“Came round because of a wounded riot police officer screaming ‘don’t touch her, she helps me!’ ”
20 August 2020 | Aleksandr Lychavko, The Village Belarus
Day 12 of peaceful protests in the country, almost half of them turned into combat actions: shooting at protesters, flashbangs and, of course, hundreds of thousands of strikes of the riot police truncheons. People leave Akrescina Offender Detention Centre and tell their stories full of horror and pain. The Village Belarus has gathered some fresh ones, but such stories number in hundreds and thousands. We are convinced that these should be written and spoken about constantly. One cannot forget the crimes against the Belarusians.
“I am even afraid to go to shop now”
“There were four of us. On the night of 10 – 11 August, at about 1:40 AM, we were going back from work. I am a household appliances assembler at “Аtlant”, buses had already left so we walked along Pieramožcaŭ avenue to a dormitory near Dinamo Stadium. A man in black with a gun and a torch walked right at us and ordered us to lie down to the ground. We did and that is when the others ran by, put handcuffs on us and took us to a bus.
This bus took us to Akrescina. Besides us, there were three guys and a girl. We were not beaten on our way there, but when we were disembarked near the offender detention center, we had run to a wall with two rows of the riot police around us that were hitting us with truncheons. There were several dozens of men pummelling us.
When we ran to a wall, we were put on our knees and so we had to move to the entrance while they recorded the information about us. Then we were thrown into a cell. Not even a cell, but a yard where prisoners take walks. The yard was small and there were about a hundred of us. During the first night we were mostly standing, someone tried to sit down, but of course everyone could not sit down at once. I had been standing all night long. It was very cold, but I was wearing trousers and a sweater – I was alright, but many people were in shorts and shirts.
Then we were escorted to the cells. We got a cell for four people, but there were 59 men in it. Then some of them were sorted out and there were 20 of us left. This way we stayed for the second night as we could, some lay on the floor. Unlike the yard, it was hot in the cell.
We were given food and drink, we were not starving. They even called doctors who took seriously wounded people to a hospital. I cannot say that I was feeling ok, but I did not need a doctor.
In the morning on the 12th of August, around half past six, we were taken out of cells, our names written down. Those whose surname was called went down the ladder to the yard. There we were forced to do physical exercises like push-ups and sit-downs for ten minutes.
Then I was told to lay down and they started to beat us up. There were fifteen of us, but only four or five people were beaten. Why did they choose us? One of these in black came and asked: “Will you love your Homeland?”. I said we will and then I was ordered to lay on the ground. There were two men hitting with truncheons on legs, buttocks and on the back of a head. I tried to cover my head with my hands — then they were beating my hands. I could not think of anything, I simply did not know what would happen to me; I was almost unconscious: there was only pain and nothing else.
The beating lasted for about five minutes, then they took us to another wall and put us there. They started to call surnames again, then they released us. There were no accusations, but they said that if they catch us again, we will go to jail with convicts.
After that, I went to the investigative committee, registered the beatings. They did not return my belongings, I had to go for them on my own. I am afraid of being arrested again. I’ll think again of filing a complaint.
Since then I have not gone to any meetings, neither have I before. None of the people detained with us have — everyone were innocent bystanders. You simply go that way and then you are taken. I am even afraid to go to shop now.”
“There was an unspoken command to beat medics”
Marina, emergency medical technician:
“I have not been arrested, though I got my fair share of truncheon hits just like many others. When all the protests had begun, we medics decided that we would help. We took what we had — surgical dressing etc. — and went to volunteer where there were most people.
The most terrible night was on August 11. That night they tried to remove the medical volunteers, to lock them up, to arrest, to cut off from any opportunity of providing aid. Two of our girls provided medical help in Serabrianka, then they rode to a gas station — that is where they were arrested. In another car two volunteer guys were beaten up. The ambulance managed to save one girl, another one was released only a day later. They did everything to prevent aiding people.
In our we had two volunteers who agreed to give us a lift, two professional medics and a photographer with first-aid skills. At the beginning we identified ourselves as medics, but then two riot police officers came by. They said: “We aren’t against you, we don’t want to carry out these stupid orders, but we would like to warn: those who will be identified as medics will be beaten. We will send people to you or carry them if necessary. But there was an unspoken command to beat medics.” So we took off all the insignia.
At the beginning we were on duty in Serabrianka, — it was more or less quiet there. Then the guys called us and told us there is help needed in Kamennaya Horka. This was during the crackdown, the cars were shot at as they were riding by. We had neither a post, nor insignia, — we had to look for the injured. The riot police refused to hand over many of them, even though we suggested: give them to us, we will help them and leave. They did not.
Then there was a call from Serabrianka again — we went there. There a riot police officer got his head cracked after his helmet was ripped off. We dragged him further from the crowd and put his pack against a wall. I told him not to worry, that I am a doctor and I will leave as soon as I help him. I started to clean his face and treat his wounds – that is when I was hit by a truncheon between the shoulder blades. I do not remember where they hit after that, but I came around because of this riot police officer screaming: “don’t touch her, she helps me!”
Someone of their bosses told us that we were public enemies because we help the enemies and if it was a civilian instead of a riot police officer, I would have ended up in a police van. The other told: “If you are a medic, carry your banner with pride.” After the beating I did not understand what he meant. And then the boss says: you have two minutes of my good. If you run away and hide, then you will be lucky, if not, you will be arrested.
Our guys got me out of there and took me away and when I was changing clothes I saw that they hit me hard on legs and left two crossed beating marks on a hip. Our car was also damaged a little: when we were in Kamennaya Horka, we got under fire and some bullets ricocheted into the rear bumper. These two volunteer guys who were driving us were not injured.
We saw other volunteer medics, there were many of us. At the beginning there was no coordination, then a guy who ordered the calls appeared. He kept surgical dressing and medicine for wound treatment, tracked the locations where the most violent fights took place and reported about all of them to us. People who were free at the moment were dispatched.
That night I aided more than twenty injured people. Well, these were the people whom we managed to get away from crowds and the way to whom was not blocked by the riot police. For instance, we helped a guy with a shot lung who is in the 10th Hospital now. He was simply lying on the road and we stopped at our own peril at the barrels of guns pointed at us. So we stopped and I said: “I’m a medic, going home from my shift, let me examine him and get him first aid”. Only I was allowed to get out of the car, take the bag and have a look at him. Then I told that the wounded was in severe condition and that I needed more hands. Then they allowed another of our girls to get out of the car too.
The guy was a “critical” one, no blood pressure, pain-shocked. I stood near him, crawled around on my knees, putting a catheter and a drip. I raised my eyes and saw the riot police surrounding me, all of them pointing their guns at me. One wrong action, one sudden move and we would have been also shot. The fellow was shot by a rubber bullet, then taken to hospital and operated there.
Then we were at the tent camp near Akrescina. Those who were released were examined in tents and received first aid like painkillers, fresh bandages or something like that. Then they were taken to hospitals. Half of the guys were afraid to stop to show their traumas and tell about the beatings. Most serious traumas we have encountered there were spleen rupture, bladder rupture and scrotum injuries. Mostly there were bruises and breakages. Folks who have been there, at Akrescina, tell that there were also sexual assaults. The medics also discuss this quietly and say that they were indeed.
The camp there was removed, but some people stayed and I will be there again after the next shift. ”
“They threw a bucket at us and that was our toilet for the whole day”
“I am a newcomer in Minsk and don’t know the city at all. This evening on the 11th of August me and my friend were walking around Kamennaya Horka and simply relaxing. So we walked to a bus stop and there was the riot police sitting in an ambulance vehicle, so we ran away. Then we went home to Kuntsevschina and that is when we were arrested. We saw a group of military men running straight to us: two of them were armed, two unarmed. They wrung our hand and dragged us to the yard where there had already been the riot police.
One man was freed, because his wife came for him and started making a scandal. There were four of us left. Then we were taken to a van and after it rode a little bit further they loaded some more people. Many were put down on the floor, one right on another and then the third — just like bags of potatoes. One of them tried to raise his head and was hit with a truncheon right away. There were folks with bike helmets — the riot police officers threw these at the people, forced them to put them on and started thrashing on their heads. They also said: “You’re done, you’ll be locked up forever.” I was very afraid and tried not to provoke them, did everything they said. I do not know how my organism would react to a blow with a truncheon on my head, what are the consequences of this. One man asked the police officers about something — they rejected him and beat him up.
Then our hands were handcuffed behind our back and we were taken to the offender detention center on Akrescina. They threw us out like bags of potatoes again, put us in a circle and started to beat us up. Then there was a command — to crawl on knees to a sidewalk. Hands on head, face to the ground, buttocks against heels — we stood in such pose for 6 hours. Sometimes the officers of the detention center allowed us to stretch legs or to lay down on our stomachs. This was the first night. I was also asked who I had voted for. I answered that I had voted for Alexander Grigorievich, though it was not true: I hoped that I would be beaten less, afraid that otherwise I would not get out of there at all. After these words I was not beaten, but then in the next morning everyone was beaten with truncheons on their backs anyway.
In the morning we were taken to the “square” — a tiny yard. I was moving behind everyone: my hip joint was damaged. I got hit with a truncheon on the leg and I even did not feel it and slammed my head against a tile. Then I was picked up and dragged to this square.
There 128 people, one could neither stretch the legs, nor turn around properly, it was even impossible to sit down. They threw a bucket at us and that was our toilet for the whole day. We asked for water and they gave us some bottles, I could take only one sip. Speaking about the food, there was none.
In the yard I saw a man asking for help — he was beaten up. Someone of the riot police officers said: “Beat him!”. Then three of them rushed to the man with truncheons and soon he was not showing any signs of life. He came around several minutes later and started to talk: “What are you doing, what are you doing to us?!” I saw girls who had been standing with their hands against the fence for a day.
A day later we were distributed into cells. In our cell for six people there were 26 of them. On the third, the last one, we were finally fed: we were given oatmeal, tea and a few loaves of bread for everyone. They have not called a doctor for us, though I think some of us needed help, because some people had open wounds — holes from the shots on their backs. We agreed to keep order and quiet because we hoped it would lower the probability of new traumas and suffering.
Then some portly man came to our cell and told us that at six o’clock we are going to be released — we were glad that no one disturbs us and we will leave soon. And when they released us they did not beat us in the process, they simply led us through the gates and then the volunteers met us nearby. Overall I have spent three days at the police.
But we also signed some kind of document, I didn’t even have enough time to read it; there was something about getting caught again and being locked up forever or having our balls ripped off, something like this.
The bruises are almost gone, but there is a crack in a rib and a hip joint got worse: there was second-degree femoral head necrosis, now it is the third-degree, — so I was told in a hospital.”