Article 44 of the Constitution of Belarus says: “The state guarantees everyone the property right and contributes to its acquisition. The state protects the lawfully acquired property. The state shall encourage and protect the savings of citizens.” However, during the period of terror after the 2020 elections, the illegitimate authorities demonstrated that no private property exists. The security forces can enter other people’s apartments whenever and however they want, doing whatever they want, and their owners can be severely punished, up to and including death, for resisting the “servants of the law”.
On November 23, 2021, GUBOPIK Chief Andrey Parshin proposed confiscating the property of those suspected of extremism. Anyone can become it in case of subscribing to the opposition Telegram channel or participating in protests. In the House of Representatives, deputies proposed confiscation of property from those who call for sanctions. “I think there will be a general confiscation of property to the state to pay off the damage that these people have done. Well, in my opinion, they should be deprived of citizenship,” said the chairman of the Committee on National Security of the House of Representatives (lower house) of the National Assembly (Parliament) of Belarus Oleg Belokonev. The official was tactfully silent about it is contrary to the Constitution.
Illegal intrusion into private property also contradicts the law. Violation of the inviolability of legal possessions of citizens (Article 202 of the Criminal Code) is punished with community service, or a fine, or arrest. But this law applies only to ordinary citizens – the security forces live by the rule: “Sometimes it is not up to the law”. That is why no one ever punishes them for breaking into apartments and cottages, for illegally filming the territory of a house, for breaking doors and furniture.
On May 29, 2020, Hrodna pensioner Halina Andreichyk met with blogger Siarhei Tikhanouski and expressed her support. The state channels showed this story. The propaganda newscast showed the 81-year-old woman’s cottage and told what property belonged to her and her “officially unemployed” children. KGB head, Valery Vakulchik, took a picture of Halina Andreichyk’s house taken from a drone directly to Lukashenka’s desk. The TV channels kept silent about the legality of the shooting.
Halina Andreichyk told the independent journalists that she hadn’t hidden her property, and she couldn’t understand why she had to justify herself for that. She said that the cottage had been built for 38 years with her own hands. The state media showed photos of two other houses, allegedly owned by the pensioner, but in fact, these houses are still under construction. The family received money for the building from relatives who emigrated to Australia after the war. The pensioner has been working as a university teacher for more than half a century. Halina Andreichyk is an associate professor with a PhD in economics. Her husband worked as a leading specialist in construction. Her eldest son works in Russia in the tourism industry, and the youngest is a programmer in a Russian firm.
It was only the beginning – soon, it became the norm for Belarusian law enforcement officers to break into apartments without the tenant’s consent. On October 25, 2020, during a mass protest against Lukashenka, three Belarusian security forces officers burst into the apartment of a Minsk resident as protesters were hiding there. One of the policemen with a truncheon in his hands ordered the men to leave the flat – all of them went, only one man was left. A woman in the apartment blocked the way to the “law enforcer” and asked him to leave, saying that she was a mother of four sons. The law enforcer said he would take her son with or without pain. In front of the mother, the “law enforcer” started beating her son. It turned out that about 20-30 protesters were hiding in the apartment, fleeing from law enforcement officers. Before the door was closed, one of the officers inserted a baton into the gap. After the black-masked officers left, the protesters remained in the apartment for about an hour and a half more.
On November 9, 2020, white and red underpants appeared between the houses in the Cascade apartment complex, which the riot police personally came to remove. After that, on November 12, law enforcement officers burst into the apartments of several tenants of the apartment complex with searches. “Everything happened in the morning. The doorbell rang. We were still asleep. My husband went to see who was there. There were five men at the door, three in balaclavas. When the doors shook from the blows (they were already planning to open them), my husband warned us that he would open them in the presence of the neighbours. In the hands of the man dressed “in civilian clothes” was a search report authorized by the prosecutor. I will never forget the eyes full of terror and fear of my eldest daughter (she is five years old): she tried to hold back tears as I took her and her three-year-old sister to a neighbour past armed men in balaclavas,” one of the victims of the sudden search recalls.
“We were asleep when suddenly the doorbell rang. I looked through the peephole. There were men in balaclavas on the other side. When I opened it, the first thing I heard was an angry yell: “Get down, face down on the floor!”. They let my husband read the search warrant. Later we found out that our status had not been determined, an investigation was underway. We asked for a lawyer, but they refused. They left, but I had a bad feeling. Not because it was broken, no. But because they realized that the legal default in Belarus had reached its peak,” said a resident of the “Cascade”, whose house was searched in the same way.
On November 15, 2020, law enforcement officers raided the apartment where journalists of the independent channel “Belsat” Katerina Andreeva and Daria Chultsova were working. The journalists broadcasted what was happening in the courtyard from one of the apartments for about five hours. After the law enforcement officers dispersed the demonstrators, ten riot policemen burst into the flat and detained journalists. On November 24, 2020, with Katerina Andreeva’s keys, the police broke into her apartment and detained her husband, Igor Ilyash. The house was searched, the law enforcers confiscated equipment, and Igor himself got sentenced to 15 days in jail.
The practice of breaking into private property continued this year as well. On March 29, 2021, people with submachine guns broke into Brest resident Vitali Zarodei house. They wanted to take Vitali to Minsk for a psychiatric examination as part of the criminal case, but he did not come to the Investigative Committee for summonses. They decided to detain him and place him in custody for two months. On August 9, 2021, Vitali Zarodei got convicted under Article 391 of the Criminal Code (insult of judges) and Article 368 of the Criminal Code (insult of the President). Vitaliy Zarodei will serve two years in a general regime penal colony.
On June 10, 2021, riot police invaded the apartment of former prosecutor Yevgeni Babak, who resigned during the post-election protests. While working at the prosecutor’s office, Yevgeni filed a report on the need to investigate the detention of civilians on August 11. After the election, he managed to get a job at an IT firm. He commented to the non-state press on some of the verdicts against the protesters. People in masks arrived in the morning, started knocking on the door and shouting “open up,” and then took him away. When relatives came to Yevgeny’s apartment, they found it trashed. The law enforcement officers even removed the refrigerator drawers, ripped the curtains and baseboards, and smashed the mirror. It became known that the reason for the detention was “picketing with a white-red-white flag on the balcony”. Yauhen Babak is still behind bars.
On September 28, 2021, law enforcement officers broke into an apartment in Yakubovski Street in Minsk. The KGB report said the employees were screening the addresses, where there could be “persons involved in terrorist activities. However, they faced resistance – the owner of the apartment, programmer Andrey Zeltser, shot at the uninvited guests. The bullet killed KGB officer Dmitri Fedosiuk, who instantly became a hero in state propaganda. In response, the security forces killed Andrei Zeltser. Propaganda dubbed him a bandit. The video shows that the law enforcers tried to get into the apartment where Andrey Zeltser lived, threatening to break down the door. When the material about Andrey came out on Komsomolskaya Pravda, journalist Hennadi Mozheyko, the author of this text, was detained the very next day. Major General Oleg Belokonev, former head of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Belarus, offered to kill 20 or 100 people for one KGB officer who died.
About 200 people who commented on the Internet news about the shooting in the apartment and stood up for the murdered programmer found themselves behind bars – now they face criminal charges. Almost all detained for comments in social networks on the “Zeltser case” were taken to Zhodzina Prison No. 8. Their relatives have been unable to give them even the most necessities – a change of clothes and personal hygiene products – for 20 days. They declared a quarantine there and restricted the detainees for comments in correspondence and transfers. Lawyers were not allowed to see some of them. It is known that political prisoners are charged under Articles 130 (intentional acts aimed at inciting other social hatred or discord based on another social group) and 369 (insulting a government official and his relatives in connection with the performance of his duties, committed in information posted on a global computer network Internet).
By breaking into people’s homes and apartment doors, law enforcement officers show that everyone in Belarus is “under the hood”: there is no private property here, only state property. People cannot be safe in their apartments. Even at home, people must remember that Lukashenko is watching over them, and they must respect him. However, it is impossible to force love through fear, and terror will not last forever. The facts of apartment break-ins and illegal entry are recorded, and after Lukashenko leaves, everyone will answer for the atrocities.