Belarusians caught on any minor drug-related offence get the most severe penalties. Sometimes you can get a shorter sentence for murder than for possession of marijuana. Even before the trial, the accused goes through several circles of hell: investigative actions with torture, interrogations, pre-trial detention centres with inhumane conditions. The protests that took place after the 2020 elections added a couple more circles to this list. Now the mockery of the defendant appears on YouTube, and the moral humiliation and insults of his family will be in all propaganda Telegram channels.
Children under the gun of the camera
Videos with searches and interrogations of minors began to appear in the fall of 2020. The “format” was first tested on the protesters – and someone from the top leadership of the Ministry of Internal Affairs liked the confessions. Then it began to be applied to other defendants for various crimes: fraud, theft, hooliganism and, of course, minor drug-related offences. Here the children were interrogated on camera. In three videos, the accused are in the police department without parents and teachers. Their voices have not been changed, and two videos also showed the city where the crime was committed. Handcuffs are used on minors (two videos), and one of them was even detained with specific means. In total, five such videos were released.
In the first video, which was published on October 8, 2020, we will learn about the composition of the crime from the words of the deputy head of the Department for Drug Control and Combating Human Trafficking of the Minsk City Executive Committee, Kirill Berkozov. It only indicates that the age of one of the members of the group is 17 years old. The footage of the search is innocent because people are not visible on them.
The second video, dedicated to minors accused under Article 328 of the Criminal Code, was released on the channel on February 25, 2021. The description of the video indicated the city where the teenagers were detained. The scheme is traditional: 17-year-old young people got a job as couriers in an online store, not knowing that they would distribute drugs. In the video, one teenager appears in a mask, but his eyes are not hidden, his voice is not changed. Police searched him, and he stood with his hands behind his back – most likely, his hands were handcuffed. Whether it is legal to use handcuffs on a child who is not a dangerous criminal remains a question. The boy’s interrogation was carried out only in the presence of police officers, with no teacher or legal representative in the frame next to him.
The persons involved in the video, released on June 23, 2021, were two teenagers who, according to the prosecution, helped an adult courier distribute drugs. The faces of the young people are hidden, but the voices are not changed. The video also names the city where they committed the crime, so it is easy to recognize teenagers. A parent or a teacher must be present at the interrogation, but the detainees were alone in the video.
The most recent and shocking video was released on the channel on June 11, 2021. Here, a minor lyceum student is taken out of the bus by two security officers. He is already handcuffed, and in the hands of law enforcement officers, most likely, pistols. The young man was also subjected to a search, and his waist bag was torn off. The guy’s parents or the teacher were not present during the investigative actions and the interrogation.
On October 28, 2020, Lukashenko said that among the activists of the protest movement, there are only drug addicts. “Is it normal when the crowd is drunk, distraught, pierced with drugs, smoked and soaked-hundreds of people rushed to these [sleeping] areas? What should the police have done? It was my order to keep people safe. They started opening apartments, rushed into these apartments, had to pull these drug addicts out of the apartments,” he commented on the crackdown on Sunday’s protests. Since then, even the activists themselves have been making fun of each other on these topics. And the state propaganda, like a faithful servant, executes the master’s order: since he called everyone drug addicts, then we will take note.
The accusations of the activists and their relatives under article 328 allow the state media to assert: we have a criminal in front of us. It happened to the family of political prisoner, Tatyana Kanevskaya, an activist of the “Mothers 328” movement. Tatyana’s son, Alexander Kanevsky, received eight years of imprisonment under article 328 in 2016. Thanks to the amnesty, he managed to be released after 3.5 years. Tatyana got detained on August 6, 2020, and got a charge of participating in mass riots. On May 4, 2021, she got a sentence of 6 years in prison. And in January 2021, Dmitry Kanevsky, another son of Tatyana and Alexander’s brother, was detained for threatening the security forces in a Telegram chat. “The bandit’s name is Dmitry Kanevsky, he is 26 years old, and now he is a person involved in a criminal case. Most likely, radicalism is in his blood. His mother, Tatyana Kanevskaya, is now in jail on the case of mass riots, and his brother has been in prison for several years under article 328 for drugs. That’s the whole family dynasty: a drug addict, a provocateur and a bloodthirsty bastard,” one of the channels supporting Lukashenka wrote about it.
On January 22, 2021, Minsk resident Pavel Bankovsky went to Independence Square and set himself on fire. He was rescued, but it turned out that 72% of his body was burned. Pavel was in an artificial coma for a long time. Doctors gave him a 1% chance to survive, but he recovered and has already been discharged from the hospital. And propaganda channel accused him of drug addiction, stating that Pavel was accused under Article 328 of the Criminal Code and also led an intoxicating lifestyle. As Lukashenka wanted, he is an alcoholic and a drug addict.
In February 2021, the trial of Russian citizen Igor Kaponaiko took place. He got a charge under article 339 (hooliganism) and article 369 (insulting a representative of the authorities in connection with the performance of his official duties). Igor Kaponaiko blocked the doors of the apartment of an employee of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and wrote obscene words on her mailbox. Igor explained his actions by saying that he was stunned by the unfair statement of the employee after the death of Roman Bondarenko. A journalist of the newspaper “SB. Belarus Today”, Lyudmila Gladkaya, described what was happening in the meeting room in a contemptuous tone. She mentioned that one of Igor Kaponaiko’s sons was convicted under Article 328 of the Criminal Code.
Not only the protesters but also their family members become victims of Lukashenka and his servants. Any offence, even the most harmless, becomes a reason for propaganda. However, it is hard even to imagine what people and especially children, are going through. Lukashenka cripples not only the bodies but also the destinies, the psyche. Relatives of Belarusians who have fallen into the media space refuse, threats from dictator’s fans come to them in personal messages. The usurper does not want to understand in any way: such methods will not return people’s love, only aggravate the situation. Therefore, we demand to stop using people and especially children who have received charges under article 328, for vile purposes.