The repressive machine of the Lukashenko regime is working, but brave Belarusians continue to voice their discontent with both the illegitimate authorities and their support for the war in Ukraine. In April and May, new women’s names and surnames appeared among the Belarusian political prisoners and were repressed. Today we will acquaint you with the stories of courageous Belarusian women.
Repression of women in April 2022
On April 1, in Molodechno, residents, including 22-year-old Olga Cherniak, started being tried for their participation in the August 9, 2020 protests. The woman got accused of going into town with a white-red-white flag, walking down Pritytski street towards Central Square in the district centre. Calling on passers-by to join her on the square, she and her acquaintance “were carrying unregistered symbols and shouting slogans”. Olga Cherniak has been kept in prison No. 8 in Zhodzina since November 30, 2021. She got sentenced to 1 year in prison.
On April 4, Veranika Bakhmutova, lawyer of the “Naftan” JSC, was detained. Colleagues said she was detained at her workplace, handcuffed and taken away for interrogation. Colleagues believe that the reason for the detention might have been a Facebook profile photo with the TUT.VU logo on it.
On April 4, Polatsk sentenced 60-year-old Liubou Tverdova. She was accused of having “repeatedly posted posts on the Internet that contain a negative assessment of A. Lukashenka”. For instance, in August 2021 Lubov called Lukashenka a fascist on her page on the social networks and repeatedly wrote “Zhyve Belarus!” in Telegram chats. Lubov was sentenced to 4 years of restricted freedom without referral to an open institution and a fine of 3,200 roubles.
On April 4, Larisa Nikalayeva, a 60-year-old kindergarten teacher, was sentenced to three years of restricted freedom without sending her to an open-type institution. She was accused of printing out 16 fly-sheets with propaganda for “two crosses” on the referendum ballots. Larisa’s colleagues wrote the denunciation against her. The woman spent more than a month behind bars. Two magnets with the coat of arms “Pagonya” were at the woman’s home, and a chatbot of the opposition platform “Golos” was found in her phone.
On April 5, feminist blogger Daria Tikhonova got sentenced to 2.5 years in prison. The girl had a blog with 10,000 followers on Instagram. Here, she conducted educational work, talking about sexism and feminism. Daria worked as a staff development manager. She got sent to prison under Article 342 of the Criminal Code for participating in post-election protests.
On April 6, Yulia Ganiseuskaia, a mother of many children, was detained in Gomel. Propaganda channels published a “penitential video” with the woman. On the question “What were you brought here for?” she replied, “By the scruff of the neck”. Yulia got released after being fined 15 basic units for subscribing to Telegram channels banned in Belarus.
On April 6, Inna Shirokaya, a 45-year-old mother of three minor children, was detained in Hrodna. Inna’s son was beaten up at the protests in 2020. Inna decorated the window of the coffee shop where she worked in August 2020 in white and red. After that, she got fired. Inna got charged under Article 342 of the Criminal Code (organisation and preparation of acts grossly violating public order or active participation in them).
On April 7, political prisoner, Palina Sharenda-Panasiuk, got tried in Homiel women’s colony. She was convicted under part 2 of article 411 of the Criminal Code (malicious disobedience to demands of the administration of the penitentiary) and added another year of imprisonment. Palina is already serving her sentence under Articles 364 (violence against police officers), 368 (insulting Lukashenka) and 369 (insulting a representative of the authorities).
On April 12, 57-year-old political prisoner Gayane Akhtiyan got sentenced to 3 years of restricted freedom. Her son is an activist in the anarchist movement Roman Khalilau. Gayane Akhtiyan was detained on 26 November 2021. A video of the search appeared on pro-government channels. Here, the woman kneels in front of officers of the GUBOPIK and admits her guilt. The title said: “Parents are responsible for their children…”. Gayane Akhtiyan got tried under Article 342 of the Criminal Code (organisation and preparation of actions that grossly violate public order or active participation in them).
On April 12, Anastasia Novosadskaya, a biology student from the Belarusian State University, was detained. In a “penitential” video, the 21-year-old told that on September 1, 2020, she took part in the student protest action and blocked the traffic. Anastasia got charged under article 342 of the Criminal Code.
On April 13, Sviatlana Kavalenka was detained right at her workplace in Minsk. The woman was prosecuted in 2020 for participating in an action against the integration of Belarus into the Russian Federation. Then, she was prosecuted for joining the collection of signatures for alternative candidates for the presidential nomination.
On April 13, Krychau resident Maryna Koloskova was tried in Vitsebsk. She got accused of insulting the former head of the Gantsavichy police department Vital Kuleshov (Article 369 of the Criminal Code). The woman wrote: “A beast is a beast in Africa”. In court, Maryna said that she left the comment on emotion and didn’t remember its content and that she wanted to delete it but couldn’t. Maryna Koloskova got sentenced to 1.5 years of restricted freedom.
On April 15, it became known about Alesia Bunievich‘s detention. She had been living in Vilnius for a long time. Alesia was detained in February 2021 together with 20 other people who were skiing and had white-red-white symbols. She came to Belarus for family reasons and ended up behind bars. The woman got accused of helping the “rail partisans” and terrorism (Article 289, part 2 of the Criminal Code). Alesia Bunievich had a printing house in Vilnius. Now, she faces from 8 to 20 years of imprisonment.
On April 18, Sviatlana Bychkouskaya, a former worker of the “One Window” service, was detained in Minsk. She got forced to record a “penitential video”. She got accused of giving personal data of security officers to opposition Telegram channels. Sviatlana Bychkouskaya is charged under Article 130 of the Criminal Code (incitement of racial, national, religious or other social hatred or enmity). She faces up to 12 years in prison.
On April 20, the owner of the real estate agency KUB, Alla Ramanenka, was detained. She and her husband got detained. They got raided by GUBOPIK. The woman left several posts on social media expressing her position against the war in Ukraine. The family’s home was searched, and their computer drive was confiscated.
On April 20, Oksana Kolb, editor-in-chief of “Novy Chas” newspaper, was detained. The security forces stormed into her house with shields and sledgehammers and took her to the Investigative Committee for interrogation. But Oksana did not come out of there. She got charged under part 1 of article 342 of the Criminal Code (organization and preparation of actions that grossly violate the public order or active participation in them).
On April 22, Liudmila Kirilenka, an entrepreneur from Ragachou, was sentenced. The woman was caught on video of protest action on August 9, 2020. For this, she was detained on January 19, this year, and charged under article 342 of the Criminal Code (group actions that grossly violate the public order). She got sentenced to 1.5 years in prison.
On April 25, in Vitebsk, the criminal case on extremist performances got started. The defendants were three women (Iryna Pertsova, Julia Lobunova, Ekaterina Makarevich) and one man. They got accused of filming a video in which they smashed with a bat the kinescope of a TV set with a pasted picture of a Belarusian journalist, organised a rally in a cemetery.
On April 30, Ekaterina Shitikava was detained at the “Belarus for Russia” rally and approached its participants to express an anti-war stance. It is reported that when she and her friends walked past the rally, she started an argument with one participant. Then, police officers came to her. Ekaterina got summoned to the police for an interview, after which she was not released.
Repression of women in May 2022
On May 5, Vizor Games designer, Halina Semechko, and her husband, Anton Aleksandrovich, were tried in Minsk. Halina got accused of blocking roads during the protests in 2020 and was also forced to record a “repentant” video, where she said that she participated in the protests and got subscribed to extremist Telegram channels. Halina and her husband got sentenced to three years of restricted freedom without being sent to an open detention facility.
On May 6, Olga Gorbunova, a domestic violence activist and human rights activist, was tried in Minsk. She got detained on November 9, 2021, and placed in pre-trial detention facility No. 1 in Minsk. Olga was accused of organisation and preparation of acts grossly violating public order (Article 342 of the Criminal Code) and sentenced to three years of restricted freedom without sending her to an open prison.
On the same day, Hrodna tried Sofia Sapieha, accused of administering Telegram channels with data on Belarusian law enforcers. According to the case file, Sofia posted the data of at least 238 people, including law enforcers, prosecutors, judges and civil servants. As a result, they started receiving threats. The plane with her and Roman Pratasevich got forcibly landed in Minsk on May 23, 2021. Sofia Sapieha was sentenced to 6 years of imprisonment and obliged to pay compensation of 167 500 rubles to the victims.
On May 6, the sentence was heard by political prisoners Anastasia Kukhareva and Vera Tsvikevich, detained for participation in protest marches in 2020. Anastasia got beaten during her detention. Vera was detained immediately after applying for a residence permit in Belarus. Anastasia got sentenced to 3 years of restricted freedom without sending her to an open type institution, and Vera – to 1 year of imprisonment.
On May 10, 23-year-old Anastasia Potekhina, accused of participating in a protest action in 2020, was sentenced. According to the case, she “grossly violated public order, went out on the roadway, thus interfering with the public transport work, and did not react to the legitimate demands of the police officers”. Anastasia got sentenced to 2.5 years of restricted freedom.
On May 16, 23-year-old designer Alina Koltunouskaya got detained in Minsk. She got also detained for participation in a protest action in 2020. A denunciation against Alina was written by a “non-indifferent citizen”, who was unable to pass through the city because of her.
Also, on May 16, a 23-year-old employee of an IT company, Daria Levko, was detained. In a “repentant” video, published in pro-government channels, the girl said she participated in post-election protests and blocked roads. The propagandists reproached Daria for the fact that she received a salary of 3,300 dollars and, at the same time, expressed her dissatisfaction with Lukashenka’s regime. Daria got charged under Article 342 of the Criminal Code (organisation or active participation in group actions that grossly violate the public order).
On May 18, an activist of an independent trade union, Zinaida Mikhniuk, got sentenced to two years of jail. The woman got detained on March 25, 2022, and her home and workplace got searched. Zinaida got convicted for insulting Lukashenka (article 368 of the Criminal Code).
On May 18, Alina Zabashtanskaya, 28, suffering from epilepsy, was sentenced in Minsk. Alina got convicted for a video on TikTok, which was found inciting other social hatred (Article 130 of the Criminal Code) and insulting Lukashenka (Article 368 of the Criminal Code). Alina was sentenced to two years in prison.
On May 19, Polatsk city court started the trial of Sviatlana Firsova, resident of Vetryna settlement. The woman is accused under part 1 of article 368 of the Criminal Code for comments on the Internet to a video clip of Aliaksandr Lukashenka’s speech, written back in 2021. Svetlana has been behind bars since March 16. She was sentenced to two years in prison.
The regime continues to persecute both men and women, with the repression of women becoming increasingly violent. They are found even a year and a half after the protests because crimes against Lukashenko have no statute of limitations. They are also beaten, threatened, and forced to record “penitential” videos and confess their love for Lukashenko. The women are imprisoned in appalling conditions. And still, the courageous Belarusians don’t stop, and new heroines emerge among them.