‰ Case Hearings: Bondarenko’s Sister Gave Her Permission To Publish His Medical Data

23 February is the third day of the trial in the case of journalist Katerina Borisevich and doctor Artyom Sorokin. Recall that they are accused of disclosing the medical secrets by refuting the official version of the investigation that Roman Bondarenko was drunk when he was beaten and died. Bondarenko’s relatives gave permission to publish this information. Nevertheless, TUT.BY journalist and the emergency hospital doctor were arrested and tried. They have been in jail for the fourth month already. The judge closed the hearings, both face up to three years in prison.

The court session on Tuesday started at 10.15 am. The case is being considered by the Moskovsky District Court of Minsk in the building of the House of Justice on Semashko Street. Katerina Borisevich and Artyom Sorokin were brought into the hall at 10.04 am.

TUT.BY journalist Katerina Borisevich. Photo: Belta via Reuters

The judge is Svetlana Bondarenko, the state prosecutor is Lyudmila Ivanenko. Artem Sorokin is defended by lawyer Olga Batyuk, Katerina Borisevich – by Andrey Mochalov and Mikhail Bodnarchuk. Katerina and Artyom are accused under Part 3 of Article 178 – “Disclosing medical secrets, which entailed grave consequences.”

The third day of the meeting began with the questioning of witnesses. Roman Bondarenko’s sister Olga was also summoned to the courtroom as a witness. She stressed that all the time Roman was in hospital, his family talked about his condition in public. Later, when information appeared that he was allegedly drunk, Roman’s family agreed to publish the laboratory test results.

Recall that the documents indicated that no ethanol was found in Roman’s blood. Olga says that she personally gave Katerina Borisevich permission to publish this information. According to

In the interval between the message of the Investigative Committee that during the initial examination Roman was diagnosed with alcohol intoxication and a note about zero ppm. Two articles – Investigative Committee Conducts Investigation Into Death Of Roman Bondarenko and Emergency Hospital Doctor: “Bondarenko Had 0 ‰ Of Alcohol, We Found Nothing” – were published on the TUT.BY portal 43 minutes apart.

Before entering the courtroom and signing a non-disclosure agreement, Olga talked to journalists: “I look forward to a fair sentence. I hope that the information that the witnesses will bring to the court will be enough to acquit Artyom and Katerina. In my opinion, they are not guilty. They officially received permission from their aunt [mother of Roman Bondarenko – Ed.]. I was a mediator in this process. My aunt assigned me to communicate with the press. She gave me this permission even when Roma was in a coma in the hospital.

In the evening, when we learned that Roma had died, she repeatedly told me that she would be grateful if I took on this responsibility. In the interval between the publication of the Investigative Committee that Roma was drunk, and the publication of Katerina’s article, she [Katerina Borisevich – Ed.] called me, and we agreed on this article with her. She received my official permission to publish this information. Aunt repeatedly told me that she was not going to keep it a secret.

From the very first day, when Roma was in a coma, we gave interviews about the incident, about Roma’s operation, what was happening outside the hospital, about his health condition. Later about his death and death certificate, his laboratory tests. The Investigative Committee released information that Roma was drunk. When I saw it, of course, I was resentful. I know this is not true. I know he was sober, he had ‰. Doctors documented this fact.”

Emergency hospital doctor Artyom Sorokin. Photo: Belta via Reuters

TUT.BY editor-in-chief Marina Zolotova is also a witness in court. She believes that in the case of Katerina Borisevich and Artem Sorokin “there is no corpus delicti, and this is a completely political process.”

“Katya was doing her job: she checked the information – what any journalist would do. The only people who could have any complaints are Roman Bondarenko’s family. But they had no complaints. Katya is a professional journalist and probably the best court reporter in the country. No one has ever had any complaints about her texts. Actually, you just wonder how one can write so quickly, accurately, with attention to details.

Therefore, it is very strange that this situation affected Katya. Everyone makes mistakes, but Katya, it seems, either never makes them, or makes a few. It is quite obvious that on 13 November, the violent death of Roman Bondarenko was on everyone’s lips. The information that no alcohol was found in his blood was spread by telegram channels early in the morning. Katya just checked this information,” Marina Zolotova commented before the hearing.

The door of the courtroom, as on previous days, is locked with a key. Police officers in uniform and civilian clothes are on duty nearby.

Witness Adarya Gushtyn [TUT.BY journalist, a colleague of Katerina Borisevich] petitioned to question her openly. She was not questioned during the preliminary investigation, which means that she is not familiar with the case materials. She knows only information publicly announced by representatives of the Investigative Committee and the General Prosecutor’s Office, Gushtyn emphasized in her written petition.

“I believe that this criminal process is not just socially significant, but historical for Belarus. In this regard, I consider it my civil duty to take all possible legal measures to ensure that I am questioned in an open court session,” she said.

The door of the meeting room remained closed. A woman living in the “Square of Change” also came to act as a witness, she is one of those who were the last to see Bondarenko alive. She does not know what she may be asked in court.