The student community has always been the engine of protest and actively supported changes. Belarus was not the exception – there were the students who joined the fight against the Lukashenko regime since August. The authorities did not fail to respond with reprisals, as a result of which Belarusian university students ended up in the dock, in prison or abroad.
On August 10, 2020, during an unauthorized protest in Brest, more than 30 people were detained and accused of participating in mass riots and of causing physical harm to 29 police officers. Ilya Migno, a sophomore at Brest Polytechnic University, is in the dock. He was detained on August 18, and his parents were informed about this through a lawyer. Ilya’s house was searched. At first he was in a temporary detention centre and promised release after three days, but then he was transferred to a pre-trial detention centre, saying that he was being detained on a criminal charge. On October 7, Ilya was recognized as a political prisoner. He was sentenced to 4.5 years in prison.
On September 1, student protests began. On this day, columns of students and teachers from several universities in the capital marched through the city center. At least 80 people were detained, most of whom are students.
On September 4, brutal detentions of students took place at the Minsk State Linguistic University. About 50 people protested by singing the Marseillaise in English, at which point the riot police burst into the building shouting, “If you don’t go to class, you will all be taken away”. The guys from the group of protesters began to be rudely grabbed, and the girls were called names. The administration of the university was at the place of detention of students, but did not interfere with such behavior of the security officials. 5 people were detained at the university. The police said that the students were detained for earlier offenses.
On September 12, at the “Ploshcha Peramohi” metro station, the security forces harshly detained a 21-year-old student. First, people in balaclavas and olive uniforms punched him in the nose, then dragged him to an unmarked bus, where they started kicking and shouting that he was a “coordinator from Poland”, and then psychologically pressured and commanded him to confess. After the student’s phone was found in his possession, he was beaten again and during this time they demanded his password. The guy said that he was threatened with rape, a criminal case and a prison for 5 years. After his stay at the police station, he was taken away by ambulance. Doctors diagnosed him with traumatic brain injury, moderate cerebral hemorrhage, nose fracture, multiple hematomas and body injuries.
On September 13, a fourth-year student of the BSUIR Mikhail Klachkov was detained. In court on 15 September, the boy confessed that he had been injured by officers of the police station where he had been taken into custody. However, the official channels of the Ministry of Internal Affairs posted a video where Mikhail says that in fact he was not beaten, he just wanted to promote himself on a popular topic. Mikhail was sentenced to 10 days of arrest under Article 23.34 (participation in an unauthorized mass event).
On 16 September, Mikhail’s classmate Dmitriy Mazuro spoke outside the main entrance of his university and expressed his feelings about what had happened to Mikhail. After that, unidentified persons in civilian clothes approached him and called him away for a conversation. And on September 25, Dmitry was detained. On September 28, Dmitry was tried on two articles: 23.34 and 23.4 – he was sentenced to 23 days in prison. Later, the term was extended for another 15 days – as a result, Dmitry spent 38 days in prison. After his release, they began to threaten him with a criminal case, and he left for Vilnius.
On September 21, 20-year-old Viktor Aktistov, a fourth-year student at the Minsk Institute of Entrepreneurship, was detained. He was charged under Article 364 of the Criminal Code (violence against an employee of the internal affairs bodies). According to Viktor, at the protest action on August 10, he tried to recapture the detainee from the riot policemen and was detained. Relatives could not find the guy for a long time, and he told them that he was beaten by the security forces. The victim suffered only minor abrasions and scratches on his forehead from the actions of the student, but estimated his moral suffering at 2,000 roubles. On September 21, Viktor was again detained, during the investigation, his article was changed three times due to the lack of evidence. On December 30, Viktor Aktistov was sentenced to 2.5 years in prison in a general regime colony. On January 27, he was recognized as a political prisoner.
On October 19, police detained 17-year-old Maksim Babich, a student at the Minsk State Auto-Mechanical College with a heart defect. He was accused of participating in blocking the road in the capital’s micro-district Serebryanka on the evening of October 13 (Article 342 of the Criminal Code). On November 5, Maxim was recognized as a political prisoner. On 22 December, the trial of Maxim Babich and two other defendants took place. Notably, the victims in the case had no claims against them. Maxim was sentenced to three years of restriction of freedom without being sent to a correctional institution.
On October 26, a 19-year-old third-year student of the BNTU Alina Astafieva was severely detained at a protest action, and she was kicked in the face by the security forces. Before the march, the girl led an active protest activity: she attended marches, wrote posts on social networks. After the arrest, she spent about 30 hours in Zhodzina. Upon arrival, she ended up in a basement, where she was hit with her head against the wall. On October 29, Alina was expelled from the university with a lot of explanations and conversations.
A third-year student of the Belarusian National Technical University Anton Yanetsky, before his arrest in October, participated in various actions, marches, was a member of an independent trade union, supported the repressed students and helped them appeal against expulsions. Until October 26, he was lucky, there were no special problems at the actions, except for damaged clothes. On 26 October, he was taken to the Pervomaiski district police station, where he was badly beaten, and later was transferred to the temporary detention facility in Zhodzina. The guy was beaten for a mask with symbols, there were 23 in the cell for 10 people, bed linen and accessories were out of the question, only an iron frame as a bed. On 30 October, Anton was expelled and served a summons to the army. The guy did not show up, he was on sick leave due to suspected coronavirus, and he was given directions for some examinations and a summons for February. However, there was an extended conscription. The doctors forced him to close his sick leave, and he was taken under escort for examinations and was about to be sent off to the army. Then Anton was admitted to the hospital. After passing the examinations, he decided to leave Belarus. And recently he found out that the security forces came to his parents and said they would demand his extradition from the EU. A criminal case has been opened against Anton in Belarus under Article 342 of the Criminal Code.
On October 27, 21-year-old BSUIR student Artyom Vinokurov was detained. According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, on October 26, together with other students, he entered the classroom where the lesson was held and began to urge students to join the strike. After the dean’s remark, the guy insulted him and began to threaten. In the video of the press service of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the student said that his actions were coordinated by an unknown person via Telegram. Artyom was charged under Article 342 of the Criminal Code (organizing and preparing actions that grossly violate public order). On January 22, a trial was held over Artyom Vinokurov, he was sentenced to three years of restriction of freedom without being sent to a correctional institution.
On October 27, at the action of solidarity, five 17-year-old students of the Belarusian State University (four guys and one girl) were detained. Four guys were severely beaten by security officials in a police bus, all were diagnosed with concussions, and some were diagnosed with craniocerebral trauma, a broken nose and other injuries. For four students, protocols were drawn up under two articles of the Code of Administrative Offenses: 23.34 (participation in an unauthorized mass event) and 23.4 (disobedience to a lawful order or request of an official in the exercise of his official powers).
On October 28, a fourth-year student of the Belarusian State Medical University Mikhail Khasinevich was expelled. He was an active participant in the protests, even brought a mouthpiece to the university on the day of the nationwide strike. To avoid going to jail or in the army, he went abroad almost immediately after his expulsion. Two weeks after his expulsion, he was offered to reinstate at the university, but with one condition to obey and stop the protest. For Mikhail, the document on restoration was received by his parents, who refused to sign it.
On November 1, during a Sunday march, a fourth-year student of the BSUIR Yan Solonovich was detained. Until November 10, Yan spent without contact with his family. During his stay at the on Akrestsina, he admitted to having attended 15 rallies. In a month, six trials took place over him and he was sentenced to 114 days of arrest, of which he spent 86 days behind bars. The conditions in prison were unbearable, he was not taken out for walks, he was not in the shower for a month. It is noteworthy that in the summer he took a part-time job at the Scientific and Technical Center of the KGB. After his release from prison, Yan left the country.
On November 10, five female students, two of whom were minors, were detained at a solidarity rally near BSEU. The detainees said that they had been threatened with rape, strangled and beaten by the security forces in the bus. Two of the underage girls were later released, while the others were taken to the delinquents’ isolation centre.
November 12 is called “Black Thursday” for the Belarusian students. On this day, 131 expulsions took place in the country’s universities, and the police opened 23 criminal cases against students. Security officials also came to the office of the Association of Belarusian Students. Searches were carried out on seven of the organisation’s activists. Ten activists were charged under Article 342 of the Criminal Code (organizing or participating in group actions that grossly violate public order). It is noteworthy that all the detained students were activists of creative unions of universities, studied well, represented universities on foreign internships, and met with rectors.
Among those detained on November 12 was Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya’s representative for youth affairs, Alana Gebremariam, a graduate of the medical university. On January 13, it became known that her detention was extended. Alana was recognized as a political prisoner.
Also on November 12, a fourth-year student of the Minsk State Linguistic University Gleb Fitzner, an activist of the “Association of Belarusian Students”, was detained. She was also charged under Article 342 of the Criminal Code. First, he was placed in custody in the KGB pre-trial detention center, then transferred to pre-trial detention center-1. Gleb was recognized as a political prisoner. On January 12, his detention was extended.
On the same day, a student of the Faculty of Philosophy and Social Sciences of the Belarusian State University Ksenia Syromolot was detained. The KGB came to search her home, asked her to go with them to clarify details. But that day, Ksenia was not released. The period of detention for her was extended until March 12.
On November 12, a fifth-year student of the Belarusian State University Yegor Kanetsky was detained. His apartment was searched, his equipment was seized and he was taken to the KGB pre-trial detention center. On November 20, he was charged under Article 342 of the Criminal Code and imprisoned for two months. At first, Yegor was in custody in the KGB pre-trial detention center, from there he was transferred to pre-trial detention center-1.
Ilya Trakhtenberg, a sophomore of the Faculty of Mechanics and Mathematics of the Belarusian State University, was also detained on November 12. Note that Ilya took part in all student protest activities and strikes. On 29 October he was not allowed to university, that’s how he found out he had been expelled for absenteeism. On the same day he received a summons to the military enlistment office. When he got there, he received a referral for a medical examination. On November 12, security officials came to his home with a search. The activist was detained under Article 342 of the Criminal Code and placed in custody first in the KGB pre-trial detention center, and then in pre-trial detention center No. 1. Ilya was recognized as a political prisoner.
Viktoria Grankovskaya, a student of the Belarusian National Technical University, an orphan, was detained under article 342 of the Criminal Code. The first time she was detained on September 1 and sentenced to 15 days under Article 23.34. At the university she was the head of the group. She was expelled after the autumn protests. On November 12, she was taken to the KGB pre-trial detention center. Victoria was recognized as a political prisoner.
On November 12, a student of the Belarusian State Academy of Arts Maria Kalenik was abducted near the house. A search was also carried out in her apartment: the security forces checked the girl’s computer, searched her room, and seized equipment, posters and stickers. Maria was taken to the KGB, and relatives were informed that she was a suspect in a criminal case. She was recognized as a political prisoner.
Anastasia Bulybenko, a freshman at BNTU, was also taken to the KGB pre-trial detention center on November 12. Before that, the girl was detained twice at protest rallies. During her imprisonment, Anastasia’s psoriasis worsened, she did not bathe for 10 days, and she was not given any medication or necessary food. After serving her time, Anastasia went to university and soon found out that she had been expelled for absenteeism. On January 12, her detention was extended until March 12.
Another detained on “Black Thursday” is a student of the Belarusian State Pedagogical University Kasya Budko, who came to Minsk from Grodno. The forces came to her Minsk apartment with a search, she was detained and taken to the KGB pre-trial detention center. A search also took place in her parents’ apartment. Kasia was an activist of the “Association of Belarusian Students”. She was recognized as a political prisoner.
Together with Kasya, her friend Yana Orobeiko, also a student of the Belarusian State Pedagogical University, was detained. Yana helped the student movement as a volunteer, participated in educational programs, and drew postcards for political prisoners. The period of detention for her was extended until March 12. Yana was declared a political prisoner.
Another activist Danila Lavretsky was also supposed to be arrested on November 12. But since the summer he lived in a safe house. He realised he had to flee the country when to his friends from the “Association of Belarusian Students” police came with search. His girlfriend, a student at Minsk State Linguistic University and activist Elizaveta Prokopchik, left with him. The couple left Belarus illegally by detouring through Russia and then made their way from Moscow to Ukraine.
On November 15, student Nikita Levitsky was detained at a protest action. On November 17, a trial took place over him, where he was sentenced to 15 days of administrative arrest under Article 23.34. The guy has a disability of the second group, in addition to congenital trauma, he suffers from asthma. Note that according to part 2 of Art. 6.7 of the Administrative Code, administrative arrest cannot be applied to people with disabilities of the first and second groups.
Vladislav Martinovich, a fourth-year student of the Belarusian State Medical University, administrator of the “White coats” Telegram channel, was detained on November 19. The student’s house was searched and his tablet, laptop and mobile phone were seized. He was also accused of receiving foreign aid “to finance destructive activities.” Vladislav became a suspect in organizing and preparing actions that grossly violate public order (Article 342 of the Criminal Code). He was recognized as a political prisoner.
On November 22, an 18-year-old student of the Minsk State Linguistic University was detained at a protest action. She was hit on the back with a truncheon, after which she lost consciousness. She spent 10 days in the Baranovichi detention centre, from where she emerged with a closed head injury, concussion of the brain, soft tissue contusions and bruises on the back of the thigh.
On 22 November third-year BSAI student Yan Zygmantovich was detained. He took part in the march together with his wife, Yulia, a student of the Belarusian State University of Culture and Arts. During detention, Yan had his ribs broken and his ear (eardrum) torn, his wife had her ribs mutilated and there was an attempt to rape her. Ian was imprisoned for 13 days: during this time the prisoners were fed terrible quality food (and sometimes missed meals), the dishes were not washed, they were only taken to shower twice, and they were out for a walk only once. The light was constantly on in the cell, no one provided medical assistance to the arrested. Ian was not given a certificate stating that he was in prison, as a result he and his wife were expelled from the university and their papers were not given back. The couple were advised to leave.
On November 26, the trial of 19-year-old MSLU student Ilya Tananko took place. He was charged under Article 369 of the Criminal Code (insulting a government official). His “victim” was the head of the Minsk riot police Dmitry Balaba. According to the materials of the case, the guy wrote on the wall of the house on Skripnikov Street, where the victim lives, “Balaba is a murderer”. The OMON commander asked to recover 1,000 rubles from the accused for causing him moral harm. Despite the fact that Ilya admitted his guilt, he was sentenced to 1 year and 6 months of restriction of freedom and sent to an open correctional institution.
On November 26, another person involved in the “student case” was detained – a student of the Faculty of Mechanics and Mathematics of the Belarusian State University Tatyana Ekelchik. Before the arrest, her home was rummaged, during which her phone and laptop were seized. From the KGB pre-trial detention center, where Tatiana spent the first few days after her arrest, she was transferred to pre-trial detention center No. 1. She was also charged with group actions that grossly violate public order (Article 342 of the Criminal Code).
On November 30, 17-year-old student of the University of Lublin David Zbaransky was detained. He was suspected of participating in the riots in Brest on August 10 and throwing stones at the security forces. From the police station, the boy was taken to the Investigative Committee, where the investigator said that if David confessed, he would be released, but if he did not confess, he would go to prison for eight years. On the fourth day of his stay in the pre-trial detention center, David was charged under Article 293 of the Criminal Code (participation in mass riots accompanied by violence against a person, pogroms, arson, destruction of property or armed resistance to representatives of the authorities). On January 30, David’s detention was extended. During his time in jail, David Zbaransky was expelled from the University of Lublin, as he could not pass the session.
On 14 January, 18-year-old sophomore Polina Nitchenko was detained after a solidarity chain at the VSMU. The girl was sentenced to 17 days of arrest: seven days for participating in a video message against violence and ten for participating in a chain of solidarity. Prior to that, the girl was fined twice for participating in protest actions (in total, fines 44 basic units). Polina was persuaded to tell who was standing next to her in chains, but she refused. She received the first “care” package to the pre-trial detention center only seven days later. In the isolation ward, the girl was preparing for an exam in histology, sent an application to the university with a request to postpone it, but they did not meet her halfway. On February 1, the student found out that she had been expelled.
Along with Polina, another VSMU student, Anastasia Leontieva, who was also involved in the solidarity chain, was convicted. Anastasia admitted her guilt and said that the police officers threatened her and asked to name the students who participated in the action. Anastasia refused to name them, but signed the protocol. As a result, she received a fine of 16 base units.
On January 16, a sentence was passed on 22-year-old BSU student Yevgeny Kalinovsky. He participated in a protest action on July 14, when Viktor Babariko and Valery Tsepkalo were not registered as presidential candidates. He was charged under Articles 342 (organizing and preparing actions that grossly violate public order) and 364 (violence against an employee of the internal affairs bodies) of the Criminal Code. The guy did not admit his guilt, said that he did not violate public order and did not use violence against the police officers, but tried to suppress illegal actions in relation to citizens by the police. He was sentenced to 4 years in prison, and also ordered to pay compensation to two victims of riot police in the total amount of 2,500 rubles.
On March 7, a trial took place over four students detained during an official event of the Belarusian Free Trade Union of Belarus, an orientation session of a new student organization. In the police department, the detainees were told that the trade union had been dissolved because it did not have registration with the Minsk City Executive Committee. In total, about 30 students were detained, but most of them were released. Vladislav Kolkov, Sofya Morgunova, Stanislav Senyukevich were given 15 days each, Kristina Mironenko – 14 days.
Repressions took place not only in regional and republican universities, but also in universities of a lower rank. Ivan Pashkevich from Baranavichi State University was a third-year student, attending rallies and solidarity actions in Baranavichi, writing protest posts on social media and generally being a leader of the protest movement in his university. At one of the actions of solidarity, he was detained, the security forces took him to the temporary detention center. True, the boy was lucky, he did not encounter violence like many of his peers. After unsuccessful attempts to revive the protest movement at the university, Ivan left.
A fourth-year student of Polotsk State University, Alexander Lon, was detained in January for insulting a judge on one of the Telegram channels. His house was searched, his mobile phone and system unit were seized. Then he was detained for three days. And the day before he was summoned to the prosecutor’s office. Issued a warning under Article 23.34 of the Administrative Code.