Brought first to Investigative Committee as witness, then to Akrescina as criminal

Student at Belarus State Economic University facing criminal charges

9 September 2020, 17:53 | Belsat
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Anastasia Dudzina. Photo provided to Belsat.
Source: Belsat

Anastasia Dudzina, 20, a Minsk resident, was injured in a stun grenade explosion on election night: a fragment hit her in the leg and her eardrum ruptured. Criminal proceedings have now been instituted against the young woman, she is facing up to eight years in prison.

Get the f*ck outta here, b**ch!

Anastasia Dudzina is a fourth-year student at Belarus State Economic University. She has been kept in the Akrescina detention centre since 7 September. The young woman is charged with “rioting which involved violence against the person, rampages, arson, destruction of property or armed resistance to public officials” under Section 293(2) of the Belarusian Criminal Code. talked to Anastasia’s mother, Nina Sakalouskaya, about the young woman’s detention and the events which preceded it.

Mrs. Sakalouskaya says that on the night of 9-10 August Anastasia was hanging out with her friends. They were watching what was happening in the streets of Minsk from the windows of one of her friends’ apartment. The young people were afraid to go outside unless it calmed down a bit. Anastasia decided to go home at around 1:30 a.m. Her friends accompanied her. As the young people were walking down Kalvaryiskaya Street, a police van and a few minibuses drove up to them. A grenade exploded, and the riot police ordered the young men to lie down on the ground.

“Nasta begged them not to beat them, she told them they’d only been going home and they’d done nothing,” says Mrs. Sakalouskaya. “But the riot police officer kicked her in the back and said ‘Down!’”

Anastasia tried to crawl away, he seized the back of her jacket, saw that she was a female and said, “Get the f*ck outta here, b**ch!”

Nasta managed to get out of there. She was picked up by people in a passing car. When in the car, she felt blood pouring from her leg: she realised that one of her trainers was soaked in blood, and something was sticking out of her leg. The people who had picked Nasta up called the ambulance.

An operation on the leg, concussion, and a ruptured eardrum

“Nasta called me and said she was being taken to a military hospital,” the young lady’s mother said. “Besides, she couldn’t hear well – it turned out afterwards that her eardrum ruptured. Nasta also said that her eyes were watering and she couldn’t see well with her contact lenses. I objected to a military hospital and asked her to go elsewhere, but finally agreed because she needed urgent care. Nasta had an operation in order for the grenade fragments to be extracted. While she was still waking from anaesthesia, a police officer came to interrogate her and, as Nasta says, gave her some papers to sign. However, she can’t remember whether she signed anything or not because she wasn’t fully conscious yet after the anaesthesia and the shock. On the next morning, she was interrogated again as a witness to what had happened.”

Anastasia’s discharge summary. Photo provided to Belsat.
Source: Belsat

On 12 August 2020, Nasta was discharged from hospital. Her mother says that she was given a referral for recording her injuries, but she did not visit the specialist: she and her mother decided that it would not make a difference. Mrs. Sakalouskaya says they thought the matter would end at that.

The young woman sought advice from the national ENT centre. The doctors there confirmed that she had had something like a concussion and also a ruptured eardrum which they said would heal on its own and she just had to wait. Mrs. Sakalouskaya says that all that time Nasta wore an earplug to keep water and dust out of her ear. She was to see the doctor again one of these days.

The wounds on her leg have not completely healed yet, and Anastasia is still bandaging them.

“We have established that your daughter is implicated in a number of crimes”

“No one contacted us until 7 September,” says Nina Sakalouskaya. “At 7 am on 7 September, we were visited by officers from the Investigative Committee Department for Minsk. One of them identified himself, the other two were in plain clothes, they didn’t give me their names, I don’t even know who they were. Nasta was taken to the Investigative Committee office at 7 Pershamaiskaya Street, as an alleged witness to the events of the night of 9-10 August.”

Mrs. Sakalouskaya says that Anastasia only called her at about 11 am and said that her phone would be seized as evidence for a month and warned her that their house would be searched soon.

“At about 1:30 pm, the same people who’d visited us in the morning brought Nasta back, asked me to find two attesting witnesses and started the search,” Anastasia’s mother said. “They were very surprised that we didn’t have any data storage devices at home. They took away the clothes that Nasta wore on 9 August. Her trainers remained untouched since that night, they were still stained with blood, I hadn’t washed them. I did wash her trousers, though. Still, they took everything: the trainers, the trousers and the jacket. They took Nasta to their office at Pershamaiskaya Street again because they said the detective had some more questions.”

The area near Pushkinsaya metro station, Minsk, Belarus. 10 August 2020.
Source: Alexander Vasyukovich, /

That time Mrs. Sakalouskaya also remained at home waiting for her daughter to come back. They called her up at about 5:20 pm and told her: “At 2:45 pm, we established that your daughter was implicated in a number of crimes.”

“I asked the detective what crimes she was implicated in. She was a witness first, and now she was a criminal?” says Mrs. Sakalouskaya. “They didn’t give me any further explanation. I learnt the details from Nasta’s lawyer – her friends had given me his number: they were waiting for Nasta at the Investigative Committee and bumped into the lawyer who was assigned to represent her. Activists from the Viasna Human Rights Centre later told me that he could be trusted.”

The lawyer explained to Mrs. Sakalouskaya that Anastasia was charged under Section 293(2) “Rioting” of the Belarusian Criminal Code.

“He also told me that Nasta wasn’t the first one who was treated in the military hospital at the time and who was being taken away and accused,” Nina Sakalouskaya told us. “I asked him what should I do to help my daughter, who turned into a criminal from being a witness? He advised me to address all the media, to give as much publicity as possible to the situation because it is complete lawlessness.”

“How do we protect ourselves when the laws don’t work here anymore?”

According to Mrs. Sakalouskaya, Anastasia was detained for 72 hours and this term ends on 10 September 2020 at 2:45 pm. Investigative actions involving the girl are scheduled for the morning of the same day.

The mother now has no means of communication with her daughter. Anastasia is not even allowed to meet with a lawyer due to COVID-19 quarantine measures.

“But yesterday, when I brought the package to Anastasia, the worker who took it told me not to worry, because she is in good condition, that the detainees had hygiene supplies, that no one beat them. Like the resort. Well, what else will they say? Of course, everything to assure that everything is fine,” Mrs. Sakalouskaya says. 

The student’s mother also said that there was another young girl, Marina, in Akrescina. She was with Anastasia in a military hospital. Mrs. Sakalouskaya believes that in this way the authorities intimidate young people and show them their place.

Student demonstration. Minsk, Belarus. 1 September 2020.
Source: Alexander Vasyukovich, /

“Students, young people are just being pushed out of here. Our future, those who must develop this country. And the authorities are now making sure that young people have no life here, that they are forced to leave,” Mrs. Sakalouskaya said in tears, but the woman continued. “What laws can we talk about if one can be taken away as a witness, and then it turns out that very person already has been a suspect of a criminal act? Why? For the fact that one was walking home, was injured by a grenade explosion, and he is still guilty of it and of whatever else the government wants? Was she pulled out of a barricade or did she resist a police officer? What was she doing? Laws only work for them when they need it. If, God forbid, one touches a riot policeman, they will make a case and one will be imprisoned. And if they maim people, there is not a single criminal case. Is this normal at all? We want to solve everything fairly and peacefully. And they shoot back at us, detain us, scare us, saying that it will be even worse for us. We need to fight against it somehow, but how if we can’t defend ourselves by any legal means?”

Over 7,000 people have been detained during the Belarusian protests since 9 August 2020.

The Belarusian Investigative Committee received about 1,000 reports of beatings and torture from Belarusian citizens. At the time of publication, no case had been opened on the facts of abuse of power by the Ministry of Internal Affairs officers.