In August, three families said farewell to their loved ones. Minsker Alexander Taraikovsky died from a gunshot wound during a rally, a few days later Gennady Shutov died under similar circumstances in Brest. Alexander Vikhor from Gomel did not come home either: he was detained, and three days later the young man died in hospital. Their families asked to initiate a case under the article “Murder”, and the Investigative Committee has been conducting an investigation all this time. Relatives of the victims told TUT.BY what investigators found out.
Alexander Vikhor. Beaten, but this is not the cause of death
“I am ready to shout to the whole world, I want everyone to know: my son did not die, my son died unnatural death for nothing,” Svetlana Vikhor, a mother of 25-year-old Alexander, cried in August. The young man was detained on his way to his girlfriend in Gomel on 9 August.
For two days the family was looking for Sasha, tried to pass him things and food, to no avail. When not a single door opened, relatives went to the police to file a missing person report, where they were told: Alexander Vikhor had died in hospital.
“The police thought he was lunatic and brought him to the emergency room of a neuropsychiatric dispensary at night. There they were told that Sasha was not their patient, he was under a lot of stress and needed medical help. Later, my brother was taken to a tuberculosis clinic, as the doctors told us, he was already clinically dead, they tried to revive him for an hour. They also told us that my brother had cerebral edema,” Olga recalled what doctors told her right after Sasha’s death.
The investigators had three months to conduct an investigation and decide whether to initiate a criminal case or not. The family is convinced that Alexander was beaten and that they did not provide medical assistance when he felt bad.
“In October, we had a quick look at the forensic medical examination, a part of it. It is more than 50 pages, but they didn’t show us a few pages, they simply do not exist. An investigator explained that this is because these pages contain the non-medical part of the examination. We were not allowed to photograph or make a copy of the examination, we had to rewrite it by hand. The meaning of the examination is as follows: there was no alcohol or drugs in Sasha’s blood, death occurred due to heart problems,” Alexander’s relatives say.
His family describes the forensic examination “contradictory”, and after studying it, many questions remain unanswered: how did Alexander die? could the injuries inflicted on him have caused death? if medical help was provided on time, would the guy stay alive?
“Experts describe Sasha’s fractures of ribs, sternum, hematomas, and then indicate that these injuries are not causally related to death. Allegedly, his ribs were broken during resuscitation, we believe it is possible, we are not doctors, so we showed the rewritten examination to specialists. They were confused with the fact that during a heart massage, the ribs, which are closer to the lower back, were broken,” the Alexander relatives say and recall that this summer the guy underwent a medical examination at the request of the military registration and enlistment office.
Why then none of the doctors said: “Boy, you are terminally ill. You need to register with a cardiologist. Yes, he was granted a deferment of military service, he had cardiovascular disorders, but people with such problems live a very long time. Why did these deviations get worse in that particular environment? During three days of detention, they worsened so much that the person simply died? What triggered this? Physical, psychological abuse or lack of medical care? According to the documents, Sasha died at 3.35 am, at 12 pm they already performed an autopsy, and until 2 pm we did not know where he was, we drove around the city with a parcel. Shouldn’t they have called his family? His identity has been identified, so why haven’t we been told anything?”
An additional forensic medical examination will be carried out in Minsk.
“So far, the investigation of Sasha’s case has been suspended pending the results of the examination. If the one carried out in Gomel lasted two months, you can imagine how long this one will take. It seems they simply delay the deadlines. We asked the investigator: doesn’t it matter that they beat Sasha, sprayed gas at him, did not give him any pills, maybe this was the reason for what happened? Maybe his heart gave out from painful shock and coma? The investigator replied: ‘Yes, they beat him. But in our country, the police are allowed to use physical force, handcuffs and weapons under certain conditions. We are looking into whether they abused their powers or not.’ What are these ‘certain condition’ if a person is already in custody? What kind of danger does he represent? Witnesses say that when Sasha was suffocating in a ‘glas’ [a solitary cell in a paddy wagon – Ed.] , they deliberately sprayed gas at him.”
Alexander Taraikovsky. No murder case, but “We won’t forget!”
Exactly three months ago, on 10 August, Alexander Taraikovsky died near the Pushkinskaya metro station. Last minutes of his life were captured on video. The footage refuted the initial version of the Ministry of Internal Affairs: “On 10 August, at about 11 pm, a crowd were building barricades to block the movement on Pritytskogo Street during riots in Minsk. During the confrontation with the special forces, who arrived to unblock the area, one of the protesters tried to throw an unidentified explosive device towards the law enforcement officers. It exploded in his hand, the man received injuries incompatible with life.”
The footage shows: Alexander carries nothing in his hands, and he falls to the ground after suffering an injury to his chest.
“They don’t summon me anywhere, an investigator calls me from time to time and asks clarifying questions. […] And each time I ask the investigator a question about the initiation of a criminal case, he answers: ‘We are working.’ He told me right away: most likely, the investigation will last a maximum period of three months. The lawyer has already prepared a letter to the the Investigative Committee requesting to open a criminal case. […] I do not know what grounds there might be for not initiating a criminal case. Although I understand: it is unlikely they will do that,” Elena German, the common-law wife of Alexander Taraikovsky, told TUT.BY earlier.
A month has passed since our meeting, Elena still has no updates from the Investigative Committee.
“I was not given the opportunity to familiarize myself with the materials of forensic medical examination, the letter from the Investigative Committee did not come, we are waiting, perhaps we will receive an answer the other day,” says Elena.
While the Investigative Committee is in no hurry to give a legal assessment of the death of Alexander Taraikovsky, criminal cases have been opened against two Minskers for the “We will not forget” inscription at the place of the man’s death. Maria Bobovich is currently in custody, she is charged with two articles of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus – part 2 of Art. 339 [hooliganism] and part 2 of Art. 218 [intentional damage to property]. Denis Grekhanov also ended up behind bars for restoring the phrase. According to his mother, Gorremavtodor assessed property damage at BYN 10,000 [~$4,000/€3,300]. Maria and Denis face up to 10 years in jail.
Gennady Shutov. No sufficient grounds for a criminal case
While the families of Alexander Vikhor and Alexander Taraikovsky are waiting for a response from the Investigative Committee, Gennady Shutov’s relatives have already received it.
“A legal assessment of the actions of persons involved in causing bodily harm to Shutov will be given during the investigation of the criminal case. There are currently no sufficient grounds for initiating a criminal case under Art. 139 of the Criminal Code [Murder],” reads a document from the Central Office of the Investigative Committee.
Brest resident Gennady Shutov was wounded in the head on 11 August and died on 19 August in a military hospital. The death certificate indicated that the external cause of death was “injury as a result of a shot from a handgun with undetermined intent.”
Shutov’s family say that the investigation on resistance to law enforcement officers is still ongoing. In it, Gennady Shutov and his friend Alexander Kordyukov are suspects. Anastasia, Gennady’s daughter, can’t give the details of the investigation:“The other day the investigator asked me to sign a non-disclosure statement.”