More torture, recruitment attempts and resistance in Minsk jail

A cat on the fence of the detention center on Akrestsina Street, filmed during the release of journalists who spent three days behind bars. September 4, 2020. Photo: Iryna Arakhouskaya /

Belsat has interviewed a man who said he had recently been released from Minsk jail in Akrestsin street. He was serving an administrative arrest for participating in protests. The man described the details of his stay there and the new forms of torture faced by detainees. We cannot reveal the man’s name for safety reasons.

The man was in jail in April.

“We walked into the Akrestsina jail, and people in balaclavas told us right away, ‘Well, you fucking Poles! You have no rights within these walls now. If you’re going to fool around – you’re going to sit in the punishment cells. Understand?” – A former detainee says.

Those who did not answer immediately were hit on the calves several times. According to him, the beating was “bearable” because “during the arrest, the police hit harder.”

Chlorine every day

At first, the inmates were given sheets to cover their mattresses. It was done under the video cameras. But before they entered the cell, they had to give back the sheets. Those who protested were threatened with solitary confinement.

There were 18 people in a four-bed cell. People slept on the floor, but mostly they stood because there was not enough space. When some slept, others stood to let others sleep. There were no mattresses or pillows.

Floor similar to the one in Akrestsin jail. March 12, 2021. Photo: TK / Belsat

Prisoners were almost not allowed to sleep. All the time, day and night, the lights were on. And every 1.5-2 hours, including at night, were forced to give their surname, first name, and patronymic. Guards also poured in a bucket of chlorine every day so that the prisoners would learn how to “wash Tsikhanouskaya’s dacha.”

“If someone slept on the floor during the day and they saw it, they opened the cell and immediately poured out a bucket of bleach,” said the interlocutor.

“The zmahary are fine.”

A man with epilepsy was told by a jail doctor that “the zmahary (protesters – derog. – Belsat) are doing fine.” During the entire time, he received medical care only once: when he had a seizure and started foaming at the mouth, he was given pills. They refused to hospitalize him, our source said.

According to him, there was a cell with “political” women, also overcrowded. When they began to complain about the unsanitary conditions, a homeless woman was thrown into their cell. The women started screaming, and a bucket of chlorine was poured over them, but the homeless woman remained.

“To support the girls, all of us in the cell started singing “Mahutny Bozha”, “Try Charapakhi”. They took us out and started beating the most active ones. Then some of them were sent to the punishment cell,” said the former prisoner.

They wanted to add more days of arrest for those who were badly beaten so that the bruises would disappear in time.

Of all the parcels given by relatives, the prisoners were given only two or three bags a week “so they wouldn’t starve to death.”

The non-political prisoners were given mattresses and packages.

Attempts at recruitment

Our source notes that the most aggressive of Akrestin’s employees wore balaclavas – about ten people. But even among them, a major in a balaclava stood out and could not even be looked at. Inmates were bullied. An interview for the media on their release from prison could result in imprisonment, police said.

Position for morning inspection. March 12, 2021. Photo: TK / Belsat

Only one staff member opened the feeder in the door so that at least some fresh air could enter the cell. But he did it when his superiors couldn’t see it.

During their incarceration, the prisoners were called one by one to operatives who tried to recruit them.

“You go out. You come to us. We give you a flag, stencils, put you into a secret chat room. You get vetted, join, go to a few rallies, get acquainted, and on the third or fourth time, you call us. You’ll get benefits for that,” our source recalled the operatives’ words.

Once out of jail, the man learned that he had lost control over his social media accounts.