On the night of 17 January Belarusian border guards took Mikalai Dziadok off the bus Vilnius–Minsk. Dziadok was returning home from university studies. Then a personal customs examination of Dziadok was performed. No reason for special examination was given, but Dziadok himself links it to the fact of his presence in the lists of “extremists”. During the past year, ABC-Belarus received information about many more facts of special customs examinations of anarchists on Belarusian border.
On 21 January, at 8 am, criminal police in masks and in armour entered the apartment of anarchist Dzmitry Palijenka. Palijenka and Nastassia Guseva who was in the apartment at that time as well had to spend some time lying on the floor with their faces down. During the search, computers and other electronics were confiscated; 370 Belarusian roubles and 100 US dollars ‘disappeared’ from Dzmitry’s purse. Physical and psychological violence was used against Palijenka. On the same day 22 years old anarchist Jaŭhien Čulicki was detained. Officers in plain clothes performed a search in his apartment, his mobile phone and laptop were removed. After the searches all three were officially interrogated at a police station in relation to the criminal case, for alleged writing of a graffiti “Cops kill people”. Until 23 January all three were kept in detention, on that day they were released without charges brought against them.
On the night of 29 January Palijenka was detained again. He was charged with administrative offence (article 17.11 of the Code on Administrative Offences “Production, distribution and (or) storage of extremist materials”) for the photo on his facebook page in a cap with “Class War” inscription (the very text “Class War” is officially labelled as ‘extremist’ in Belarus). Palijenka spent two days in detention awaiting trial. On 31 January he was fined with 50 ‘base values’.*
On 12 February in Navapolack penitentiary No. 1 the trial against Sviataslaŭ Baranovič ended. Baranovič already had been serving his sentence for the fight with plain clothes cops on 15 March 2017 (he had defended anarchists from police assault after the demonstration against the tax on unemployed). On 15 February the verdist became known: for the rest of his term, 1 year 7 months and 20 days, Baranovič is transferred from a penal colony to a prison. Already on 17 February Baranovič was transferred to Žodzina prison. Previously penitentiary administration many times imposed penalties on Baranovič for ‘disobedience to penitentiary rules’, from July 2018 he had spent 210 days in isolation cell, deprived of his personal belongings, books, the rights to write and receive letters, to receive parcels by post and to meet his relatives.
On 16 February a group of subcultural youth was enjoying a birthday party in a forest nearby Sucharukija settlement (near Minsk). Approximately after an hour of partying they were surrounded by riot police and their faces were put into the snow. Police officers threatened youngsters with guns and shouted abuse at them (especially at girls). Police filmed everyone. Then detainees were taken to a police station at Baraŭliany. No reasons for their detention were cited. Some were informally questioned by the officer of ‘anti-organised crime’ police. A Russian citizen was among detainees, she was threatened with deportation. Two of detainees were tried by court and receive a fine of 2 ‘base values’* each for drinking alcohol in the public place. Others were set free without protocolling their detention.
On 26 February there was an attempt to detain anarchist Dzmitry Palijenka once again: from the early morning police was picketing next to his house, and once an hour rang the bell of his dour. Later it became known that police officers wanted to compile protocols on him and Nastassia Guseva for administrative offences (articles of the Code on Administrative Offences 17.11 “Production, distribution and (or) storage of extremist materials” and 23.34 “Breaking of an order of organisation or conduct of mass meetings”). Shortly beforehand they made photos next to two police stations with blank sheets of paper in their hands, and later added anti-police inscription in digital photo-editor and posted these pictures online. To clarify the situation, anarchists went to police station themselves, and were detained there. After spending two days in detention, they were set free by the court (the case was dismissed).
On 27 February in Brest a concert was held in “Hruntoŭnia” cafe. After the concert, when visitors started to leave the premises, a group of riot police appeared. First ten persons had to show their passports, and then were set free. 30 more people were blocked in the venue for about an hour, their IDs were checked as well. As a pretext to check everyone’s documents, riot police officers cited a suspicion that someone from people present might be in the ‘wanted’ list. Visitors from Minsk were taken to a police station, and later were set free as well.
On 27 February it became known that in Stolin district (south of Belarus) a criminal proceedings started against a youngster (article 341 of the Criminal Code, “Profanation of buildings and damage to property”) for the making of anarchist graffiti and pasting of stickers in Beražnoje village. The person had spent three days in detention, admitted his guilt, compensated the damage and was sentenced by the court to 90 hours of public works.
On 28 February, starting from 7:30 pm plain clothes police officers were shifting next to an apartment of a certain anarchist from Minsk. Periodically they knocked the door. Later additional van (without indication that it belongs to police) arrived. Later it turned out that the anarchist who lives in the apartment is not the person whom police officers were looking for. Most probably, police mistook him/her for another person.
On 4 March the court of Frunze district of Minsk fined Mikalaj Dziadok with 50 ‘base value’.* He was found guilty in breaking part 2 of the article 17.11 of the Code on Administrative Offences (distribution of information included in the republic’s list of extremist materials) for an old message in social networks. Immediately after the hearing Mikalaj was detained again, this time he was accused in the violation of the article 23.34 of the same code (breaking of an order of organisation or conduct of mass meetings) for participation in “Freedom for political prisoners” action in Minsk on 26 February. Mikalaj had spent two days in detention, and on 6 March the court of the Central district of Minsk fined him with 25 more ‘base values’.*
On 7 March Homiel police started proceedings against Piotr Markoŭski. Markoŭski, not an anarchist himself, shared at his facebook page a publication of an anarchist group “Pramień” entitled “What to do if you are forced into joining Belarusian Republican Union of Youth. Advice from anarchists”. Police accused Markoŭski of breaking article 17.11 of the Code on Administrative Offences (“Production, distribution and (or) storage of extremist materials”), as Pramień’s website is on the list of ‘extremist’ matters. On 2 April the court returned the case to police for re-investigation, and on 20 May the case was closed.
On 16 March in the Minsk Press Club a lecture of editors of a Moscow-based moloko plus almanac was planned. moloko plus is an independent and non-commercial media project, which writes about violence. Quite often they write about anarchism and anarchists, but they do not position themselves as anarchists. The lecture was disrupted by police, passport data of all guests was written down. moloko plus editors Pavel Nikulin and Jan Potarskij were detained for 3 hours, several dozen copies of almanacs were taken by police in order to check whether there is ‘extremist’ content in them. In February 2020 it was announced that Belarusian authorities found no ‘extremist’ content in confiscated almanacs.
On 19 March the court of Rahačoŭ district (Homiel region) considered administrative case against Siarhiej Aliaksiejkaŭ. Aliaksiejkaŭ was accused in making a comment in facebook under a publication of an anarchist group “Pramień” (article 17.11 of the of the Code on Administrative Offences “Production, distribution and (or) storage of extremist materials”). The court returned the case back to police for re-investigation, and on 1 April the case was dropped by police.
On 20 March at 10 am Dzmitry Palijenka was detained in his apartment in Minsk on suspicion in ‘especially aggravated hooliganism’ (part 3 of the article 339 of the Criminal Code). According to investigation, on 13 March Palijenka used pepper-spray against a person who allegedly asked him not to smoke at the staircase. According to Palijenka, he had to defend himself from an aggressive drunk man. Palijenka’s apartment was searched, computer, mobile phone, literature, leaflets, stickers and other matters were taken by police.
On 6 April it became known that investigation had brought three accusations against Palijenka: the above-mentioned article 339 (part 3), article 341 (profanation of buildings and damage to property) and article 130 part 1 (incitement of race, national or religious hatred). On 10 April Dzmitry was directed to pass forensic psychological-psychiatric expertise; later he was declared sane.
In July Palijenka was additionally accused in insulting an official (article 369 of the Criminal Code).
On 17 October Minsk city court started proceedings against Palijenka. When the process was declared to be a closed one (without access of public), Palijenka in protest took a sharp object and wounded himself in an arm. After break, the judge declared that the process will be an open one. Questioning of witnesses of the prosecution showed profound contradictions in their statements. After that, all political accusations were dropped by the prosecutor, and only accusation in aggravated hooliganism (article 339, part 3) remained.
On 25 October Palijenka was sentenced to 3 years of limitation of freedom without assignment to a penitentiary; taking into account an amnesty, the sentence was reduced to 2 years. Additionally, Palijenka was directed towards compulsory treatment of alcoholism.
On 22 March the court of Homiel’s Čyhunačny district put a fine of 10 ‘base values’* on Ihar Čub. Čub was accused in breaking article 17.11 of the Code on Administrative Offences (production, distribution and (or) storage of extremist materials) for re-posting at his facebook page articles of anarchist group “Pramień” (re-posting took place several years ago).
On 8 April the court of Frunze district of Minsk fined Mikalaj Dziadok with 40 ‘base values’.* He was found guilty in three counts of breaking article 17.11 of the Code on Administrative Offences for making photos with #яэкстремист (I am the extremist) hash-tag and publishing them in social networks.
On 20 April 11 anarchists were detained during a gathering in a summerhouse. 5 hours after arrival of anarchists, the house was stormed by special police unit (SOBR). Detainees were beaten, humiliated and tortured. They were transferred to Kobryn district police station, were tortures continued. Anarchists were kept in detention for a prolonged time, some – until the evening of 22 April. Official proceedings were not initiated. Later houses of some detainees were searched.
On the evening of 11 May big group of youth gathered in Sendai park in downtown Minsk. The crown included some anarchists and anti-fascists. Soon the park was invaded by riot police and plain clothes police. People detained were told that they had braken article 17.3 of the Code on Administrative Offences (drinking alcohol in public). Documents of everyone present were checked and everyone was filmed, then 17 people were transferred to the police station of the Moscow district of Minsk. Instead of starting proceedings for alcohol consumption, police officers took detainees one by one into separate room where they were informally interrogated by political police GUBOPiK (police unit ‘to fight organised crime and corruption’). All detainees were photographed and filmed, then 15 of them were set free. Against the two remaining official proceedings were initiated, and they were detained until the court hearing.
On 13 May the court of the Soviet district of Minsk put a fine of 40 ‘base values’* on Hleb Rubanaŭ. Rubanaŭ was found guilty in ‘dissemination of extremist materials’ (article 17.11 of the Code on Administrative Offences) for re-posting in facebook an image containing the abbreviation ACAB (the abbreviation is on the national list of ‘extremist materials’). Proceedings against Rubanaŭ were initiated back in March, and it took almost two months to finalise them. Before the court hearing, on 7 May, Rubanaŭ had been detained by police and kept in detention for 30 hours.
On 22 May, at 7 am, officers of GUBOPiK (police unit ‘to fight organised crime and corruption’) simultaneously entered apartment of seven anarchists living in Brest. Searches were performed as part of investigation on anarchist leaflets which appeared in the city on 30 April. Laptons, phones, books, stickers and other matters were taken. Anarchists were urged by police to leave the city during European games.
On 27 May and 7 June police harassed antifascist Dzmitry Kazlianka and his brother anarchist Aliaksandr. Back in 2018 Dzmitry was attacked in a cafe by drunkards; although he did not initiate the fight, he was sentenced to two years of limitation of freedom without assignment to a penitentiary. Inter alia, such sentence presumes being at home every night and not appearing drunk outdoors. On 27 May police officers came to check whether Dzmitry is at home at 23.45, being very impolite. On 7 June Dzmitry was called to a police station; there the test on alcohol in his breath was performed. Although Dzmitry was perfectly sober, the test displayed 2.1 promille.
On 31 May the court of Lenin district of Brest fined anarchist Aliaksandr Kazlianka with 8 and 2 ‘base values’.* Kazlianka was fined for trespassing two articles of the Code on Administrative Offences: 23.34, part 1 (breaking of an order of organisation or conduct of mass meetings) and 24.6 (evasion from appearance in front of the body conducting administrative proceedings). On 14 April Kazlianka participated in a demonstration against the construction of an environmentally dangerous storage battery factory, and later participated in another action against the same factory instead of visiting police station to discuss his previous ‘misbehaviour’.
On 9 June border guards took an anarchist Mikalaj Dziadok off the bus to Vilnius. They pretended that his passport “looked like forged”. After lengthy check the document was found to be OK, but the bus already had left. Mikalaj believes this incident was part of psychological pressure on anarchists by political police.
On 10 June the court of Frunze district of Minsk put yet another fine (of 50 ‘base values’*) on Mikalaj Dziadok for an entry in his vk.com account envolving four ‘extremist’ letters (ACAB). Article 17.11 of the Code on Administrative Offences was used again.
On 10 June the court of Frunze district of Minsk considered administrative cases against two anarchists, on of them Andrej Čepik. Both were detained on 8 June and were kept in detention for two days before the hearing. Both were accused in breaking article 17.11 of the Code of Administrative Offences (production, distribution and (or) storage of extremist materials). After considering the case, the court sent back the case to police for revision.
In the end of June the same court considered another case against Andrej Čepik. Again, Čepik was accused in breaking article 17.11 of the Code of Administrative Offences. This time he was fined with 50 ‘base values’.* The case was started in late April. On 22 April police searched Čepik’s apartment after he had been detained at the informal anarchist meeting near Brest (see above). During the search, leaflets, stickers and a banner of anarchist group “Revolutionary action” were seized.
On 10 October in Stolin apartments of anarchists Siarhiej Nieŭdach and Siarhiej Sazanovič were searched in relation to an action in Minsk on 25 September. On that day, when the court process against Dzmitry Palijenka was about to start, somebody had thrown balls with red paint against the wall of the Minsk city court.
On 19 October anarchists Mikita Jemialjanaŭ and Ivan Komar were detained, their apartments were searched. They were accused in 2 counts of attempted damage to detention facility SIZO #1 in Minsk (in one case the action was aborted, in another rather symbolic damage by Molotov cocktail was done) and in throwing balls with paint against the wall of the Minsk city court. The idea behind these actions was to express support to Dzmitry Palijenka. Ivan Komar started to cooperate with the investigation immediately after his detention, and therefore received no support from ABC Belarus. Mikita Jemialjanaŭ did not acknowledge his guilt and for prolonged time refused to give any kind of testimony. On 12 February 2020 both were sentenced by the court of the Soviet district of Minsk to 7 years of deprivation of freedom in a penal colony. On 27 March 2020 Minsk city court reduced sentences: Komar received 3 years 6 months of imprisonment, Jemialjanaŭ – 4 years.
On 4 September antifascist Maksim Jahnieška from Hrodna benefited from general amnesty, and his term of limitation of freedom without assignment to a penitentiary ended earlier. Earlier Maksim was sentenced to three years of limitation of freedom with assignment to a penitentiary for a fight with far right football hooligans. After one year in a penitentiary, he was allowed to serve the rest of his term at home. Without amnesty, his term was expected to end in December 2019.
On 16 September the same general amnesty was applied to antifascist Dzmitry Kazlianka (see details of his case above). He was released from a limitation of freedom without assignment to a penitentiary, which otherwise would end only in December 2020.
In October the same general amnesty was applied to antifascist Ulad Liańko from Ivacevičy. Liańko was detained in December 2014 and later sentenced for a fight with neo-Nazis to 6 years of deprivation of freedom.
The amnesty was applied to antifascist from Brest Raman Bohdan as well. He was released from a penal colony in March 2020, one year earlier. Bohdan was arrested in April 2015 and later sentenced to 6 years of deprivation of freedom for a fight with far right football hooligans.
On 10 December it became known that the criminal case against anarchist G. had been discontinued. He used to be suspected in making a graffiti against the European Games which took place in Minsk from 21 to 30 June; article 341 of the Criminal Code was used (profanation of buildings and damage to property). However, investigators failed to find proof and had to drop the case.
Apart from it:
In the recent years we became witnesses to new tactics of repressive forces used against anarchists. Police and secret services are more and more active online. Previously they resorted to control and punishment mostly, but in 2019 there were instances of online provocations.
Thus, on 8 February on of district courts of Minsk region fined with 10 ‘base values’* an anarchist using an article 17.14 of the Code on Administrative Offences (illicit making and (or) distribution of methodical or other materials on ways of manufacturing of explosion mechanisms and explosives). She became a victim of provocation. After discussion in Telegram-chat on attacks with explosives, an unknown person contacted this anarchist and asked to provide a video or a book on manufacturing of explosives. The anarchist found a video through search engine, and sent a link. The person unknown turned out to be a cop.
In March officers of GUBOPiK (police unit ‘to fight organised crime and corruption’) created an account at the website dedicated to search of sex partners, published there photos of anarchist Maria Rabkova and her phone number. Maria was overwhelmed with unwanted phone calls and messages with dating proposals.
On 18 August ABC Belarus web-site suffered from an attack from Tor network. In some Tor browsers a message about invalid certificate was displayed for those who tried to access the site.
Republican listof “extremist”materials during the year was enlarged:
- On 2 January came into power the decision of the court of the Central district of Minsk from 14 December 2018, which recognises abbreviations ACAB (in Latin letters) and СЛОН (in Cyrillic letters, reads as SLON, means “death to cops from a knife”) as ‘extremist’.
- On 12 February the court of the Central district of Minsk ruled that the web-site “Anarchy today” (https://a2day.net) is ‘extremist’. The decision came into power on 28 February.
- On 15 February the court of the Central district of Minsk ruled that the abbreviation УПСК (in Cyrillic letters, reads as UPSK) and the text “Усе псы сістэмы — курвы” (“All system’s dogs are whores” in Belarusian) are ‘extremist’. The decision came into power on 5 March.
In previous years almost all Belarusian anarchist web-sites were put in the black list, including ABC Belarus web-page. Currently Belarusian authorities continue to block access to these web-sites for Belarusian users of internet.
*1 ‘base value’ in 2019 = 25,5 Belarusian roubles = $12,5.