Svetlana Solodkaya and her son Ivan were beaten by riot police in August in Gomel. They filed complaints against police violence, but were denied an inquiry. Instead, they now can be charged with participating in an unauthorized mass event. The Investigative Committee sent a copy of the document to the district internal affairs office.
Svetlana is 60 years old and she says that there is hardly anything left that can suprise her. However, in the past three months, she is full of indignation. It all started on 9 August.
“I came to a polling station and found out that my mother was not on the lists, but there was a neighbour who died seven years ago. I somehow managed to get them to come to my mother’s house with an urn, she is old and can’t walk by herself. In the evening, we gathered at the site, waited for a report to be made public, but it never was.
A commission left through the back door, although there were 15-20 of us there, we were not drunk, not drug addicts, all decent people, middle-aged, and even people like me, pensioners. So, riot police came. They did not even get out of their minibus, a man in civilian clothes dispersed us. Later we went to a district administration and wrote a complaint, but we were told that a copy of the report had been made public.”
Svetlana says that she didn’t know that people were gathering in the city on 9 August, because there was no internet. The next day, her son Ivan told he about what was happening in the country.
“There is a war going on, people took to the streets, he said. I didn’t believe it at first. In the evening, I drove through the city – there were paddy wagons everywhere, people were grabbed. I returned home, couldn’t sleep at night, and in the morning I decided that I had to show that I did not agree with this deception, either.”
On the evening of 11 August, Svetlana and her son were at Sovetskaya Street. As soon as they saw protesters, they immediately joined the procession. There was no fear, the woman recalls. She was convinced that they would definitely not beat people in Gomel.
“Riot police swooped in near the circus. Someone shouted ‘join hands’. Everyone, somehow, automatically grabbed each other, and me too. Before I knew it, I felt a baton on my shoulder, pain was paralyzing. And immediately a second riot policeman ran up, a young one, I thought that’s it, he would now kill me. But he saw me and gasped, lowered his baton and walked away. I turned my head and saw them beatimg my son. Instead of running away, he was trying to break through to me.”
Svetlana does not remember how she managed to break through the cordon. At home, they examined the wounds. Ivan had hematomas on the legs and in groin area. Like many people outraged by brutality of security forces, Svetlana and her son wrote a complaint to the Investigative Committee. In mid-November, the answer came: a request to initiate a criminal case was denied for lack of corpus delicti.
“An employee of the law enforcement bodies is not liable for harm caused as a result of the use of special means provided for by law in cases in which physical force was applied, if it does not exceed the lawful limits of necessary defence or measures necessary to suppress crimes,” the document reads.
In addition, the investigator’s reply says that Svetlana and Ivan took part in an unauthorized mass event in violation of the law, thereby committing an administrative offense. The Investigative Committee sent a copy of the resolution to the district internal affairs office to consider the issue of bringing the mother and son to administrative responsibility for participating in an unauthorized mass event.
Svetlana says she is not afraid of a fine or arrest. “If I get jail time, I’ll serve my sentence. Sooner or later they will release me. Because it is stupid to fear arrest when the GULAG is coming to the country.”
However, the terms for bringing Svetlana to justice are out. Indeed, according to the law, an administrative penalty can be imposed no later than two months from the date of the offense. However, the woman is still on the alert. She says that late in the evening of 19 November, a police car came to her house, someone knocked on the door, but she did not open it.
The next morning she called a district police officer, but he couldn’t explain why his colleagues came to her.