”They were beating us as we ran”

This article is part of the Let The World Hear Project, which is a collaboration between Stockholm Free World Forum’s webzine Säkerhetsrådet and a number of Belarusian volunteers. Together we have gathered stories from victims of the dictatorship regime in 2020. The world must know what happened.

Read more about the project here

This is the story of 23-year-old Stanislaw from Minsk. He was arrested for carrying medical supplies while walking around in the city.

During protests (Stanislaw is not in the photo). Photo: Artem Podrez/Pexels

On 11 August around 11 p.m. my friend, Anastasia, and I were walking around in the city.

Two dark blue tinted minibuses stopped near us and an armed man in a green uniform got out. We asked him if it was safe to keep walking. He answered that it was better to turn around and walk in the opposite direction. We had already turned to walk back when other armed men got off the bus. One of them came up to us and asked Anastasia to show him the content on her phone. At first she refused, but they threatened to detain us. They then asked me to unblock the phone and hand it over, before we were taken onto one of the buses. We did it.

Here, they examined our bags and took all the medical supplies – roller bandage, sanitizer, chlorhexidine. They beat me several times with truncheons. They hit me on the left side of the head and after that it started to ring in my ears. They also beat me with their fists. Fifteen minutes later they poured white paint inside the bus and asked me to lie in it. I lay in the paint for about five minutes. Then they told me to put my hands behind my back and strapped them. 

I continued to lie on the floor of the bus. They cut off the belt of my trousers; they dragged me so hard that they ripped my underwear; they stepped on me and kicked me. My hands swelled up and my fingers became numb.

Near Riga, a shopping centre in Minsk, they took me off the bus and handed me over to armed men with an OMON badge on their uniforms. They put my phone in my backpack and hung it around my neck. I was taken to an avtozak. There was one man already there, lying on the floor. While I was walking they kept beating me with truncheons. Then they poured white paint on my head, and one of the men dragged my head and used it to wipe off the white paint on the truck.

Then I was sent to another avtozak, where there were other people lying on the floor. I was thrown on top of them. All that time they didn’t stop beating me. More people were thrown on top of us, we were lying in several layers. I was at the bottom so it was difficult to move or breathe. When the avtozak stopped we were moved to another van. I was told to crawl to the bus on my knees. One of the OMON men grabbed my hair, hit me on the back and threw me into the van. Another OMON man threw me to the front part of the van. He also grabbed me by the hair and cut off a piece of it. When he noticed the white paint he hit me several times with a truncheon. 

The van took us to another prison truck which later took us to Akrestina. Every time they moved us to a different truck they would beat us; they also seized our phones. When we arrived at Akrestina we were ordered to get on our knees with our heads down. There were a lot of detained people there already. We stood like that for about three hours; all the time OMON men would beat us with truncheons on our backs and legs. From time to time they would drag one person in front of the rest and just beat him; I was dragged like that at least twice. Then they ordered me to crawl back to the fence and keep standing on my knees with my head down. I had to crawl with my hands strapped behind my back while they kept beating me. When they dragged me up for the last time they stepped on my back and kept beating me with truncheons. I felt like I was fainting, but I didn’t ask for help as I realized I wouldn’t faint in the position they had left me.

After the beatings. Photo: private

Later they told me and ten other men standing to the left of me to get up and run towards the building. They were beating us as we ran. I started to feel faint again and asked for some ammonia, but they just ignored me. We were told to get undressed and put all our stuff into black bags. I didn’t get any bag and was allowed to put my things in my backpack. I asked for ammonia several times but nobody said anything or helped. I was feeling unwell and was doing everything slower than everyone else, which resulted in extra beatings.

After handing in our belongings we were told to go upstairs to the second floor. I fell, I don’t remember if I fainted or if it was just out of weakness. I was told to get up and move, otherwise they threatened to beat me. I stood up and walked upstairs. Before allowing us to enter the cells we were forced to stand facing the wall. I couldn’t stand up so I was leaning against the wall, then I fell. They told a man next to me to help me to walk to the cell. They also allowed me to sit down next to the cell while waiting. All the way up to the cell I kept asking for ammonia or any help. I didn’t get any. 

In the cell the lights were on 24/7. There were 28 people in a cell designed for four people. We got to eat once a day – breakfast. 

While this is personally not about me, I did notice that they would discriminate against people who were somehow different. For instance, they would pass insulting remarks and beat people who were overweight or men with long hair. 

The story was originally told to Anastacia S and translated by Mary M.