Since the election, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of cases where a person has been subjected to administrative or even criminal proceedings for commenting on social media or reposting a post. The punishments for those who have stumbled are different: a fine, “chemistry” and even a penal colony. The vast majority of the accused also had to pay compensation to the insulted employees of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
From 9 August to 13 January 332 criminal cases were opened in Belarus for defamation, threats to police officers and soldiers of internal troops, and dissemination of their personal data, the press service of the Interior Ministry reported. Policemen and their families have received 225 threats, 382 insults, 92 slanders and more than 18,000 disclosures of personal data. 127 people were brought to administrative responsibility. It is noteworthy that such “crimes” have no statute of limitations, and a person could receive a sentence even eight months after the “crime” was committed. Here are some facts.
On 6 November a court in Minsk sentenced Stanislav Shushkevich, the son of the first leader of independent Belarus Stanislav Shushkevich, to 10 days of arrest. The reason was the reposts of Shushkevich Jr. on Facebook, made from the HEXTA channel, recognized as extremist in Belarus. These reposts expressed support for the Belarusian opposition. The man’s mother, Irina Shushkevich, said that she did not know about the content of these reposts, and his father took the detention of his son as personal revenge.
On 16 November, Mahileu activist Aleksandr Khamratov, the administrator of a social networking group where someone left a negative comment about the police, was detained. For this the activist was prosecuted under Article 369 of the Criminal Code (public insult to a public official in connection with the performance of his official duties).
On November 20, the Zhlobin district court sentenced Yan Rymarev in a criminal case for insulting a government official (Article 369 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus). Ian was in court without a lawyer. According to the materials of the case, a man in a chat room “Zhlobin for Life” insulted the deputy head of Zhlobin District Executive Committee Dzmitry Dedyun by using foul language. Yan Rymarev was sentenced to two years of restriction of freedom in an open-type correctional institution and ordered to pay compensation of 700 roubles ($ 268,30) to Dzmitry Dedyun. Jan’s property was also confiscated.
On November 23, a verdict was passed on Raman Maskadynya, a 28-year-old resident of Salihorsk, who was accused of insulting one of the heads of the Salihorsk police, Siarhei Salavey, in the social network “Vkontakte” (Article 369 of the Criminal Code). Raman was fined 5,100 rubles ($1954,73) and ordered to pay the police officer 2,000 rubles ($766,56) compensation. Also his mobile phone was confiscated.
On November 24, in Vitsebsk, a trial was held over a 40-year-old man who insulted an OMON officer in one of the Telegram channels. On August 27, the man spoke obscenely about the work and personality of the security officer. He was sentenced to two years of restriction of freedom and ordered to pay the riot police 500 rubles ($191,64) compensation.
On the same day, a trial for insulting a security officer was held in Masty. A local resident Vitaliy Skrabinski was convicted under article 189 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus (intentional humiliation of honor and dignity of a person, expressed in indecent form in information distributed in the Internet global computer network). In September, he commented on a photo of a member of the election commission in the August 9 elections. The man pleaded guilty and was sent to an open-type correctional institution for 1 year and 6 months.
On December 4, Yuri Panasyuk, a 31-year-old resident of Hrodna, received a subpoena in a criminal case under Article 368 of the Criminal Code (insulting the president). The case turned out to be repost on his social media page – from 2 to 26 July 2020, Yuri “posted images containing a negative assessment of the President of the Republic of Belarus Lukashenko A.G., which has a non-normative form of speech expression, which publicly insulted the President of the Republic of Belarus.” It should be noted that Yuri is a group 3 invalid.
On December 7, 25-year-old Ivan Artus was convicted under Article 369 of the Criminal Code. According to the case file, he insulted former Deputy Interior Minister Aleksandr Barsukov, who visited the delinquents’ isolation centre from 13 to 14 August and heard no complaints against police officers from those held there. A video of him stating that no abuse had taken place appeared on the Telegram channel “Banda Luki”. Ivan Artus left a comment under it. Barsukov said that he did not give a reason for humiliation, and insisted that Ivan be brought to criminal responsibility, as his actions caused “moral harm.” Artus was sentenced to two years of restriction of freedom in an open-type correctional institution.
On December 11, Mikalai Lasitsky, a resident of Pinsk, was sentenced to two years of f restriction of freedom. He was charged under Article 188 of the Criminal Code (slander). According to the case materials, twice – on August 18 and 20 – Mikalai Lasitsky deliberately posted images of police major Alexander Sakovich with defamatory signatures on the “Pinsk for Life” Telegram channel. Moreover, in the second case, it was associated with an accusation of genocide (Article 127 of the Criminal Code).
On the same day, a trial of Yegor Karapuzau took place in Vitsebsk, who insulted police major Andrei Zuev (Article 369 of the Criminal Code). In the Telegram channel “Banda Luki” he wrote a message: “Guys from Vitsebsk, please tell me the coordinates of Major Zuev of the Zheleznodorozhny District Department of Internal Affairs … I want to clarify whether I’m looking for that scum or not”. Prior to that, Yegor Karapuzau was sentenced to 8 days in prison under Article 23.34, and then he had a conflict with Zuev. The accused said that a policeman approached him and asked: “Slave, why do you need freedom? What are you going to do with it”, with what offended him. Yegor Karapuzau was sentenced to one and a half years of restriction of freedom in an open-type correctional institution and ordered to pay the victim 500 rubles ($191,64) in compensation.
On December 15, 31-year-old Yuri Karnilovich was convicted of insulting former Interior Minister Yuri Karaev. Remarkably, the insult was uttered on 2 July, a month before the election. In a YouTube comment to the video, Yuri wrote: “About us, or more specifically about General Karayev, who was sodden to meet with citizens”, which “humiliated the honour and dignity of Karayev, caused him moral and ethical suffering, undermined his authority, personal and professional qualities, and the authority of the internal affairs bodies as a whole”. Karnilovich was sentenced to three years of restriction of freedom in an open-type correctional institution.
Also on December 15, the Garadok district court sentenced 33-year-old worker Mikalai Chernyavsky to 1.5 years in a general regime colony. He was convicted under two articles of the Criminal Code: 369 (insulting a police officer) and 365 (interference in the activities of a police officer). On August 22, Mikalai left a comment on one of the Telegram channels, where he insulted a police officer with the phrase “Freak in uniform”, and also threatened to publish his personal data. To pay for the lawyer, Mikalai’s mother sold all the gold jewelry. The family also paid the morally affected policeman 500 rubles ($191,64) in moral damages.
On December 16, Aliaksey Ramanau, a disabled person of the 2nd group, was sentenced to one year in a general regime colony. Such a punishment was imposed on him by the Khoiniki District Court for insulting the president (Article 368 of the Criminal Code). According to the case materials, on July 28, a man spoke negatively about Alyaksandr Lukashenko at the picket of Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya.
On December 18, the Shumilinsky District Court sentenced the father of two children, Dzmitry Kulakou, to three and a half years of restriction of freedom under Articles 364 (threat of violence against an employee of the internal affairs bodies) and 369 of the Criminal Code. Dzmitry was accused of threatening a police officer with reprisals in the “Lepel for Life” chat in August. It should be noted that two of the three examinations of Kulakou’s message showed that there were no threats or insults in them.
On December 21, a trial was held over a resident of Svetlahorsk, Siarhei Miroeusky, who was accused under Article 342 of the Criminal Code (organizing and preparing actions that grossly violate public order, or actively participating in them). According to the materials of the case, Siarhei urged in a chat room of the city Svetlahorsk citizens to gather near the “Beryozki” shopping centre, and advised to stick together in groups of 70-100 people, use wooden pallets to protect themselves, drag police officers into yards, take off their uniforms and tie their arms and legs with ties or duct tape. He was sentenced to 2.5 years of restraint of liberty in an open-type correctional institution and sent to an open correctional institution.
On January 5, the trial of a 65-year-old resident of Lepiel was held. The woman was accused of insulting a police officer on social networks. In August, a pensioner left a comment under a photo of a police officer, who considered it an insult. The woman was sentenced to one year of home restriction of freedom under Article 369 of the Criminal Code.
On January 6, the trial of 19-year-old Ilya Vaytkevich, charged under Article 368 of the Criminal Code (insulting the president), took place in Smarhon. According to the investigation, on August 28, he left a comment in the group “Atypical Ostrovets”, where he called Lukashenka “incapable of anything”. The comment was seen by 1,500 users. The court sentenced him to two years of home restriction of freedom and confiscated the guy’s mobile phone in favor of the state.
On the same day, in Brest, 28-year-old Maksim Smirnou was tried and charged under Article 188 of the Criminal Code (slander) – for reposting in a Telegram channel about the commander of the riot police unit of the Brest Regional Executive Committee, Maksim Mihovich, which he made in the morning of 14 September 2020. The record contained “slanderous, false and defamatory information to the police officer.” It should be noted that the affected riot policeman asked not to punish the guy too severely, because 2021 was declared the Year of National Unity, and did not make any material claims. But the court punished the guy with two years of restriction of freedom without sending him to an open correctional institution.
On 20 January, Aliaksandr Glazyrin was convicted in Brest on charges of insulting a police officer in a Telegram chat room (Article 369 of the Criminal Code). Victim Pavel Tasoev said he believed the comment had harmed his authority. The examination revealed a negative assessment of the personality in the commentary of Alexander Glazyrin. He was sentenced to two years of restriction of freedom in an open correctional institution.
On the same day, a case was considered in Minsk on charges of political prisoner Dzmitry Kulakousky, charged under Article 369 of the Criminal Code (insulting a government official). It is noteworthy that Dzmitry himself used to work in the Zavodsky police department of Minsk, but resigned after the election on 9 August. On 5 October, Dzmitry posted the date of birth and contact phone numbers of an employee of the Interior Ministry in the Telegram channel “Punishers of Belarus”, thus publicly insulting him. According to the materials of the investigation, “the comment is a statement contrary to morality, in which there is a negative assessment of the personality of the policeman.” On October 6, Dzmitry was detained – during the arrest he was beaten, and he lost consciousness. After demanding a lawyer, he was beaten again.
“The police officers also told me that they would not provide a lawyer and that I had to agree to everything. How long it lasted, I do not remember exactly – because of the severe pain. I screamed in pain”, recalls Dzmitry.
On 7 October, he had his first trial, after which he was taken to a punishment cell, where he spent 23 days. After the punishment cell, he began to have health problems: cough, swelling of the legs, aggravation of diabetes mellitus. He was released on November 2.
On January 21, in Masty, a verdict was passed on a local resident, Viktar Tsarikevich. One of the articles under which the man was accused is Article 369 of the Criminal Code (insulting a government official). Viktor left an “indecent, degrading commentary” under the photograph of Yury Valevaty, chairman of the Masty District Executive Committee.
On 22 January a trial was held in Slonim against Ekaterina Salevich, a mother on maternity leave, who was accused of publicly insulting an official in the Telegram channel “Slonim for Life” on 25 August by reposting his photo and personal information and adding a derogatory comment. The expert of the department of linguistic expertise in the Hrodna region recognized one of the words in the message as “rude, vulgar, offensive”. The victim said that because of the comment, he and his family suffered significant mental suffering, and filed a claim for compensation in the amount of 3,000 rubles ($1149,84). As a result, Ekaterina Salevich was sentenced to a year of home restriction of freedom.
On January 25, a trial was held over a resident of the Astravets district, Uladzimir Chevazhevsky, who was accused of insulting the president and insulting government officials. According to the materials of the case, on 1 September 2020 he left a comment in the Telegram-chat “Astravets for Life” under a video in which Lukashenko assessed the actions of the authorities regarding Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz of Minsk and Mogilev. And on October 28, Uladzimir Chevazhevsky wrote a negative commentary on Yuri Karaev, saying that he “has no right to be called a human being.” A comment was left under the video, where Yuri Karayev spoke about the moment of danger at which a police officer should decide whether to use a weapon. The accused was sentenced to 1 year and 3 months in prison.
On 6 January Minsk Tsentralny District Court sentenced Dzmitry Ushatski, 43, to two years of home restriction of freedom under Article 369 of the Criminal Code – for insulting Interior Ministry spokeswoman Olga Chemodanova, which he left on 18 June 2020. The spokeswoman appeared in court, saying that the fact that others had read the message was a “serious blow to her reputation” and that the situation was affecting her health. The witness in the case was the official representative of the Municipal Department of Internal Affairs of the Minsk City Executive Committee Natalya Ganusevich. Dzmitry told in court that on that day he was emotional after the arrest of Sergei Tikhanovsky, and admitted his guilt. He was also ordered to pay 5000 rubles ($1916,40) in moral compensation to Olga Chemodanova.
On January 27, the trial of 31-year-old Igor Mitsenkov was held in Mahileu. In the fall of 2020, he left an offensive comment in the “VKontakte” group to the traffic police inspector who was fining drivers who signalled in protest against the current government. Mitsenkav partially admitted the claims of the affected inspector and agreed to pay him compensation in the amount of 500 rubles ($191,64) .
On February 1, Aliaksandr Deschenya was accused of insulting a representative of the authorities. On 20 September, he wrote a derogatory message in the “Vkontakte” social network, in the group of the Glusk district newspaper “Radzima”, about police officer Pavel Kurs and asked the newspaper to write the truth about the policeman. According to Pavel Kurs, the comment caused moral suffering for him and his family: his wife was afraid to sleep at night and take the child to school. Aliaksandr Deshchenya was sentenced to two years of restriction of freedom in an open correctional institution and ordered to pay the victim 2000 rubles ($766,56).
On February 3, a resident of Orsha, Uladzimir Shinkevich, was sentenced to 1 year and 3 months in prison for commenting on the “Odnoklassniki” social network. He was tried under Article 368 of the Criminal Code (insulting the president). What exactly Uladzimir wrote is unknown. Now Uladzimir is recognized as a political prisoner.
On February 20, the trial of a resident of Bereza Vitaly Tolstyak took place. He was sentenced to 1.5 years of home restriction of freedom for commenting “bastard” under a photo of a local policeman on a social network. Vitaly is also obliged to reimburse the district police officer for 1,500 rubles ($574,92) of moral damage and pay 87 rubles ($33,35) of state duty to the state. His mobile phone was confiscated.
On February 22, a resident of Vitsebsk, the father of two children, Aliaksei Kapitonau, was sentenced to two years of restriction of freedom in an open-type correctional institution for insulting a police officer on Instagram (Article 369 of the Criminal Code). According to the court, on October 3, 2020, he posted a comment that contained “an obscene, abusive insult to the injured security official.” The commentary referred to the moment of the woman’s arrest and the spray of tear gas. In addition to restriction of freedom, Aliaksei Kapitonau’s phone was confiscated.
On 24 February, Galina Yushkouskaya, suspected of insulting police officers, was detained in Babruisk. The investigation claimed that in October she had left derogatory comments about police officers on Telegram. Galina, on the other hand, said she only used Telegram for personal correspondence and reading news. She was identified as the owner of the account from which the insults were written from an avatar photo that showed a woman who looked like her. In February, her flat was searched and she was taken to the temporary detention centre.
On 25 February, a 61-year-old pensioner was tried in Baranovichi, who on 24 August 2020 left an insulting comment under a video of a Baranovichi police officer. According to the court, the woman accused the policeman of exceeding his authority or official powers (Article 426 of the Criminal Code). She was sentenced to two years of home restriction of freedom and was charged 1,000 rubles ($ 383,28) in compensation.
On February 27, a resident of Biaroza, Valyantsina Medved, was sentenced to two years of home restriction of freedom for insulting a police officer (Article 369). On 17 November, in a Telegram chat, a woman called Juvenile Inspection Officer Dzimitri Lisko a sleazy type. It turned out that on September 6, she got into a conversation with a friend near the store, and Lishko was nearby, who captured her on video. After that, a protocol was drawn up against her under Article 23.34. In addition to two years of home home restriction of freedom, Valyantsina was ordered to pay the victim 1,500 rubles ($ 574,92) as moral compensation.
On March 2, the trial of Ivan Kiva, a resident of Mahileu, was held under Article 369 of the Criminal Code. He was accused of insulting three police officers who sued him for 13000 rubles ($ 4982,63). It turned out that in September 2020, Ivan posted an offensive comment under one of the photos in the “VKontakte” social network group, which contained profanity. Ivan Kiva did not agree with the accusation and noted that the words were directed at the policemen, who were in civilian clothes in the photo. However, the victims believe that his words were directed specifically at them, which caused them great moral harm.