In 2020, Belarus became a country with thousands of detained, beaten, tortured people. In its project ‘I Was Being Lucky’, Belsat TV tells the stories of 21 Belarusians who suffered police brutality.
Kim Mazur is a restaurateur. He calls beatings and abuse ‘inconveniences that can be considered as torture’. He says he was more worried about his friend Andrey. Kim says he is an athlete, and it was easier to him to run through the situation. On August 10, the men were driving around the city to find out what was happening in Minsk. They met with an acquaintance on Rakauskaya Street and talked. But a van stopped by, and police officers quite politely invited them to get into it.
“At that moment, we still believed that everything in Belarus was regulated by laws, and there would be no nonsense, that we would be interrogated and released within three hours,” Kim recalls.
The detainees were taken to Minsk Hero City Stele and put into a prison truck. There they were insulted and battered for the first time. The three men found themselves in a small and stuffy isolation compartment. They heard that people were being severely beaten on the street and in the truck. “And it was then that we realised that it was a completely different country, not Belarus, in that prison truck,” Kim tells us about how his last illusions disappeared. The detainees were driven to one of the district police departments of the city. Then they were run through the corridor of riot policemen who were beating newcomers and throwing them down on their knees. A few hours later, the people were transferred to a hall and forced to kneel on the concrete floor.
According to Kim, some policemen felt at least embarrassed about what was going on there. When left with dozens of beaten people, one of them apologised, saying: ‘This is the system’, and even allowed to phone relatives. Six detainees managed to make a call. “Suddenly someone runs in with a truncheon in his hand and shouts: ‘How dare you raise your hand to the police!’ And he just starts beating everyone who comes to hand with his truncheon,” the man also remembers brutal actions by the policemen. That officer ordered not to let the detainees use the toilet and not to give water to them. In the morning, all of them were taken to Zhodzina remand prison.
In the prison truck, Kim was together with his friend again. “One of the senior officers pointed at me and said: ‘This jovial guy needs special attention.’ That was followed by punches in my leg and jaw, a kick in the back; they tied my arms behind the back and threw into a prison truck,” he says. The man saw an officer putting his foot on the friend’s face and neck and starting to press. After a while the latter lost consciousness. The men were piled on one another and forced to crawl on the others’ bodies while the riot police were beating whoever came to hand. They called the process ‘repair’, stressing they were just fixing ‘wrong’ people. Vadzim told us a similar story.
I crawled to the tail of the prison truck and found a place behind the stairs so as not to lie on anyone. But the command came: “Check out this part!” And blows rained upon me again. We were being beaten all the way to Zhodzina. And they shouted: “Go to Poland, work as prostitutes and truckers,” Kim recalls what the transfer to Zhodzina looked like.
In the cell, there was a man who had a broken leg as well as people with twisted noses, torn lips and even eyelids. His friend Andrey got a head injury; he repeatedly fainted.
“They said my back was blue… Well, it was not a big deal,” Kim repeats that it was easier to him to go through physical mistreatment.
Most people were freed a few days before the end of their detention term. On the day following Kim’s release, a representative of the Investigative Committee contacted him and invited to come and talk about ‘the fact of detention and beating’. In the office, the investigator asked if he would lodge a statement. “There were lots of case files on the table, and the one on top and mine were as like as two peas – ‘citizen so-and-so was detained then and there, the case is being investigated on the fact of beating’. And the postscript: ‘If not complemented, the case will be dismissed’. Kim says that the investigator shrugged and admitted that filing a statement ‘would not help anyone’. And instead of wasting time in the committee, the man assisted volunteers who were meeting people released from the detention centre on Akrestsin Street in Minsk and the remand prison in Zhodzina.
At the end of our conversation, Kim points at his injuries. He is not going to turn for help to solidarity foundations: “What are you talking about? There are enough people who really need help. When I heard other people’s stories, I realised that I was lucky. As for my bruises, I will be OK soon.”
Get acquainted with our interviewees and read their stories here.