“I couldn’t imagine that a father with a baby carriage wouldn’t return home”

We talked with the spouses of the men detained in Liabiazhy

20 December 2020 | rebenok.by
In the afternoon of that day, a party for children took place in the Liabiazhy district.
Source: photo from a local chat

Yesterday’s meeting of neighbors from the Liabiazhy district in Minsk ended in detentions. The father of two daughters (6 and 8 years old) was taken to a police department with his children (and was released later in the evening). The spouses of two more detainees don’t know yet where their husbands are. Minsk citizens, who are already accustomed to communicating with the security forces, are amazed: children have never been taken to a police department before. We found out the details of what had happened from the locals. Later, the Ministry of Internal Affairs stated their version: the people gathered were asked to disperse, the men were “correctly offered to proceed to the official transport”.

In the afternoon, 19 December, a party for children was held in Liabiazhy – a fair with contests. The security officers arrived, but there were no arrests. But in the evening, as the locals say, there was an assignment to “detain three men”. At that time on the street there were not many people, about 25, including children. They simply talked with each other, the participants of the meeting didn’t have any symbolics. 

One of the detainees is Iryna’s husband. The family has three children, in the evening dad decided to give mum a break and went out with a 9-month-old baby for a walk. He left at about 8 pm, said that he would walk for about an hour. At 8.50 pm there was a call from a neighbor.

“She said that my husband was detained, and the child would now be brought back. Of course, I was shocked. I could never imagine that a dad, who left with a baby carriage, might not return, but a complete stranger would bring the baby carriage back home!” this is how mum describes her emotions.

Eyewitnesses say that Iryna’s husband was detained by security officers and decided to give the carriage to a neighbor while leaving to the police. The locals faced a choice: either three men would be arrested (allegedly it was a command of the leadership), or everyone would be detained.

“I think there were only three men among us. So they went. One man had nowhere to leave his children, so he left with his daughters.”

Source: TUT.BY

The father of two daughters was released from the police department later on in the evening (unfortunately, neither he nor his wife agreed to talk with the journalists). Where the other two men are is still unnown. Iryna says that her husband is most likely in Akrestsina, but she has no confirmation of this information. Now she is trying to find a lawyer to protect the interests of her husband.

According to what the mother said, her older children (11 and 7 years old) understood the situation, although they also were surprised that their father didn’t return back home with the carriage. But the children are no longer scared by the very fact of detention.

“They have been living in all this for many months, they understand that sooner or later dads are taken away from everyone. They know many children, whose parents were detained. How many times, right in front of my children, security officers came to us… By the way, my son was at the party in the afternoon and was just taking part in a competition when the security officers showed up. And if earlier children were frightened, now they just pull closer to their parents. There are no such keen emotions as before – no screaming, no crying.”

Security officers arrived at a children’s party.
Source: photo from the local chat

Hanna is the wife of another detained man in Liabiazhy; in the evening he was outdoors without his children. The family is raising two children (4 and 7 years old). Mother told them that “dad is on a business trip.”

“We try not to tell children about such issues. Even if we go out to a march, we do it separately: either me or my husband. I know for sure my husband didn’t have a flag, we have no one at home. And according to a video, he showed no resistance.”

While talking with journalists, Hanna was returning back home from Akrestsina – she didn’t find her husband there. While the mother is in search, a friend of hers who has already “gone through water and fire” because of the security forces is looking after their children. 

The situation of the recent months has made the locals very friendly to each other. They held yesterday’s party for children because many of them got acquainted and wanted to communicate in a festive atmosphere. By the evening visit of the security officers, there was no longer any mass crowd in the courtyard. Locals believe that the detentions are revenge for the children’s party.

“The party began at 12, at 12.20 I went out with my son and ran into a group of riot police, and, I felt, there were more security officers than children,” says Volha, another Liabiazhy resident. “The girls removed the ribbons/decorations very quickly, they say, they wanted to detain one woman for those ribbons (they were multi-colored). After the police left, more people joined in, together with children. Maybe that’s why they decided to return in the evening.”

At the children’s party, the residents collected gifts for the children’s cancer center (a photo on the left).
Source: photo from the local chat

A local resident told another curious fact: for two Sundays, during the courtyard marches, activists go to other districts, but the square in Liabiazhy is occupied by families with children – they play and walk around the district (there were dances last weekend).

“Last Sunday, security officer approached mothers and said: go away, so the women with their children took a stroll around the area. Perhaps it was a preventive measure so that women wouldn’t go out any more.”

In the chat local residents shared other versions of what had happened:

“Yesterday, after the party, when everyone was leaving, Vakulchyk walked by with his wife (formerly the chairman of the State Security Committee, and now the presidential assistant in the Brest region – editorial note). When he saw us, he turned around and walked back. In 10 minutes police vans arrived,” said one of the chat participants. We have no confirmation of this information. 

We asked the press service of the Ministry of Internal Affairs to comment on the events in the Liabiazhy district and explain when parents can be detained while walking with their children.

The Ministry: “Children should not be used as a folding screen”

On the website of the Municipal Department of Internal Affairs of the Minsk City Executive Committee, in the afternoon, they published a comment about what happened on 19 December in the Liabiazhy district: “At about 9 pm, police officers received information from citizens about a suspicious crowd in the Liabiazhy district, where young children were seen. Soon, the nearest detachments, involved in the protection of public order, arrived there. Security officers asked the people to disperse and take children home. However, they didn’t react, they continued to stay at the playground. As a result, the police correctly suggested three men to proceed to the official transport for further investigation. One of them independently decided to do it with his two children. The second man also independently handed a baby carriage over to a friend who was there and calmly walked into the official transport. Upon arrival at the territorial agency of internal affairs, an administrative process was initiated against the detained men.” The police didn’t use any non-lethal weapons against families with children, the Ministry reports. The press service also draws attention of parents to the inadmissibility of involving children in proceedings between security forces and adults. “Children should not be used as a folding screen to avoid responsibility! The act of the father, who went to the special transport with young children, doesn’t inspire respect, but rather condemnation.”