DJ who played “Changes” song at Minsk event found in detention without clothes by arrested doctor.

DJ’s whereabouts are unknown

15 August 2020, 15:40 | TUT.BY
Source: Olga Shukailo, TUT.BY

On the evening of 10th August Andrei Vitushko, an intensive care specialist, was detained in Minsk Central District police headquarters. Vitushko had gone there together with his wife to collect their teenage son, Miron, who had been taken away by riot police (known as OMON). Vitushko spent more than three days inside the Akrescina detention centre and shared a cell with Vladislav Sokolovsky, a DJ who had been arrested for playing the [protest] song “Changes” during an official event. The DJ was sentenced to 10 days in jail. According to Andrei, Vlad spent half of that time in solitary confinement. He had been brought into the prison cell without clothes, in just his underwear.

Detention facility at Acrescina.
Source: Olga Shukailo, TUT.BY

Andrei Vitushko is a paediatric intensive care specialist and holds the equivalent of a PhD in Medical Sciences. On the evening of August 10th, OMON officers detained his 16-year-old son Miron. Together with his wife Kristina he had come to the Central District police station to find out where their son was and collect him. Instead, they were detained themselves.

“Excluding us, they detained another 15 or so people who had come to search for their relatives. Besides them, there were people who were volunteering: helping to write applications, comforting people, offering them water and valerian. We were all put into buses with special-forces soldiers, and taken to the Stela [a WWII memorial] where mobile prison units were waiting. Then, we were driven to Akrescina.”

According to Andrei, his detention took place on August 10th at about 11:50 PM, and he was released on the 14th at around 3:15 AM. No court hearing took place, and no documentation about his arrest was given to him.

“I have not seen any grounds for my arrest,” he said.

 “Not even a verbal explanation?” we asked.

“If you consider the following an explanation. You get to be on your knees, with hands twisted behind your back, whilst a law enforcement standing over you yells: «The f*cuk did you go to the square?». If so then yes, I received one,” Andrei said.

the Vitushka family
Andrei Vitushko with his son Miron and wife Kristina. Photo from Kristina Vituskko’s Facebook page

Andrei says that he was not beaten, and that he was not made to stand outside for very long, in contrast to the experiences of many recently released detainees.

“That was the experience of people who arrived in our cell over the course of 11th August. It was meant for six people, but we were never fewer than 19, and reached 32 when busy. We weren’t given any food for a day and a half, and got tap water in two plastic bottles which everyone had to share. On the first day, we got a small piece of soap, which was quickly used up.We were given another one on the third day. There was no toilet paper either, although some appeared later,” said the doctor, describing the conditions in which he had been kept for more than 72 hours.

On Vitushko’s second day in the detention centre, Vladislav Sokolovsky was brought into his cell. Sokolovsky was one of the sound engineers for the Palace of Children and Youth who played “Changes” at the Open Day of children’s supplementary education establishments, held on 6th August in Kiev Square [officials attempt to block opposition presidential candidates from using the square for a rally]. For this the judges of the Central District Court of Minsk sentenced him, along with Kirill Galanov, to 10 days jail time.

Kirill Galanov Vladislav Sokolovsky
Vlad Sokolovsky and Kirill Galanov, 6th August 2020, Minsk.
Photo: Elena Tolkacheva, TUT.BY

“For the first five days, Vladislav was held in a detention cell. This is a tiny space, with a bed which is attached to the wall and opens out only at night, a tap, a dustbin in place of a sink, and a squat toilet. Vlad said that it was cold and there was chlorine bleach on the floor. As he told me, the first two days they didn’t let him sleep; they didn’t open out the bed, so he had to sit on a stool or on the floor. The remaining three days, though, they allowed him to sleep at night. Needless to say, nothing from outside was passed onto him.”

After five days Vlad was transferred to Andrei’s cell. He had no clothes on – only his underwear.

“He was brought to us barefoot, stripped to his underwear. He said his clothes had been taken away. Vladislav is a decent, polite, good and intelligent young man. He remained cheerful. It was obvious that he found it all difficult to bear, but he kept it together. He expressed joy at people’s solidarity and the fact that they remembered him. He was surprised to learn that people had been fundraising for him and his colleague Kirill Galanov. He expressed some fear that they would bring more charges against him, to get revenge for his actions. We tried to convince him that the opposite was true: that now he was the subject of strong public attention.”

Andrei Vitushko said that many people at Akrescina were talking about Vlad in particular. Of the second young man, Kirill Galanov, he heard nothing.

“The most important thing is that, amid the excitement that a couple of thousand people have been freed, we don’t forget about those in trouble, people whose rights are being violated. That is why I decided to appeal to you. In jail cells, there is literally nothing to do. You’re stuck with your own thoughts. So it is vitally important that you have something to read. You need something to occupy your mind. And it wouldn’t hurt to have showers, walks, deliveries – all of which are permitted by law.”

Finally, Andrei expressed gratitude to his colleagues, who for two days had stood on Dzerzhinskogo Avenue with his picture, campaigned against violence and called for the release of their detained colleagues.

“I’m very moved by the actions of my colleagues and very impressed. Thank you, everyone,” he said.

According to Natalya Galanova, the mother of the second detained sound engineer Kirill Galanov, she still does not know anything about her son, despite 9 days having passed since his arrest.

“We have called all detention centres, police offices and hospitals, and everywhere they tell me that they haven’t got my son.”

Natalya tells that on August 6th, soon after her son was detained, a man leaving the Offender Detention Centre reported sharing a cell with Galanov.

“We called right away, but they said that he was not there. We began calling Zhodzina, and they told us they received 4 cars and Kirill is on the list. The following morning we brought a delivery, but when we got there, they said they don’t have him. We drove there 3 or 4 more times, all to no avail”.

Now, after so many days, Natalya is keeping guard outside the Offender Detention Centre in hope of seeing her son’s name appear in the new lists.