On Tuesday, 13 October, shop owner Maxim Khoroshin was brutally detained in Minsk. He left a police station in an ambulance, the man was taken to the 3rd city hospital, where he keeps staying. The 34-year-old shared details of his arrest and doctors’ prognoses.
What happened on the day of detention
“At 8.30 pm, my wife and I got into a car and did not have time to close the door, as it was immediately opened – everything happened in a blink of an eye. I was repeatedly hit in the face. Through my swollen eyes I saw a man without a mask. At first I thought that it was some kind of prank or anything, I was shocked, I did not understand what was happening.”
Did they tell you anything at that moment?
“Just ‘Lie down, b ***!’ and that’s it. The wife was screaming, people went out on the balconies, started shooting. They put on balaclavas and dragged me into a minibus, there I saw only people’s sneakers, because I was on all fours with my face on the floor and in handcuffs. They asked if I understood why I was there. Of course, I did not. They spoke to me very rudely, shouted obsceneties.
The message was: you are going to answer for threatening the children and families of our employees. They started saying that I was a member of some chat rooms. One of them, who was more or less sane, said that if I proved at the police department that I was not a member of these chat rooms, they would let me go.”
Maxim was brought to the Pervomaisky District Office of Internal Affairs. There, according to Maxim, they read his correspondence, looked through photos on his phone.
“They brought me into some office, it was like a thoroughfare – there were about 10 people, three of them were women without masks. They laid me face down, talked to me in a more or less normal way. But then two men came. One of them took a baton and started beating me.
They told me the same things they tell all detainees: ‘You are the organiser, you were paid.’ They threatened: ‘You will answer for dismantling a water cannon, for setting fire to Balaba’s dacha, for crippling our children with stones. They treated me as if I had been detained at a rally, they had already forgotten about me being a member of some chat rooms.”
You said that on 13 October you lost consciousness.
“Two beaters came and went. At some point, I lost consciousness, they got scared, brought ammonia, I got better. Then I got an attack, I gasped for air, I was suffocating. I do not have asthma, but twice in my life, when I was very worried, I had such a condition. They got very scared, started yelling at each other. Everyone ran out of the office, no one wanted to be near me, they called an ambulance. By the way, when they were beating me, the women left the office and said: ‘Enough, we are tired of watching this.'”.
The Municipal Department of Internal Affairs of the Minsk City Executive Committee stated that health workers arrived on call of the police officers, whom you informed about the existing diseases. What can it be?
“I have no such diseases. But at some pro-government forum, I even read that I was registered in a neuropsychiatric dispensary, that I had some ‘special’ attacks. They said I was a simulator.”
They want to take testimony about the beating
Maxim is convinced that the video his wife shot when health workers helped him to leave a police department helped a lot with publicity.
“I sincerely believe that they have nothing to charge me with. Okay, participation in an unauthorized rally, but why detain me this way, beat me? Give me a fine, sentence me to days of arrest.”
Is there a chance they mistook you for someone else?
“They waited for me specifically. I do not live at a place of residence, I live in a rented apartment, no one knew about it. This is the center of the city, and all the rallies are in the center, and the security forces constantly saw my car – it is easy memorable. Even in the bus they told me: ‘Yes, we see your car every day, you are an activist.'”
Did the fact that you handed out flowers to women at rallies came up in a conversation?
“There was not a word about it. They asked what my business was. I said – flowers, to which they replied that one can’t make money selling flowers to buy such a car. In fact, when I handed out flowers to girls, I understood that something could happen to me. Although I can’t say that I handed out a thousand flowers, well, it was probably two packs of roses.
And there were a lot of men like me. I saw that the security forces were constantly looking at me. And since they detained many of my friends, acquaintances, every day for almost a month, I looked out of the entrance before going outside and quickly locked myself in the car. But this morning, for the first time, I came out relaxed.”
Maxim says that an investigator from the police department was in the hospital on 13 October. He also received a call from the Investigative Committee.
“They want to come and take testimony about the beating. But so far no one has come. I myself will apply, although I consider it useless. But I know that this has no statute of limitations. Maybe later everything will come up and my children will investigate everything.”
What are you accused of?
“So far, I only know about an unauthorized rally. But I will not be surprised if I am credited with organizing women’s marches or something else.”
How did you react to the news about the revocation of your lawyer’s license?
“With irony. I know that by law she still has the right to work and she will protect me. Although I am aware that the law does not work and the presence of a lawyer means nothing.”
People offered to post guards at my ward
Maxim does not know when he will leave hospital: the doctors have not told him yet. He says that two masked men were on duty near his ward for several hours, but after the doctors said that the patient would not be released, they left.
“I have a craniocerebral injury, a broken nose, I had my eye examined and doctors diagnosed a corneal damage. Contusions of tissues on the left side – from the back to the buttocks. And something with a shoulder, doctors are still figuring out.”
How do they treat you?
“Very well. They gave me a separate ward. Many approach me, express their support. There are a lot of doctors who have either children or colleagues detained.”
What can you say about the public reaction?
“Strangers bring me pictures, icons, books, T-shirts and an incredible amount of food, treats, cakes. Today they [some kind of a society of elevator operators] sent a large lettering card. Apparently, they were wary to indicate [a full name of the organization], but it is very pleasant.
I have already responded to 7 thousand messages, sorry, I just can’t do more yet. People wrote from clinics in Switzerland, from some German clinic, they are ready to admit me for free. People even offered to post a guard near my room.”
Do you read news about your flower shop?
“It is the third day people have been queueing up there, I am shocked. When the glass doors was broken in a coffee shop, I also stood in line, but did not expect that my personal story would trigger such a response. Many say that they are coming not for flowers, but to support me. Please write that this solidarity and emotional support helps me a lot.”