"People lay like a living carpet in pools of blood"

"People lay like a living carpet in pools of blood"

Nikita Telizhenko, Znak.com / translated by Pa.aK

How detainees at protests are beaten in jails in Belarus. Scary Znak.com report

this material is a raw translation of the original text in Russian

eng subtitles available

Znak.com correspondent Nikita Telizhenko was detained on the evening of August 10, in Minsk, before a protest against the results of the presidential elections in Belarus was started. He came to the republic with an editorial assignment. During the day after the arrest, there was no connection with him. Nikita was released only last night. Below is his report from the police department in Minsk and the prison in Zhodino — endless beatings, humiliation and pain. 


I was detained on August 10 at the moment when the whole Minsk was going to the second protest against the results of the presidential elections in Belarus. The action was planned on Nemiga street. Fighting vehicles, trucks were already being pulled to this place, there were a lot of military men, riot police and militia in the passages and between houses. I was just walking and watching the preparations for the protests. I saw the water cannon, wrote to the editorial office about it, and literally a minute later the police officers approached me, they were in their usual uniform. They asked me to show what I had in the bag, they thought it was suspicious. I showed — there was my jacket. After that I was released.

Soon, at a bus stop at the Sports Palace, I saw how everyone who got off the bus was grabbed by riot police and put into a paddy wagon. I took several photos of this process on my phone and began to write to the editor about the first arrests at the second protest action. Then I went to the side of the stele "Hero City", where the day before there was a real massacre between protesters and riot police. I wanted to see how this place looks after the massacre. But halfway there was a minivan. And now equipped riot policemen have jumped out of it. They ran up to me and asked what I was doing here. As I understood later, they were looking for the coordinators of the protests, they knew that the protesters shared information in Telegram about the police’s movements and ambushes. They apparently decided that I was one of them. I tell them: “I don't even have Telegram in my phone, I type SMS, I’m a journalist, I text to the editorial office”. They grabbed my phone, read the messages, and then put me in the car. I told them that I had not violated anything, that I was not participating in the protest action, I was a journalist. The answer was: “Sit down, the authorities will come and figure it out.”

A man is dragged away during clashes between opposition supporters and riot police. Photo: Reuters

Soon a "Gazelle" truck arrived, which was altered specifically for a paddy wagon. There were three compartments, two of which had a blank door and a small window. They tied me up and put me there. I asked for a phone number to inform the editorial office that I had been detained after all.

- You’re not detained, — one of the riot police told me.

“Well, I'm behind bars,” — I replied.

- Sit still, — he retorted.

Then they took my passport and saw that I was a citizen of Russia.

- What the f*ck are you doing here?

“I'm a journalist,” I replied.

This was the end of the dialogue with the riot police. And I sat in the "Gazelle" and waited for it to be filled completely with the same "not detained" people as me. This took half an hour. They put a retired man of 62 years old next to me. His name was Nikolai Arkadyevich. He told me that he was detained when he was walking to the store and saw that riot police were grabbing a boy. “I stood up for him, tried to fight him off. I told them: he is a child, what are you doing? " — Nikolai Arkadyevich shared his story. As a result, the boy ran away and he was detained.

Nikolai Arkadievich, according to him, was hit hard in the liver. He asked to call an ambulance, but no one responded.

16 hours of hell in the police department in Minsk

So we were moving somewhere. I didn’t know where exactly. As it turned out later, it was the Moskovsky District police department in Minsk. 16 hours there turned out to be hell for all of us. We drove for 20-30 minutes.

As soon as they stopped, riot policemen in bullet-proof vests were standing on the street shouting: "Face the ground !!!"

Several policemen flew into our paddy wagon and bent our arms behind our backs so hard that it was almost impossible to walk.

The guy in front of me — they purposely hit his head on the doorframe of the entrance to the police department. He screamed in pain. In response, they began to beat him on the head and shout: "Shut up, bitch!" The first time they hit me, it was when they took me out of the paddy wagon, I just bent down not low enough and got hit with a hand to the head, and then with a knee in the face.

In the building of the police department, we were first taken to some room on the 4th floor.

People there were lying on the floor like a living carpet, and we had to walk right on them. I felt really uncomfortable that I stepped on someone's hand, but I did not see at all where I was going. My head was tilted strongly to the floor. “Everyone on the floor, face down,” they yelled at us. And there is nowhere to lie, people are lying around in pools of blood.

I managed to find a place to lie. Not on people, as a second layer, but next to them. You could only lie on your stomach, face down. I was lucky that I was wearing a medical mask, it brightened up the impression of a dirty floor in which I had to bury my nose. The guy next to me, making himself a bit more comfortable, accidentally turned his head to the side and immediately got a kick in the face with an army boot.

Oktyabrsky police department in Minsk. Guards keep detainees laying on the ground

Severe beatings were going on all around. Hits, shouts, screams were heard from everywhere. It seemed to me that some of the detainees were with broken arms, legs, or spines, because at the slightest movement they screamed in pain.

New detainees were forced to lie down in a second layer. True, after a while they apparently realized that this was a bad idea, and someone ordered to bring benches. I was among those who were allowed to sit on them. But at the same time, it was possible to sit only with a head lowered and hands clasped at the back of the head. Only then I realized where we were — it turned out to be the assembly hall of the police department. In front of me I saw photos of police officers who serve the most honorably. It seemed an evil irony, I was wondering — will today's merits of those who beat us be assessed as an honorable service?

So we spent 16 hours.

To go to the toilet, you had to raise your hand. Some of those who guarded us allowed and took people to the restroom. Some said: "Piss in your pants."

My arms and legs became terribly numb, my neck hurt. Sometimes they swapped those laying and sitting. Sometimes some new officers came to take all our data again: the last name and when was detained.

At about 2 am, new detainees were brought to the police department, and here fierce brutality began. The policemen forced the detainees to pray, to read “Lord’s Prayer". Those who refused were beaten with all means available. Sitting in the assembly hall, we heard people being beaten on the floors below and above us. The feeling was that people were practically trampled into concrete.

Meanwhile the explosions of noise grenades were heard outside the window. Glass and even doors were trembling in our assembly hall. The battle was going on right under the windows of the police department. With each passing hour, with each new batch of detainees brought to the police department, the policemen raged and became even more violent. The policemen were genuinely surprised by the protesters' activity. I heard them talking to each other on the radio that reserve detachments were being used to suppress the protests. They were furious that people did not leave the streets. Despite the fact that they were beaten and beaten brutally, people were not afraid of them, they were building barricades and resisting.

“You, bitch, whom did you put the barricades against? Are you going to fight against me? Do you want war? "—- shouted one of the policemen, beating the detainee. What amazed me was that all these beatings took place in front of two women, employees of the police department. They were registering the detainees and describing their property. Teenagers aged 15–16 and children were beaten in front of their eyes. Beating such people is like beating girls! And they didn't even react.

A lady injured by stun granade in Minsk. Photo: Radio Svoboda

For the sake of fairness, not all police officers were involved in frank massacre and sadism. There was one captain who came to us, asked who wanted water, who wanted to use the toilet. But he did not react to what his younger colleagues were doing in the corridor with the detainees.

Employees of each new shift in the department asked each of us who we were, where we were from and when they were detained. Moreover, after they saw my Russian passport, the blows became not so strong compared to those that I received when they thought I was Belarusian.

None of us was allowed to make a single call. I am sure that the relatives of many of those who sat next to me that night still don’t know where their loved ones are.

At about 7 or 8 am, the police chiefs arrived. Obviously they had arrived not from home, but from Minsk streets, where the war was going on.

They began to conduct a census of the detainees. It turned out that two were missing. They started running around the offices, trying to figure out where these two had gone. They could not find out. When I was lying on the floor, I saw a man (or maybe it was a woman) being carried out on a stretcher. The man didn’t move. I don’t know if he was alive.

After that, we were all transferred to the 1st floor and put into cells for the detainees. They were designed for 2 people, and we were packed with about 30. The process was accompanied by swearing and beatings. They shouted: “Tighter! Tighter! " Among my cellmates there were both retirees and young people. There I met Nikolai Arkadievich again. But he stood with us for half an hour, then they took him out and put him in a neighboring empty cell.

During the first hour, the walls and ceiling of the cell were covered with condensation. Someone, tired of standing, sat down on the floor, but there was no air at all, and they fainted. Those who stood were dying from the heat. We spent two or three hours there waiting for the transfer. We didn’t know where we were going …

The doors opened. “Face to the wall,” they yelled at us, then the security forces flew in, started wringing our hands behind our backs and dragging us across the floor through all the police department. In the paddy wagon, they again began to lay us in piles, like a living carpet. They shouted to us: "Your house is a prison." Those who were lying on the floor were suffocating from the weight of the bodies: there were three more layers of people on top.

The road of pain and blood

In the paddy wagon they continued to beat people: for tattoos, for long hair “You fag, now they will take turns to cock you in prison,” they yelled at them.

Those lying on the steps asked to be allowed to change their position, but received blows on the head with a rubber baton instead.

We spent an hour in this state in the paddy wagon. I thought that, apparently, they did not know what to do with us, since there were many detainees and all the detention centers were overcrowded.

But then again a policeman shouted: "Crawl and stand on your haunches." Hands were forced to clasp into a lock at the back of the head. It was impossible to lean back on the seat, nor to straighten up. Those who violated this requirement were mercilessly beaten. They were allowed to switch feet only occasionally. For this they had to raise their hands, give their name, tell where you came from and where you were detained.

If the guard (first I thought we were escorted by riot police but then I found out that it was SOBR, Belarussian National Guard special forces) didn’t like your last name, tattoo or appearance, they forbid you to switch feet and beat you for repeated requests. Moreover, later they said that an attempt to change the pose would be equated to an attempt to escape — and, therefore, an execution on the spot.

Requests to stop to go to the toilet were ignored. We were just offered to pee in our pants. Some could not stand it, they even had to shit in pants. And so we drove in squelching excrement. When our guards got bored, they made us sing songs, mainly the anthem of Belarus, and filmed it all on the phone. When they didn't like the performance, they beat again. When one sang badly, the guards forced to sing anew, then gave marks. “If you think you’re in pain, then you’re not hurt yet — it will be painful now in prison. Your loved ones will not see you again,” the guards told us.

- You fuckers are sitting here now, and your Tikhanovskaya (Svetlana Tikhanovskaya is a competitor of the current president Alexander Lukashenko in the elections. On August 11, under pressure from the Belarusian authorities, she left the country - Znak. com) ran the fuck off from the country, and you will have no more life, - said one of the guards.

The trip took two and a half hours. It was two hours of pain and blood.

During the trip I managed to get one of our guards to talk (then I learned that they were from SOBR). Of course, I was beaten up for this, but I do not regret. In the end, he later allowed me to take a more comfortable pose. I asked him why I was detained, why was I hit in the neck with a shield, why I was beaten in the kidneys. “We're just waiting for you to start burning something on the streets,” he told me. — And then we will start shooting, we have an order. There was a great country — the Soviet Union, and because of such fagots like you, it collapsed. Because no one put you in place on time. If you (meant the Russian Federation - approx. Znak.com) think that you have infiltrated your Tikhanovskaya here, she has cheated on you, then you should know that you won’t have a second Ukraine, we will not allow Belarus to become part of Russia."

A girl is trying to shout out to detainees in the paddy wagon. Photo: Euroradio

- Why the fuck you came over here, - he asked me.

- I am a journalist, I came to write about what is happening here…

- Well, bitch, did you write? You will remember this material for a long time.

“Stop torturing us, just take us out and shoot us,” meanwhile a young guy was close to nervous breakdown because of beatings and pain.

- Fuck no, you won't get off so easily,” one of the guards replied.

During this long hellish road, I realized that among those SOBR guards there were both outspoken sadists and ideological ones who believe that they are really saving their homeland from external and internal enemies. So with the latter, dialogue is possible.

The Jail

All the way we didn’t know where they were taking us: to a temporary detention facility, a pre-trial detention center, a prison, or maybe just to the nearest forest, where they would either beat us half to death, or simply kill us. As for the latter option, I am not exaggerating at all, the feeling was that everything is possible.

When we reached the final point (I’ll call it that, because I didn’t fully understand where we were), we stood there for an hour and a half or two. Seven more paddy wagons arrived with us, so there was a line. When the order came to leave the paddy wagons, they took us out on our knees. Then they took us to some basement, there were people, there were service dogs.

This made the fear for the future stronger, but in the end, everything turned out to be not as scary as it was in the Moskovsky district police department.

For a long time they took us along some corridors, then they took us into the prison courtyard — the one you see in the movies, where prisoners walk. It was almost paradise for us.

We were able to lower our arms for the first time in a day, straighten up, lie down, and, most importantly, no one beat us yet. One guy had a damaged spine, riot policemen jumped on him in the police department. His knee was also knocked out, it dangled straight out and stuck out. So he just went out into this courtyard and fell.

For the first time, we were treated like humans: they brought a bucket to go to the toilet, some of us did not do it for almost a day, and brought a one and a half liter bottle of water. Of course, this was not enough for 25 people, but still ...

- They won't beat us again today? One of the detainees asked the one who brought the bucket and water.

“No,” the prison officer replied with surprise. - Now you will simply be sent to the cells, that's all.

A man released from a detention center. Photo: Natalia Fedosenko, TASS

For the first time in a day we were able to talk to each other. There were entrepreneurs, IT specialists, locksmiths, two engineers, one builder, and also former prisoners. By the way, one of them said that this is not a temporary detention facility, but a jail in Zhodino. He knows this because he spent some time here before. Soon my friend Nikolai Arkadyevich was brought into the courtyard.

A man in uniform stepped onto the footbridge over the prison yard. “Telizhenko?! Is Nikita Telizhenko here? " He shouted. I responded. A man in a military uniform spoke to the one standing next to him, and then shouted: "Nikita, come to the door, they will come for you now."

My cellmates were very happy for me. “Well, they finally take you away,” Nikolai Arkadyevich said to me at parting.

Way home

The man in uniform turned out to be Colonel Ilyushkevich of the Penitentiary Service of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Belarus. He said that now I and another Russian (it turned out to be a RIA Novosti correspondent) will be taken away. I didn't know by whom. “KGB or ambassadors,” I thought. They gave me all my things, and we went out of the prison gate.

A lot of people were standing there: the relatives, who are looking for their loved ones missing after the detention, human rights activists. We were met by a woman who introduced herself as an employee of the migration service of Belarus, she took us to the city of Zhodino, to the migration department. They took our fingerprints and gave us a deportation order, according to which I and the correspondent of RIA Novosti had to leave the territory of the republic until 12 pm. At that moment it was already 10:30 pm.

According to her, tomorrow I was supposed to have a trial. She could not explain what the charges were (I did not see any documents on bringing me to administrative or criminal liability, they did not make any charges against me) but said I could be arrested on a period from 15 days to six months.

Then an employee of the Russian Embassy in Belarus arrived. He said that in order to find us, the Russian ambassador personally called the head of the republic's foreign ministry. The diplomat put us in a car and drove us to Smolensk, Russia.

For the remaining hour and a half, we managed to cross the border with the Russian Federation, arrived in Smolensk at 2:30. The consul bought us a burger, because neither I nor my colleague had Russian money. Then he drove us to the hotel and left.

Now I am going to Moscow to fly home to Yekaterinburg.

Nikita Telizhenko, Znak.com