Belarus: Top basketball player Yelena Leuchanka jailed for 15 days for criticizing authorities

30 September 2020 | SOS BY
Yelena Leuchanka.
Source: SOS BY

30 September. One of the most prominent Belarusian athletes, basketball player Yelena Leuchanka, was detained at the Minsk airport this morning. Her achievements include best center of 2010, two-time champion of the Russian Federation, a champion of Lithuania and Poland, a WNBA finalist and a bronze medalist at the European Championship with the national team.

The athlete was arrested while attempting to fly out for a planned treatment; she is accused of “violating the procedures of organizing or holding mass assemblies” – Ms. Leuchanka took part in two demonstrations (on 23 August and 27 September).

According to the investigators, the athlete “publicly expressed her demands for fair elections” and “participated in an unauthorized street march without the appropriate permission of the Minsk City Executive Committee in order to publicly express her demand for fair elections in the Republic of Belarus”. The charges against the basketball player are based on photos on her Instagram and material published on the website of the sports news outlet “Pressball”.

The basketball player was taken to a pre-trial detention center on Akrestsina Street. During a hasty trial on the day of her arrest, Ms. Leuchanka was sentenced to 15 days in jail.

Yelena Leuchanka is one of 700 Belarusian athletes who signed an open letter against police brutality and against Alexander Lukashenko. The athletes called for an investigation into the beatings and torture of participants of mass protests in Belarus following the 9 August presidential elections. In addition to Leuchanka, the letter was also signed by basketball player Yegor Mescheriakov, swimmer Aliaksandra Herasimenia, sambo fighter Stepan Popov and other Belarusian sports stars.

The signatories formed SOS_BY, an independent coalition of athletes, and repeatedly participated in mass protests against the results of the presidential elections, which continue to take place across the country on a weekly basis. According to the official data of the Central Election Commission, Alexander Lukashenko won the elections. However, all independent exit polls and public opinion polls indicate that the election was won by Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, and the election results were brazenly and shamelessly falsified by officials. The election results caused unanimous indignation on the part of the citizens of Belarus; however, the mass protests were met with brutal dispersal and repression by the security forces.

The Belarusian Sports Solidarity Foundation, which supports Ms. Leuchanka and other athletes, expresses outrage at the instances of pressure on those who openly criticize the Belarusian authorities’ abuse of power. We demand an immediate end to all administrative and criminal proceedings against athletes, as well as the release of political prisoners detained on trumped-up charges and who are still in prison.

If you would like to receive comments on the subject from the Belarusian Sports Solidarity Fund, or from the athletes who openly criticize Belarusian authorities, you can send your inquiries: