The event involving the name of Andrey Zeltsar became one of the most significant episodes of the resistance of the Belarusian civil society to the repression that the Belarusian regime launched after openly falsified presidential election of August 9, 2020.
On September 28, 2021, in a residential building number 29, situated in Yakubovsky street in Minsk, a shooting between Belarusian KGB operatives and Andrey Zeltsar happened. The 31-year-old programmer (an employee of EPAM Systems from May, 2016) Andrey Zeltsar and his wife Maryia Uspenskaya were at home. That day in Minsk, the KGB operatives were conducting searches and round-ups of citizens that had participated in mass civil protests against falsification of the results of presidential election committed by Aliaksandr Lukashenka.
Andrey Zeltsar refused to open the door to the enforcers (they were wearing civil clothes and no insignia) and he locked himself with his wife up inside, holding a hunting shotgun. They were both videotaping what was happening.
The KGB operatives broke the door and broke into Zeltsar’s apartment. Andrey opened fire at them from his hunting shotgun and wounded a KGB operative under the Callsign «Nirvana». Later he was identified as Dzmitry Fedasiuk. On the same day Fedasiuk died from the received wounds in the hospital. Andrey Zeltsar was killed by the return fire.
Andrey Zeltsar’s wife, Maryia Uspenskaya, was arrested on suspicion of complicity in the murder of a KGB operative. On September 29, the General Administration of the Investigation Committee of Belarus opened a criminal case under article of homicide in connection with the person’s official duties.
In the evening of September, 29, at 10.20 p.m., the Telegram channel «Zheltye Slivy», affiliated to the Belarusian regime (currently closed by Telegram administration for law violation), showed a video of the assault against the apartment and the shooting, edited out of shots made by the KGB operatives at the entry to the building, by Zeltsar himself, as well as by his wife, inside the apartment. Consequently, the Investigation Committee claimed that Zeltsar was shooting the video with the «aim to get the so-called «hype».
Later, the press service of the KGB of Belarus claimed that «an operation was being conducted to work off addresses were persons involved in terrorist activities could stay». However, no accusations were announced against the owner of the apartment where the shooting occured.
It soon became known that Zeltsar had been a member of the Belarusian Society of Hunters and Fishermen, therefore he owned the shotgun officially. He was also into triathlon. According to the mass meda, Andrey Zeltsar was also an American citizen.
Andrey Zeltsar and his wife supported protest actions of 2020, they collected signatures for alternative candidates, brought water to protesters, helped them with money. The Belarusian regime accused the management of the American IT company with Belarusian roots, EPAM Systems, in which the killed Andrey Zeltsar had been employed, of supporting protests: Aliaksandr Lukashenka directly accused the Chairman of the Board of Directors of EPAM Systems, Arkadiy Dobkin, a Belarusian native, of financing the opposition.
What happened next?
The next morning after shooting in Zeltsar’s apartment, the Belarusian regime blocked the website of the Belarusian Version of Russia’s Komsomolskaya Pravda. The motive for that was a short interview with Andrey Zeltsar’s classmate who characterized him as a «very good guy».
The Ministry of Information of the Republic of Belarus explained that access to the website had been limited as it published an article with «information contributing to the formation of sources of threats to national security by artificially increasing tensions and confrontation between the society and the state.»
Two days after, the Belarusian regime detained the author of the article, the journalist Henadz Mazheika. He is accused of incitement to hatred (Article 130 of the Criminal Code of Belarus) and of insulting a government official (Article 369 of the Criminal Code). Soon it became known that the Belarusian enforcers captured Mazheika in Moscow and drove him across the border to Minsk. As result of the events of October 5, 2021, Komsomolskaya Pravda announced closure of their representation in Minsk.
On October, 1, Aliaksandr Lukashenka paid attention to negative evaluation of the actions of the Belarusian enforcers following the death of the KGB operative, that started to appear on mass media, including Russian ones, and remarks that such evaluations make him upset. According to the Belarusian Human Rights Center «Viasna», by October 5, 2021, over 118 people got detained for «wrong» comments on the Internet about news regarding the death of Andrey Zeltsar. Criminal cases under Article 369 (Insulting a government official) and Article 130 (Incitement of social hatred) of the Criminal Code of Belarus were launched.
On the same day, on October 1, 2021, in F. Dzerzhinsky Club in Minsk, a mourning ceremony for the killed KGB operative Dzmitry Fedasiuk was held. During the ceremony, a deputy of the House of Representatives, Major General Oleg Belokonev, said to the journalists that he called on mass murder of those who do not agree with the policy of Lukashenka: «What families were those people raised in? I think we are too soft with them and those like them. For some reason, they act outside the frameworks of the law, and we try to do everything by the law. We talk to them by the law, convince them by the law, persuade them by the law. But we should, as Putin said, slaughter them in the toilets: for one kill 20, 100… So that they have no desire to do that. Maybe it’s rough, but it’s sincere».
On October, 6, Andrey Zeltsar was buried at Lesnoye cemetery in Shabany district of Minsk. On that day, the Investigation Committee said that there were 136 suspects in the criminal case opened against those who left comments with their opinion about the death of the KGB operative Dzmitry Fedasiuk, and they all were in custody. During several months, the detainees in the Zeltar’s case had no access to their lawyers, they were not allowed to get the essential necessities.
A bright example of how the regime punished those who sympathized with Andrey Zeltsar is the story of a Gomel volunteer, Illia Mironau. For his compassion with Zeltsar, he was sentenced to 1.5 years of penal colony; currently, he is released.
Illia Mironau was detained at the end of September, 2021, after he expressed his condolences to the relatives of the killed Andrey Zeltsar on his Facebook page. Immediately, criminal cases were launched against him under Articles 369 (Insult of a public official), 130 (Incitement to hatred) and 361-1 (Financing extremist activity) of the Criminal Code.
Illia passed a year in Gomel pre-trial detention facility. The charges of «insulting a public official» and «incitement to hatred» were not brought to court. Neither were the charges of «financing extremist activity». Eventually, the criminal case was terminated «due to the lack of corpus delicti».
However, the volunteer was charged with «discrediting the Republic of Belarus». According to the decision of criminal prosecution, the comment, in which Illia expressed his condolences to the relatives of the killed Andrey Zeltsar, «discredited the Republic of Belarus». Therefore, as the investigators decided, I. Mironau had «committed a crime» and for that he was sentenced to a 1.5-year imprisonment.
On August 26, 2022, it became known, that Andrey Zeltsar’s widow, 41-year-old Maryia Uspenskaya, had been transferred from the pretrial detention center (Volodarka) to Minsk psychiatric hospital (Novinky).
On June 16, 2022, Minsk City Court announced the decision on the criminal case against Maryia Uspenskaya, the widow Andrey Zeltsar, killed in the shooting with the KGB. She was accused of complicity in the murder of the KGB operative Dzmitry Fedasiuk under Art. 16, subparagraph 5 and 10, Part 2, Article 130 of the Criminal Code (murder of a person in connection with implementation of official duties, committed in publicly dangerous way). She was tried as a «person who committed a socially-dangerous act», therefore the mother of Maryia presented her interests at court. The judge Valiantsina Zenkevich sentenced the political prisoner to forced treatment in a psychiatric residential facility. Before that, she had been in custody for almost 9 months.
Maryia Uspenskaya was released from criminal liability since she had been «in the insane state». The court imposed compulsory security measures and treatment on her in the form of a forced treatment in a psychiatric residential facility with regular observation. She is going to be treated until restoration to health; the term was not determined by the court. Besides that, the court exacted financial compensation for «emotional damage in the amount of 100 thousand BYN in the favor of the victim (widow of the killed Dzmitry Fedasiuk), which will be transferred to the favor of the orphanage N. 5 of Minsk».
Andrey Zeltsar and Maryia Uspenskaya left a son born in 2012. There is no information regarding his fate in the public information space.