The regime in Belarus tortures not only citizens but also foreigners. At least seven Russians are among the political prisoners. They suffer from torture, unbearable conditions in the cells, and most importantly – they receive long sentences for crimes that cannot be called that word. Russia, their native country, does nothing to protect their rights. We list the names of Russian citizens who have become prisoners of Lukashenka.
“I hope I stay alive”
On June 4, 2020, Russian Dmitry Popov, moderator of the social networking “Country for Life”, disappeared. Before that, he recorded a video where he said that policemen were looking for him and wanted to detain him: “They are trying to pin either murder or carrying weapons on me. Last night I was in the suburbs of Mozyr, and at 2 a.m., they broke in without any reason, without explanations, without papers, without presenting documents. There was an old woman in the house, she was beaten, her fingernail was torn off. They tried to find me and miraculously did not find me. They searched another apartment where my equipment was, stole all my things, stole my passport. I don’t have any money or any equipment left. I am in the forest and trying to escape. I hope I will stay alive.”
Dmitry Popov did not get in touch for several days. A little later, he appeared in the terminal detention centre in Minsk – he was sentenced to 15 days under Article 23.34 of the Administrative Code. He did not leave the terminal detention centre and was transferred to the pre-trial detention centre No. 1, where he is still.
On July 10, 2020, Dmitry Popov was charged under part 1 of Article 342 of the Criminal Code. Later, he was accused of organizing mass riots (part 1 of Article 293 of the Criminal Code), inciting social hostility against government officials and law enforcement agencies (Article 130 of the Criminal Code), threats against the chairman of the CEC of the Republic of Belarus (part 2 of Article 191 of the Criminal Code). On July 13, 2020, the man was recognized as a political prisoner. Dmitry Popov is the defendant in the “Tikhanovsky case”. Together with him, charges were brought against Nikolai Statkevich, Igor Losik, Vladimir Tsyganovich, Artem Sakov, Sergei Tikhanovsky. On May 4, 2021, it became known that the Gomel Regional Court will consider the case of political prisoners.
According to the case materials, the political prisoners had been planning to organize mass riots in Belarus since June 2019. Thus, as the investigation emphasizes, they caused damage for more than 3 million rubles, their property for more than 2 million rubles was seized. Russia did not react to the arrest and investigation of a citizen of the country.
“I didn’t know why do they need tires”
On October 27, 2020, a Russian, Alexander Gejadze, was detained. He lived and worked most of the time in Moscow and came to Minsk to visit his girlfriend. A Russian citizen was accused of transporting tires by car, from which protesters built barricades at a district protest rally in the Kaskad residential complex. It happened on the evening of October 12, 2020.
Alexander said that on October 12, he went to the store. Near the house, where he rented an apartment, were several people with whom he was vaguely familiar. They asked him to bring them tires. Alexander wanted to use carsharing for a trip to the store and offered to carry tires by car. He took the neighbours in the yard from the tire repair, brought them to the house and went to park the car.
Walking home from the parking lot, he saw people standing in a chain of solidarity with flashlights. Nearby, barricades were erected from tires, two motorcycles and a garbage can. Then the protesters set it all on fire. Alexander took a picture on his phone and sent his family from Russia, and then went home.
Even before the trial, Alexander Gejadze reimbursed the damage to the Ministry of Emergency Situations of 66.36 rubles. He partially admitted guilt and said that he did not know why do they need tires. On April 20, 2021, he was sentenced to three years of imprisonment in a general regime colony under part 1 of Article 342 of the Criminal Code (organization and preparation of actions that grossly violate public order). The reaction of the Russian authorities to the arrest of a Russian citizen is unknown.
“Come to those who are beaten up in Zhodino and on Volodarka”
On November 27, 2020, a 55-year-old military pensioner, Russian Igor Kopanayko, who has a residence permit in Belarus, was detained. On November 13, 2020, he got to the entrance of a house in the Frunzensky district of Minsk. He filled the front door of the apartment of the press officer of the Central Police Department of Minsk Tatyana Oboznaya with mounting foam, frothed the lock and mailbox and wrote words insulting her on it (part 1 of Article 339 of the Criminal Code and Article 369 of the Criminal Code).
The trial of Igor Kaponaiko began on February 9, 2021. Tatyana Oboznaya said that she came home and saw the inscription “cop-killer” on her mailbox. According to her, neighbours stopped greeting her, and it caused her moral suffering, made her fear for her parents and the child. She demanded from Igor Kaponaiko 10 thousand rubles as moral compensation and 425 rubles for repairing the doors.
Igor Kaponaiko also said that he was very dissatisfied after Tatyana Oboznaya gross lies regarding the case of Roman Bondarenko and by his actions, he wanted to draw her attention to the norms of morality and morality. Tatiana Oboznaya said that he should be punished to the fullest extent of the law because she never received forgiveness and remorse from him. Moreover, she claimed that Igor Kaponaiko did not immediately decide to take revenge on her but acted thoughtfully.
– I would not like to appear before the court of old senile people, – Igor Kaponaiko said in the last word. – I am not a hooligan, not a criminal. I’m a reserve officer. When I see an injustice, I get turned on from half a turn. The death of Roman Bondarenko struck the whole of Belarus. The next day I went online and read a message from Oboznaya, in which there were no condolences to relatives and friends, but only lies. I don’t remember when I had pain for the country in which I live. Have your employees opened a criminal case regarding the death of Roman Bondarenko? Come to people beaten up in Zhodino and Volodarka, whose actions do not constitute a crime. Show them honour and dignity.
The court sentenced the Russian to 1.5 years of imprisonment in a general regime colony. The reaction of the Russian government to the actions of the Belarusian court is unknown.
“I haven’t had the opportunity to see my family for the last three months”
24-year-old Danila Chemodanov was born in Russia, but since childhood, he has lived in Belarus and has a residence permit here. He was detained in Brest on January 22, 2021. He was accused of participating in a round dance in Brest on September 13, 2020 (Article 342 of the Criminal Code). At the trial, Danila was the only one in custody. Another 13 people were at large without handcuffs. The prosecution was based on the fact that each of the accused in a group with other persons deliberately took an active part in group actions that grossly violate public order. Because of the round dance, according to prosecutors, the damage was caused to public transport, enterprises, organizations, and trade objects. The trolleybus fleet was damaged by 619,55 rubles, the bus fleet – 40,37 rubles.
Danila Chemodanov was tried with his girlfriend, Maria Skakovets. He pleaded guilty. The prosecutor requested a one-year prison sentence for him. In the last word, the guy asked the court to meet with his girlfriend and mother. “I have not had the opportunity to see them for the last three months, and I will not see them again soon,” the Russian citizen admitted.
On May 7, 2021, Danila Chemodanov and 13 other defendants were sentenced in the “round dance case”. The court agreed with the prosecutor’s decision, and Danila Chemodanov was sentenced to 1 year of imprisonment in a correctional colony of the general regime. Danila’s girlfriend Maria Skakovets was sentenced to two years of restriction of freedom without being sent to a correctional institution. We don’t know whether his homeland is concerned about the fate of a Russian citizen.
“It is impossible to achieve the truth”
A native of the Belarusian Voropayevo (Postavsky district), Andrey Novikov went to study in Russia after school. Fate threw him to the Far East, he served in the police in Ussuriysk, received the rank of lieutenant colonel in retirement. Twice participated in military operations on the territory of Chechnya. After retiring five years ago, Andrey decided to return to his native Postavsky district. At first, he liked everything and even supported the authorities because he was allowed to buy a house in the village. He was engaged in hunting, fishing, worked as a security guard at a fish farm. Gradually, his views changed. He took part in the stream of Sergei Tikhanovsky, where he told about the agro-town of Voropaevo. In June 2020, he became a member of the initiative group of Svetlana Tikhanovskaya and was even detained. On June 12, he was charged under part 1 of Article 342 of the Criminal Code (organization and preparation of actions that grossly violate public order).
On November 26, 2020, Andrey Novikov unexpectedly was taken out of the pre-trial detention centre to the border with Russia. He got a stamp meaning the ban on entering the territory of Belarus for ten years. They did not give him any confirmation of his status. Moreover, they took him out, taking away all the documents, correspondence, personal notes. “I am in a serious condition. It is impossible to achieve the truth. The heads of law enforcement agencies transfer responsibility to each other, and lawyers are intimidated, ” he said. – It’s the same with the courts.”
Andrey’s family, as he said, remained hostage in Belarus. The man’s youngest daughter is one and a half years old. His wife did not have time to recover after a difficult birth. In April, he secretly returned to Belarus to live with his wife and children. On April 13, 2021, he was detained again on charges of illegally crossing the border of Belarus (Article 371 of the Criminal Code). The charge under Article 342 of the Criminal Code has not been withdrawn from Andrey Novikov. He faces up to 5 years in prison.
“I was beaten because I did not admit guilt”
20-year-old Yegor Dudnikov was detained on May 4, 2021. Before his arrest, he lived in Minsk for about a year, worked on voicing cartoons, anime, games, commercials, worked as an editor. Yegor was forced to come to Belarus by love – at the age of 16, he began a relationship with a Belarusian girl on the Internet. After finishing his studies as a cook in Russia, he came to the girl. On the day of arrest, he accompanied her to the house, then called the mother. He said that he was near the house and would call her back soon. But his mother did not wait for the call. The next day it turned out that Yegor was detained and had a search in his house.
For two days, Yegor’s mother and girlfriend did not know where he was. The police department told them that Yegor had not been received. Yegor’s mother flew to Minsk to look for her son. Only there she found out that Yegor was being held in the KGB pre-trial detention centre and accused of organizing group actions that grossly violate public order (part 1 of Article 342 of the Criminal Code). For two weeks, a lawyer was not allowed to see the Russian, but they conducted interrogations on camera and allowed state journalists to talk to him.
– Only one letter came from him, although we have probably already sent him a dozen, Yegor’s mother said. – My son writes how he misses us and how sorry he is that he caused us so much grief. He writes to the girl that he misses and loves her, hopes for a future together.
The Russian Foreign Ministry did not react for a long time to the detention of a citizen but then said that it had sent a consul to the young man. The help was limited to this. On June 1, 2021, Yegor’s lawyer Anton Gashinsky transmitted his message from the pre-trial detention centre.
“I was detained harshly. There was no time to escape. There were many of them, and I was alone. I immediately understood: a GUBOPiK was working. The forces were kicking and punching during the arrest. They shouted: “Scum, did you get there?” Everything went dark in my eyes. The consequences of the detention were bruises and a split tooth. I was told that I called people to violence against law enforcement officers. They took me to a rented apartment, my grandfather, from whom I rented it, was sleeping. I was kicked twice in the chest area, and then witnesses were brought in. They seized my equipment, two phones, three personal diaries, documents, a card and 60 Belarusian rubles. Then they put a bag on his head and led him. In the car, they were thrown into the back seat. My hands were constantly handcuffed. They said they were going to bury me. They told me to say what they needed to say on camera, and then, perhaps, I would be deported home. I was beaten because I did not admit guilt. They blew hard. However, after almost a month, there are no bruises left at all.”
They tried to force Yegor to write a confession, threatening that his girlfriend “will not seem enough”. In the turnout, the guy wrote that he allegedly called for violent actions, direct physical contact with law enforcement agencies, participated in bots of one of the opposition Telegram channels. On May 28, Yegor answered questions for employees of the state ONT channel. He was ordered to learn the text of the answers in advance. On the air, he had to say: “I, Yegor Dudnikov, known as the Evil Bat. You are suckers, babblers, I am disappointed in you, and I am cooperating with the investigation.”
Yegor was sitting in the KGB pre-trial detention centre in the same cell with Viktor Babariko and Grigory Kostusev. Later, he was transferred to pre-trial detention Center No. 1.
“Please don’t blame Roma”
On May 23, 2021, Lukashenka turned around a Ryanair plane from Athens to Vilnius. Blogger and journalist, 23-year-old Sofia Sapieha, a native of Vladivostok, Russia, was detained with his boyfriend. As a child, she moved to Belarus, graduated from school here, but remained a citizen of Russia and went there several times to visit her father.
Sofia Sapieha studied European Law and the Law of the European Union at the European Humanities University. According to her parents and sister, the girl was not interested in politics. Sofia’s relatives do not believe, that she led the Telegram channel “Black Book of Belarus”, which she admitted to administering in a video of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. About six months ago, Sofia started a relationship with Belarusian Roman. Together with him, she went on vacation to Greece. Returning to Vilnius, the girl was detained.
First, Sofia was detained for 72 hours, then the term was extended to two months by bringing charges under part 1 of Article 342 of the Criminal Code (organization of group actions that grossly violate public order), part 1 of Article 293 of the Criminal Code (organization of mass riots), part 3 of Article 130 of the Criminal Code (incitement of racial, national, religious or other social enmity or discord). She faces 12 to 15 years in prison.
This event forced Sofia’s parents to come to Minsk. The girl’s lawyer signed a non-disclosure document, so the relatives know almost nothing about what happens to her in the cell. The Russian side was also concerned about the fate of Sofia. At first, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov supported Lukashenko. But on May 24, he said that the situation should not be assessed in a hurry, and added that Moscow had already contacted the Russian woman Sofia Sapieha. On May 25, 2021, a Russian diplomat met with the girl. She said that she feels fine, she did not express any complaints about the incorrect treatment. The girl’s mother appealed to the Russian Foreign Ministry and Vladimir Putin, saying that a lawyer was not allowed to see her daughter. On May 31, 2021, Sofia’s lawyer Alexander Filanovich told about the girl’s well-being: “He understands where he is. Sometimes there are panic attacks, but in general, she copes with them. He does not express any complaints.”
On June 8, 2021, it became known that Sofia’s parents received the first three letters from the girl. In them, Sofia wrote that she was afraid to get out of prison by anyone, to be unnecessary: “I had to defend my master’s thesis in the morning, and in the evening go to a restaurant with Rum, drink champagne, eat pasta, meet summer, kiss and love. However, everything turned out somewhat differently. In the morning, I had breakfast, then worked out, and in the evening, I drank tea with cookies. Alone.”
Sofia also wrote about Roman Protasevich’s prophetic dream the night before his arrest and also asked not to blame the blogger for what happened: “Please, don’t blame Roma for everything that happened like this. He protected and took care of me as best he could. It can be called love. It will not be easy to develop further, but I hope that this path will pass with dignity.”
While Putin helps the illegitimate president with loans and supports the regime, the dictatorship of Lukashenka kills not only Belarusians but also Russians. ICCI “Our House” expresses solidarity with the political prisoners of Russia, for whom our country has become a home, to whom it has given love and family, who wanted Belarus to become free as soon as possible. We demand that Russia stop providing financial assistance to the usurper and make every effort to free its citizens.