On September 20, 2021, the movement “Rabochy Rukh” published a message on its telegram channel that its activists managed to conduct a special operation to “introduce” and subsequent disclosure an employee of the regime’s special services – Alexey Gruzinov. At the same time, mass detentions of workers who actively participated in the protest movement and initiated strikes in 2020 begin at enterprises, and in 2021 they began to support the workers’ movement.
“And so, when the whole department began to rub their hands rather, celebrating their “future promotion”, they decided to merge the agent and end this game! All the time spent on checking the information received, they were distracted from the real activities of the team. Because of this, the employees decided to implement it, and the best thing they came up with was to detain the people who played them. Our relatives and friends are being held hostage. The future of our children and the country is being held hostage! Remember this”, – such a message appeared in the Telegram of “Rabochy Rukh” on September 20 of this year.
Unfortunately, the practical jokes of dictatorial regimes always end very sadly. However, according to the head of the strike committee of “Grodno Azot”, Yuri Rovovoy, they didn’t know that a KGB agent was present among “Rabochy Rukh” activists until almost the last moment. And when it became clear that this person was embedded and collecting data about activists, they got advice to leave the country: someone did not have time to escape, and someone doubted that they would be arrested. As a result, the KGB was able to detain everyone who could be identified. “The arrests are a consequence of the work of a person who collaborated with the KGB, says Yuri Rovovoy. – A fragment of the Zoom video conference was shown in the plot of the ONT TV channel. A fake employee of Gomselmash, whose name became known to the strike committee members, also took part in it.”
According to the website of the human rights organization “Viasna”, there were 13 people on the list of detainees in the case of “Worker Rukh”:
1. Sergey Shelest, a former specialist in the maintenance of the Ammonia-3 workshop, KGB pre-trial detention centre;
2. Andrey Pogerilo, the former repairman of the Ammonia-3 workshop, KGB pre-trial detention centre;
3. Vladimir Zhuravko, former operator of the Ammonia-3 workshop, KGB pre-trial detention centre;
4. Andrey Bashan, an employee of the Ammonia-3 workshop, KGB pre-trial detention centre (outside);
5. Valentin Terenevich, assistant foreman at the Himvolokno plant (which is part of “Grodno Azot”), Deputy Chairman of the Belarusian Independent Trade Union “Grodno Azot”;
6. Vadim Efimenko, an employee of “Himvolokno” (outside);
7. Dmitry Eliseev, BMP employee, Gomel pre-trial detention centre No. 3;
8. Svetlana Zyl, a former employee of BMP, Gomel pre-trial detention centre No. 3;
9. Alexander Gashnikov, BMP employee, KGB pre-trial detention centre;
10. Sergey Dzyuba, Belarusian Railway, KGB pre-trial detention centre;
11. Maxim Sakovich, Senior energy dispatcher of the Belarusian Railway, KGB pre-trial detention centre;
12. Anna Ablab, Belarusian Railway, KGB pre-trial detention centre;
13. Alexander Kapshul, former Legal adviser of “Naftan”, “Polimir”, KGB pre-trial detention centre.
But not only 13 people were arrested and searched, as well as further persecuted. Arrests and searches of the leaders of the labour movement took place from September 21 to 23. The security forces came to the houses of activists from four strike committees – “Grodno Azot”, the Belarusian Metallurgical Plant in Zhlobin, “Naftan” in Novopolotsk and the Belarusian Railway. Some of them were released a day later, but 13 people ended up in the KGB pre-trial detention centre and Gomel pre-trial detention centre No. 3.
On September 28, 11 people from the above list were recognized as political prisoners. Before that, pro-government TV channels made a series of stories dedicated to the “Rabochy Rukh”. In their opinion, the organization was engaged in “sabotage at enterprises, the drain of classified information for Western intelligence agencies and pressure on law enforcement agencies.”
Chronicle of events
On September 18-19, police began detaining factory and strike workers from various enterprises. Several former and current employees of “Grodno Azot” were detained in Grodno. Some were placed in the KGB pre-trial detention centre in Minsk.
Andrey Bashan was detained after a night shift on September 23, and Vadim Efimenko – in his apartment on the evening of September 22. Other detainees, released after the interrogation, are witnesses in the case of Article 356 of the Criminal Code. They signed a non-disclosure agreement.
A case was initiated under several articles of the Criminal Code. Among them is treason to the state and the creation of an extremist formation. The ONT story claimed that most of the detainees had already confessed
Reference of “Our House”
* Article 356 of the Criminal Code “Treason to the State”. The sanction of the article provides for 7 to 15 years of imprisonment with or without a fine.
* According to parts of Article 361-1 of the Criminal Code, “The creation of an extremist formation or participation in it” threatens from three years of restriction of freedom to 10 years of imprisonment.
Valentin Terenevich, an employee of the spinning shop “Himvolokno” and deputy chairman of the Belarusian Independent Trade Union of “Grodno Azot”, was detained on September 20. It was promptly reported by the factory workers’ channel, recognized as extremist.
Sergey Shelest, a former specialist in the maintenance of the Ammonia-3 workshop, went on strike in the fall of 2020. He was also detained. Now he is in the KGB pre-trial detention centre in Minsk, the strike committee channel reported on September 22. Earlier it was assumed that he had left Belarus.
Pogerilo Andrey and Zhuravko Vladimir were detained on September 18-19 even before the release of the revealing post of the “Worker Rukh” about the KGB agent. Last year, Vladimir Zhuravko recorded a video interview with “Grodno Azot”. Andrey Pogerilo and Sergey Shelest hung a white-red-white flag on the plant territory, for which they received administrative arrest. All three went on strike, after which they were fired.
On September 21, in Novopolotsk, the apartment of the chairman of the primary organization of the Belarusian Independent Trade Union “Naftan” Olga Britikova was searched by KGB officers. As a result of the search, police seized office equipment and detained Olga.
On September 25, it was reported that Alexander Kapshul, a former legal adviser of “Naftan Polimir” Plant, was detained on the territory of the Russian Federation without legal grounds. No one explained the reasons for the detentions, and Alexander was urgently handed over to the KGB of Belarus, who secretly took him to Minsk from the border crossing of Russia/Ukraine “Troebortnoe”.
On September 27, telegram channels reported about car orders at the checkpoint of the Belarusian Metallurgical Plant in Zhlobin.
On September 28, it became known that the detained employee of “Ammonia-3” Andrey Bashan and the employee of “Himvolokno” Vadim Efimenko are at large.
At the moment, no additional information has been received on the “Rabochy Rukh” case. “Our House” is sure that the safety of activists is especially significant in the current difficult situation. It is even more notable to move towards a common goal, even though opinions on issues may not coincide. While there is a clarification of the rightness or wrongness of each other, we are wasting precious time and delaying our victory. And our activists, heroes of the New Time and the New Belarus, are sitting in prisons. And the sooner we realize that support, security. Only moving forward is more important now than ever, the sooner many of our friends, colleagues, acquaintances, relatives and friends will be able to hug their loved ones.