‘Happiest day’: Jailed Belsat TV journo Katsyaryna Andreyeva meets with husband in prison

It is the first time that journalist Ihar Ilyash has been allowed to have a day-long meeting with his wife, political prisoner Katsyaryna Andreyeva, in the Homiel penal colony. The couple saw each other in July, but the meeting lasted only four hours.

Іhar Ilyash. Мinsk, 19 March 2021. Photo: АВ / Belsat

Ihar told Belsat TV about Katsyaryna’s mood and the details of his visit.

The meeting was held on August 2-3. In the territory of the colony there is a separate house for meetings – there are 6 rooms, a common kitchen, a shower and a toilet. There is a courtyard for walks and several gazebos. One can bring home-made food or food products and cook something on the spot; any drinks, except alcoholic beverages, magazines, books are acceptable; phones and laptops are not allowed. According to Ihar, the conditions are quite good.

“It was a wonderful day; I can say it was the happiest day since the arrest of Katsya. We almost immediately forgot about the barbed wire, fences and bars. We were completely absorbed by the world created by our love. And this world (I once again got convinced of that) turned out to be absolutely impenetrable for the long separation and all the challenges we faced last year.

Katsyaryna Andreyeva and Darya Chultsova awarded Leipzig Prize for Freedom and Future of Media

The recent events have only bolstered our emotions: over a week ago, I was being held in the detention centre on Akrestsin Street, and we could not even hope that such rendezvous would happen. But for the first time since November, we were in each other’s arms. In my opinion, far not every romantic trip to Paris or Rome could bring such vivid feelings and emotions that we experienced during that meeting in the colony,” Ihar said.

Katsya sent greetings to everyone and apologized for not being able to respond to every letter; she does not have health issues, she feels optimistic about the future, Ihar added. What is the most very important is that prison has not changed her, he stressed.

Ihar Ilyash also quotes Katsyaryna’s words: “My task is to save my soul from decay and not to let the jail [practices] infiltrate into. I do not want to become part of the ugly [prison world], but to make the space around me a little more lovely.”

Two Belsatters, Katsyaryna Andreyeva and Darya Chultsova, have been behind bars for over 260 days.

Life of jailed journalists Katsya Andreyeva and Dasha Chultsova in letters

They were arrested on November 15 for broadcasting live a violent dispersal of a rally in memory of murdered protester Raman Bandarenka and the destruction of a national memorial in the so called Square of Change by security forces. They were filming and commenting on what was going on from the apartment on the 14th floor of the house on Smarhouski Trakt Street in Minsk, where they had been invited by the hosts. After the rally, armed riot police broke the door to the apartment and detained the crew. On November 20, they were charged under Part 1 of Article 342 of the Criminal Code (organisation and preparation of actions that grossly violate public order).

Their case was considered in Frunzenski district court of Minsk within three days in February. The investigators claim the Belsat crew ‘coordinated protesters and called for further actions’, but the two media workers were just performing their professional duties by reporting from the scene. Moreover, in accordance with the authorities’ version, the livestream of the journalists resulted in the stoppage of 13 buses, 3 trolleybuses and 3 streetcar routes as well as the damage to the city transport agency Minsktrans (around 11,562 rubles). Public prosecutor Alina Kasyanchyk demanded the girls serve a two-year prison term each and their working equipment be confiscated in profit of the state. The defence lawyers asked the court to acquit the defendants due to the lack of evidence, but judge Natallya Buhuk took heed of the prosecution’s opinion.

On November 24, Belarusian human rights watchdogs recognised Katsyaryna Andreyeva and Darya Chultsova as political prisoners.

Story of imprisoned Belsat journalists Katsyaryna Andreyeva and Darya Chultsova