answer to all their requests: “[Shut up, or] you’ll be batoned!” They were even forbidden to speak loudly. The windows looked out onto the courtyard, and along with many detainees, Aliaksei heard blood-curdling screams.

Like those of others, his case was heard only a few minutes; the protocol did not contain any information about the time and place of the detention. However, he was sentenced to 10 days of administrative arrest, which Aliaksei took quite placidly: “Ok, if they provide some food, one can serve.” During the night after the trial, he was unexpectedly woken. Then the man noticed a strange thing: usually at night one could hear the roar of engines, as the newly-detained were being brought, and screams. At that moment, there was no roar, but screams from outside were still heard. Later, Aliaksei understood why.

Source: BELSAT

He was roused from sleep and ordered to go down to the yard. There, vans were standing in such a way that they screened part of the lawn between the building and the fence. As a result, the lamp lights could not reach that part. The officers gave an order to run behind the vans and lie face down on the grass. They started battering: “We will teach you not to take to the streets and demand change! We don’t want to see you in the city centre ever!” Then the officers made them sing the official anthem; when singing, the detainees were beaten. After a while, people began to be released one by one. Taking the people to the gate, the officers kept battering them, saying: “Get ready, you’ll be executed by firing squad!”

The gate, his boots and blood from the head are in front of Aliaksei’s eyes. But there was no fear, he guessed that he would soon leave the detention centre. Later, Aliaksei watched videos of that night in the media and looked for a puddle of his own blood on the asphalt.

The officer who released Aliaksei told him at parting: “A metro station is over there, get lost. If we find you in five minutes, beg for life.” There was not a soul near the detention centre; volunteers were yet to start keeping watch there. Aliaksei immediately ran away; he shuddered at the sight of cars: he had fears that “they” might be inside. The man spent a few hours waiting for a first public vehicle. On the way home, he fainted several times and hit the ground. In the epicrisis, doctors wrote: “rupture of the muscles of the left thigh, injuries and bruising wounds of the chest and thighs”.

Source: BELSAT