The tools with which the illegitimate authorities are trying to put pressure on active citizens of Belarus are not diverse. Police officers use blackmail, threats, violence and repression against activists and their close or distant relatives. Practically any person, who has ties with people expressing their position or taking part in the protest activity, is under the threat of violence from the dictator’s “law enforcement agencies”.
During the last year, there have been 23 known cases of arrests, searches and other violent actions against relatives:
- Spouse – 2 cases
- Parents – 8 cases
- Children – 4 cases
- Brothers/sisters – 3 cases
- Grandparents – 2 cases
- Other close or distant relatives – 4 cases
The geography of blackmail and hostage-taking covers the whole of Belarus. Most of the violent actions took place in Minsk. In Grodno, Brest and small towns of Rechitsa, Lida, Zhitkovichy, Polotsk, Novopolotsk and Mazyr.
The main purpose of such actions is to force a person with an active civic position to return to Belarus. Criminal cases have been brought against the majority of the activists, but the “law-enforcing” bodies lack the activists themselves to conduct investigative actions, bring the case to court and publicly condemn it.
A detailed timeline of the 2021-2022 hostage-taking
On May 25, the Belarusian authorities took a relative of Belsat journalist Arina Malinovskaya hostage. In a phone call, an investigator said her relative had been detained, and the journalist’s grandmother and grandfather may be detained soon. They will be released, only after the journalist herself comes to the police station. The police also detained the journalist’s husband for some time. Arina didn’t return to Belarus.
On March 15, the police searched the house of the 95-year-old grandmother of Hrodna investigative journalist Denis Ivashin. Before that, searches were also conducted at the man’s parents’ home. Neither the age of their relatives nor the state of their health stopped the beasts in uniform.
On July 10, KGB officers came to the home of political prisoner Stanislau Mochalau’s brother Ihar with a search. They took his brother’s computers, phones and data storage devices. As practice shows, personal property is never returned afterwards.
On August 5, the parents of Aleksey Shkurov, editor of Strong News, were searched. Nothing was taken during the search. However, searches of parents’ homes are often aimed precisely at exerting moral pressure on the elderly, causing fear for the life and health of the activist himself.
On August 19, the flat of the father of political prisoner, “Viasna” volunteer Tatsiana Lasitsa was searched in Rechytsa. Even relatives of activists who are already under arrest are searched to force them to admit their guilt.
On August 24, Volha Makhnach, wife of Yury Makhnach, former police lieutenant colonel and commander of the Lida police department, was detained in Lida. The house was searched, but later, Volha was released.
On September 13, the parents of political prisoners, Andrey Sharenda and Paulina Sharenda-Panasiuk, were searched by KGB officers. The officers also came to Andrei’s brother Aliaksandr for questioning. Polina is in prison, Andrey managed to escape from Belarus.
On October 16, Volha Chyzhyk, mother of political prisoner, Arseni Chyzhyk, was detained in Zhitkovichy. She was taken away for interrogation late in the evening and released only the next morning.
On November 8, Aleksey Kanevski, son of political prisoner Tatsiana Kanevska, was arrested. The man was placed in a temporary detention facility. Nothing is yet known about his further fate.
On November 14, police searched the house of the blogger’s daughter Alena Janushkouskaya, who is outside Belarus. Searches without the presence of people are also a standard practice of the Belarusian “law enforcement” bodies.
On November 16, police searched the house of activist Alena Gurchenok in Polotsk. Iryna Gurchenok, a relative of Alena, was detained for 72 hours in Navapolatsk. Unfortunately, we know that women in the Belarusian police are subject to a specific pressure and threats of a sexual nature. That’s why the detention of female relatives is especially frightening for activists.
On November 26, the mother of anarchist Raman Khalilau, who left the country in 2019 for fear of possible criminal prosecution, was arrested. Securities broke down the door of Gayane’s flat and conducted a search. The woman was forced to kneel and admit her guilt on camera. Gayane Akhtiyan was arrested for ten days, and on December 2, 2021, she was transferred to Minsk, to Akrestsina.
On December 7, in Navapolatsk, the parents’ house of the Euroradio journalist, Yuliya Matuzova, was searched. All equipment was seized during the search.
In December, pressure also started on the relatives of a former fighter of the Belarusan SOBR, Yury Haravsky, who requested political asylum in Switzerland. The relatives were summoned to the KGB several times. Yury’s brother was arrested by riot police and interrogated for 5 hours. The relatives were forbidden to leave Belarus. This case is one of the most vivid – Yury’s relatives are real hostages of “the authorities”.
On January 28, the authorities of Belarus initiated a criminal case against the daughter of Pavel Latushko, politician and Belarusian opposition figure Yana Latushko and seized her property. Arrest or seizure of property is also a favourite tool of the regime for putting pressure on activists.
On January 31, Anatol Latushko, a cousin of the head of NAU Pavel Latushko, was detained. His home was searched. As practice shows, the more famous an activist is, the more pressure will be exerted on him in every possible way. In this case, the “authorities” do not shy away from the dirtiest methods.
On February 9, Ksenia Martinovich, daughter of activist Alla Martinovich, was arrested in Mozyr. The daughter came from Ukraine to her mother’s flat. She is kept in a temporary detention facility.
On February 18, in Minsk, law enforcers with guns came to the relatives of the activist and former student of the Academy of Arts Polina Burko with a search. Polina is now outside of Belarus. After the search, the KGB officers detained her mother, 45-year-old Alena Burko and arrested her for 12 days.
All cases of such pressure, after the regime change, will be investigated separately. All the perpetrators of the illegal actions have been convicted. The ICCI “Our House” is convinced that those who engage in such violent actions against the activists’ relatives are well aware of their illegality. That’s why they should be punished to the fullest extent of the law. A new law in a new and free Belarus.