26-year-old Syarhei Krupenich and Anastasiya Krupenich-Kandratsieva from Minsk have been in prison since July 15. They have been arrested seven times in a row for ‘distributing extremist materials’. According to human rights activists, they were sentenced for ‘extremism’ in private correspondence – links to various channels recognized as ‘extremist’.
The couple was to be released on October 8, after almost three months of arrest. According to belsat.eu, in Leninski district court of Minsk, Anastasiya was sentenced to another 14 days of arrest – after 88 days of imprisonment. According to nashaniva.com, Anastasiya’s husband was also sentenced to another 15 days in jail.
Belsat talked to a woman who was detained together with Anastasiya in Baranavichy and in the detention centre on Akrestsin Street.
First of all, the woman emphasizes that the prisoners were not handed over the packages, there were no warm clothes (they were detained in the summer, someone was taken away from work), and at the end of August it became cold in the cells. Warm things (not worn on the detainees, but taken with them) were not returned.
“We slept on the floor in the detention centre – it was good because the floor was wooden,” the woman says. “We lay mostly under the beds; the whole floor was occupied. There were 16 people in the 4-bed cell. It was good to sleep on the floor, except for the smell of the toilet and the crawling of woodlice. It was cold to sleep on the beds, and the irons there were narrow… Some people could sleep on them. Twice a night the guards woke us up, they were rude. But we were not particularly touched. Sometimes they shouted, arranged searches.
And in Baranavichy it was cold: you couldn’t sleep on the floor, and the iron beds attract cold. In the summer it was more or less bearable, but a woman who was released after me said that they were already very cold. This is a building of 1907, cement floors, constantly wet. And no mattresses or blankets.
Not everyone had spare socks and underwear, and washing in those conditions was problematic. Those who were released could leave warm clothes in their cells, but those detained in the summer did not have them – they left only T-shirts, socks and underwear.
Anastasiya had only one warm blouson jacket. The woman hopes that when Anastasiya and her husband were once ‘re-detained’ and were released for the night – they could take warm clothes and put them on so as they won’t to be taken away.”
The fact that prisoners are not given packages from relatives causes other problems. The woman is worried: the prison food lacks in vitamins, and this can cause scurvy.
“There’s enough food. Of course, it’s not very tasty. But three months without vegetables… Some three-millimetre pieces of grated carrots or last year’s sauerkraut thrown into the soup – that’s all we got. There are almost no fresh vegetables there.”
Anastasiya’s cellmate mentions: one evening Anastasiya was not given food and was told that ‘one goes out’. Apart from Anastasiya, there was no one to release, although after two protocols, for which she spent a month in prison, she had a third one. When the time passed, the women began knocking on the door and asking why no one was released.
“Then in the evening they came to check and said: “Well, no dinner? It happens. No one will be let out, because the third protocol came into force,” the woman says.
Anastasiya’s cellmate describes her psychological state as ‘sad’. She mentions that Anastasiya’s husband was in the cell nearby, so she listened to every roll call in Baranavichy and in the pre-trial detention centre to hear her husband’s voice. When everyone was taken out into the corridor and checked, the guard called the last name, and the prisoner had to answer the name and patronymic. Anastasiya listened every morning and night to hear from her husband at least that.
The woman says that Anastasiya was not offered to cooperate with the administration, although there were people who were required to do so.
“She just came from Poland,” says her cellmate. “What kind of visa she had, I do not know, but probably humanitarian. Her husband is an IT specialist, they went to Poland, lived there for several months. She believes that everything is connected with this: they went to Poland and decided to return. Lukashenka said that spies were everywhere, and those who came from Poland had their brains turned in the wrong direction, they were all enemies… Besides, she was a teacher, maybe it annoyed them”.
Anastasiya’s cellmate claims that she was imprisoned for nothing. Just before the election anniversary she was detained and accused of ‘hooliganism’ (‘shouting, swearing’), because earlier she was imprisoned for a political reason. This time the woman was considered ‘not political’.
The woman says that when she had been in prison earlier in the spring, homeless people were specially put in the cells with those imprisoned for political reasons. Among them was a homeless woman Volha, who was sitting with model Volha Khizhynkova. When the woman encountered her in the spring, her head was swarming with lice. During the last arrest, the homeless Volha was sanitized.
“I said I have Article 19.1, give me a mattress,” she says. “They said they could transfer me, another woman with 19.1, and the homeless Volha to another cell and give us mattresses. But we refused. We decided to stay without mattresses, blankets and linen, but together.
According to former cellmates, in prison Anastasiya and Syarhei contracted the coronavirus and lost a lot of weight.
Cover photo: pixaby.com