Thoughtcrime. Teacher Arrested For Mentally Supporting Protesters Tells His Story

Kirill Dolgorukov is a physical education teacher at Belarusian State University. On 30 November, after another Sunday protest action, he ended up behind bars. Perhaps his case would go unnoticed, if not for the remark in a police report “… indicated that he mentally supported the protesters, but did not take part in a rally”. The phrase swept social media and telegram channel and already became a meme. 

As a result, Kirill was sentenced to 13 days of arrest, one part of his sentence he spent in Minsk, the second one – in Baranovichi, where he got infected COVID-19. On Saturday, the young man was released, he is currently on sick leave and has agreed to talk to TUT.BY journalists.

Minsk, November 29, 2020. Photo is used for illustrative purposes only

“I live in Uruchye [a microdistrict in Minsk – Ed.]. On Sunday afternoon, 29 November, I left the house and went to the store. At this time, two processions were marching through the area. Noticing each other, they decided to unite and moved towards each other. The meeting was supposed to happen under the bridge, where I was just passing.

However, they failed to do that. When members of one group were approaching the bridge, and the second one was still far from them, security forces arrived and started to arrest them. I didn’t run away and decided to stay under the bridge until everything calms down. At some point, security forces ran up to me. They said: “Come here,” I walked up to them and they put me in a paddy wagon.”

According to the young man, the police did not take any detailed testimony from him.

“As far as I understand, they interviewed one guy, and then used his story to drew up standard reports for all the detainees. In mine, for example, they wrote the numbers of houses, next to which I did not even walk that day. I was asked to read my report and write what I think about it. I indicated that I partially agree with it. I did not take an active part in the march, but mentally supported the protesters.”

The judge said: “Therefore, you are guilty”

Kirill’s case was considered by the Pervomaisky District Court. At the trial, the young man was without a lawyer and did not plead guilty. In court, the judge asked him to explain what he meant by saying he “mentally supporting the protesters.”

“I explained that I was busy that day and did not participate in the march, but I have no negative attitude towards the protesters. In my opinion, people have the right to peacefully express their position, so I mentally supported the protesters. After listening to me, the judge said: therefore, you are guilty and sentenced me to 13 days of arrest. The lawyer filed a complaint against, but there is still no response.”

During his detenion, Kirill received only one letter, although relatives, friends and students wrote to him a lot. Dolgorukov found out that his trial was so resonant only when he was released. He still does not understand why this story struck people so much. Even well-known Russian journalist Alexey Pivovarov told about this case on his YouTube channel.

“I liked [a detention facility – Ed.] in Baranovichi more than on Okrestin Street,” Kirill compares the unusual experience. “I would even say that it was excellent in the pre-trial detention center in Baranovichi. The attitude of the staff is good, food can almost earn a Michelin star. Well, my сellmates and I gave this place four stars.”

In Baranovichi, the teacher got infected with COVID-19.“Me and the guys suspected that it was COVID-19. My bones ached, as if I had temperature, then I lost smell. When I was released, I made a test and the result was positive.”

Kirill is currently recovering at home and jokes: “Now I have a reason to read Orwell’s 1984. I am now getting a second higher education at the law faculty. During the trial and when talking to my cellmates, I noticed so many violations. This whole situation gave me even more motivation to study law better.”

Source: TUT.BY