“I was made to kneel; beaten with fists, legs, and shields. In my mind, I said goodbye to my family”

The story of a detainee at the Pushkinskaya metro station

12 August 2020, 12:04 | ​Belsat
At the Pushkinskaya metro station. Minsk, Belarus. August 10, 2020. Photo: ТК / Belsat.eu / Vot-tak.tv

A 35-year-old resident of Minsk, Zmitser, was detained during the protests at the Pushkinskaya metro station on Monday evening, 10 August. He was severely beaten and hospitalized. Zmitser told belsat.eu what had happened that evening. Warning: graphic photos!

Zmitser arrived at the Pushkinskaya metro station at approximately 8 p.m. on 10 August. According to Zmitser, more and more people showed up until 11 p.m. Then, AMAP (Special Purpose Mobile Unit) arrived and surrounded the protesters. Here is Zmitser’s full story about what happened:

“At around 11 o’clock, AMAP started throwing stun grenades and shooting with rubber bullets. I was definitely hit by four bullets, maybe more. One flew near my ear and now I can’t hear well with this ear; it’s something like a contusion.

At one point, SWAT operatives surrounded the people. They came out of yards. There was nowhere for us to go. Those who were detained, including me, were thrown to the ground. I tried to resist at first, but there was no sense, because ten to fifteen people fell upon us and beat us with everything they had. After that, they twisted my arms and threw me into a cage together with three other people. The police truck was completely full. A man of about fifty was with us. He felt sick; he was short of breath and everybody begged the operatives to let him out to take a breath or to give him water. They responded by spraying tear gas into the cell where this man was sitting. He got worse. That’s what those sadists did, instead of giving him water or a breath of fresh air.

We inhaled this gas for about forty minutes until we got to the final destination. I cannot even tell where it was. It was probably a police department or whatever. In the yard, everybody was made to kneel down, our hands were tied and they started to beat us. About ten of them fell upon me again. I was beaten black and blue; they hit me on the buttocks, legs, back and head. They beat me so hard that I got sick and still cannot breathe normally now. They saw what they had done and called for doctors. They seated us – me and other battered people – on the grass and we were given some painkillers. One man had a broken nose and another a broken leg. We were taken to the hospital, to the traumatology department. We were examined there. I refused to remain in the hospital and went home.

While I was being tested there, every ten minutes I saw someone battered being brought in. I was diagnosed with a concussion: I have a hematoma all over the back of my head. Also, something is wrong with my lungs; the doctors could not figure it out right away, but there are cracks in my ribs and my lungs are affected. Other organs seem to be fine. And of course, numerous bumps, bruises and so on.

They beat us with everything they could – legs, nightsticks, shields. Their attitude was as if they were killing. At some point, I seriously thought I was going to be killed and I would never see my family again. I said goodbye to them in my mind. I can’t bring myself to call them people.

Men and young guys were beaten. They were standing by the wall with their hands tied and they could not resist; they could not do anything. They were beaten just for turning their heads. Everything was accompanied by terrible swearing.

They said, “You wanted changes? Here they are. Supposedly heroes, are you? Who are you to go out and demand anything?”

I don’t know how this is going to end. Now, I am free and I have a hospital record. What is going to happen – I don’t know. No arrest report was drawn up. I wouldn’t be surprised if they come to my place and knock on the door. After what I saw, nothing will surprise me anymore. There is no conscience, no mercy, no humanity left. I’m very afraid for my wife and little daughter as well.

Write complaints? I think there is no point. In my life, I might have seen a lot of unkind and dishonest people, but what I encountered that evening surpasses any understanding of human cruelty. That is why I am sure all our complaints are meaningless. No one will investigate them.

Minsk. Pushkinskaya metro station. Photo: Vadzim Zamirousky / TUT.BY

I care about the fate of Belarus and Belarusians. I’ve also participated in rallies before, like when an unemployment tax was discussed. But I have never seen so many people on the streets of Minsk. There are tens of thousands of them. At some point, I felt proud of Belarusians.

But these… I don’t know what to call them, this isn’t the police anymore… They break people. And I can see that Belarusians will not be able to last for a long time. Our people are not warriors, so their last will to fight will be broken. What happens next? I don’t think anything good is going to happen. You can talk to such people who hold on to their power only with the help of force. They don’t understand anything else, because they don’t have any humanity anymore. I am sure they will not understand us, neither in a year, nor in their whole lives. Those guys – SWAT operatives – they are constantly and intensely brainwashed. If they are told to kill, they will kill. Now I have no doubt about it. It is impossible to negotiate with these authorities. 

Pushkinskaya metro station. Minsk, Belarus. August 10, 2020. Photo: ТК / Belsat.eu / Vot-tak.tv

What should people do? I don’t know… If they break us now, all these young people, students who were standing there, they will simply leave Belarus. I am thinking about myself as well: I am 35 years old; is there any sense in wasting time in a country where I am not considered a person, a human being? I don’t want to betray my homeland by leaving it, but circumstances force me to leave. I have to raise my daughter. How is it possible in these conditions? There are a lot of people like me, who waited for these elections and hoped for the best. But they slapped us in the face, they stole our hope, they lied to us. I saw how many people with white ribbons were standing in queues at polling stations. Nobody around me voted for the current authorities. Our votes were stolen. But we had to try. I wouldn’t have forgiven myself if I hadn’t come out.”

Pushkinskaya, Minsk, Belarus. August 10, 2020. Photo: Aliaksandr Vasiukevich / Vot-tak.tv / Belsat.eu

According to the Ministry of Health, more than 200 people were injured during the protests. Officially, one person died. According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, during the confrontations with special forces who arrived to clear the square, one of the protesters tried to throw an unidentified explosive device towards them.

According to eyewitnesses who spoke to a Belsat reporter, the man might have been killed by a stun grenade hitting him.