Belsat TV channel published a video from a detention facility on Okrestin Street. In the video, people in police and black uniforms, lined up, are seen beating the detainees with batons. TUT.BY spoke with the beaten men who recognized themselves in a blood-curdling footage. They explained when and where this recording was made.
“When they brought us to [a detention facility] on Okrestin Street, they lined us with our heads down and hands behind our backs, and ordered to run. We were running – they were beating us on the backs with rubber batons, all this with whooping, under pressure, with barking dogs: ‘You’ll see now! Did you want changes? You’ll see changes. How much did they pay you? Tell us!'”.
Many other detainees released from detention facilities and police stations told similar stories later.
Last month Belsat published a video showing people in police and black uniforms beating those brought to a detention facility on Okrestin Street. It was noted that the recording was probably made on 9-11 August. TUT.BY journalists talked to the men from the video. They confirmed that the footage was taken on the evening of 10 August.
“Behind your back! Behind your back! Head down, bas**ds! Run there!” people in black and police uniform are shouting. Men run out of a paddy wagon with hands behind their heads and run through a so-called ‘corridor of batons’. They are being beaten as they run.
All this is accompanied by shouting. “Head down, bi**! F***ng run faster! Faster, f***ng faster!” shouts someone and the sounds of batons are heard. “On your knees! On your knees!”
“Ahh!” apparently, one of the detainees is screaming in pain.
On the 53rd second of the recording, one of the beaten men falls to his knees near the wall. Meanwhile, about 20 people with batons are waiting for another batch of detainees to run out of the paddy wagon.
“Don’t touch this one,” says someone and laughter is heard. By the way, not all those beating the detainees are wearing masks, some of them do not hide their faces.
“Is that all?” people in police and black uniforms are talking among themselves. “No, not yet, here goes the elite!”
A second later the detainees are running towards them.
“Head down, b**rd! Run, c**t! On your knees! Scum! There he is, there he is, you’re an as**le, go at him again! Faster, f***ng faster. Vitaly, are there more of them?” the recording ends.
Very scary: what if this is your last day
Pavel Usovich, a brother of popular Belarusian comedian Ivan Usovich, recognised himself in a two-minute video of torture and humiliation. “Everything happened on 10 August. People in the video are those who were detained near the circus that evening.”
He does not rule out that the arrests could have taken place in other locations too, but in the footage he did recognize those detained on Independence Avenue.
“There was no internet that day, so I decided to cycle to the city center and see what was happening there. When I saw explosions of flash-bang grenades on Nemiga Street, I got scared and decided to go home as quick as possible. At the crossroads of Bogdanovicha and Kupala streets, I noticed a traffic police officer and asked him about the best way to get home to Uruchye district.
He pointed to Independence Avenue. Having arrived there, I saw that it was partially blocked and decided to once again ask a policeman for a safer path. To which the answer was: ‘Now they will explain to you.’ At that moment riot policemen ran out of the city bus near the circus and started beating me with batons,” recalls the events of that night Pavel Usovich.
Pavel remembers reading an article on TUT.BY website, where one man gave a detailed account of his own detention near the circus on 10 August and mentioned a cyclist. As turned out, it was Mikhail. The one whose quote we shared at the beginning of this article.
Mikhail was detained first, Pavel was the second one pushed into the bus.
“Another guy was detained after me. He then said that he worked in a rental of catamarans: as soon as he parked them, he got cuffed. When they started beating us he kept asking not to hit him on the back, he had a bad back, and the riot policemen deliberately aimed at the backs.”
Later, the detainees got transferred from the bus to a paddy wagon and were brought to a detention centre on Okrestin Street at around midnight.
“Watching now this footage, I feel like being back to that day with all the memories and feelings… How many people were there? I can’t say. There were seven-eight ‘solitary cells’ in the paddy wagon, we did not see each other, everyone was under adrenaline. A very scary feeling: what if this is your last day? We heard how others were beaten: ‘Come on, go faster, as***le!’. After we ran out of the paddy wagon and got hit with the batons, we were put on our knees. We stood like this for probably an hour.”
Did they beat you again?
“Yes, those who complained of pain were beaten heavily, they were beaten even harder. While on our knees, we were questioned and our details were recorded.”
Having heard how others got “thrashed” after asking for food, Pavel Usovich and his cellmates decided “to keep it quiet and hold on so that they would not be beaten more.” He was sentenced to 15 days of detention but was released on 14 August with other detainees.
“We were put in a paddy wagon and thrown out at different locations throughout the city, I was left on Shcherbakov Street.”
Did you report it to the Investigative Committee requesting investigation and pressing charges against those who were beating you?
“No, I shared my story and photos of my injuries with one online group, which forwarded it to the [deregistered human rights center] Vesna. My cellmates did file a complaint with the Investigative Committee – so far no response, total silence.”
I am an adult man, I screamed and yelled
“Yes, I recognise myself in the video,” says Alexander [the name was changed at his request – Ed.], who was detained on 10 August too. He says he did not participate in the protests, that evening he was returning home, when he was detained not far from the Uruchye metro station.
“I got off the bus and saw people in military uniform running from the side of the avenue and I ran too. They caught me right in the underground passage, it was about 11 p.m. Then it was hard to tell the time as phones and watches were taken from everyone.”
“First, I was pushed in a military vehicle, then to a bus and then into a paddy wagon,” Alexander describes his route to a detenion center on Okrestin Street. In his opinion, the video shows beating of the people brought in the same paddy wagon. According to the man, the detainees had to run through a “corridor of batons” once again when they were moved to a yard of a detention center.
“In a detention centre, I was sentenced to five days of arrest under Article 23.34 [violation of the procedures for organizing or conducting public events], four days later we were released. I did not sign any papers or documents.”
Alexander documented the battery-induced injuries but did not report the violence to the Investigative Committee.
Another detainee, Mikhail, filed a complaint to punish the culprits. He did it in August, right after he left the detention center.
“I am an adult man, I did scream and yell, yes, I will not hide it. I believe they were beating us at nighttime so that there were no witnesses.”
The man recognised himself in a two-minute video. Today he went again to the Investigative Committee to state that there is proof of his words. Since over the two months, investigation of Mikhail’s case has come to nothing and there are still no results of forensic examination.
TUT.BY tried to get a comment from the Investigative Committee about whether the video would be considered as part of the investigation but we couldn’t get through on the telephone.