Overview of repressions against anarchists and antifascists in Belarus in 2018
At the beginning of the year everybody were shocked by “Network case” in Russia where anarchists were tortured and detained. According to the FSB, a chapter of the “Network” also operated in Belarus. The KGB hasn’t publicly reacted to this statement, however, we noticed increased efforts to recruit youth associated with the anarchist movement in different parts of Belarus.
At the beginning of February 2018, the KGB started investigating a regional educational organisation Critical Thinking. One of the volunteers was summoned to an informal chat via phone – previously he had been detained together with Russian anarchist Piotr Ryabov and sentenced to a fine for “public display of Nazi symbols” and the confiscation of his hard drive. At the same time, his mother was called for an informal conversation. Several friends of this volunteer were picked up by the police, questioned and later released. The police was interested in the activity of Critical Thinking, as well as attempted to force people to sign cooperation papers.
On February 8, the anti-extremist police in Mogilev visited parents of an activist. They were asking about their child’s activity, her political interests and so on. The flat was searched with a warrant issued under a criminal case initiated in 2017, when red paint was spilt on Lenin’s statue in the city. The raid happened in one more flat of parents of another activist. This activist was considered a witness on the same criminal case .
Anarchists Kirill A. and Igor M. were sentenced to 3 years of limitation of freedom for burning down a billboard with police advertisement. A third person in the case is still on the run.
In February, the police was also visiting activists who were detained during protests against the law on social parasites in 2017. Officers were coming to registration addresses and asking questions about the current activity of people. Some were informed that the examination was performed under a criminal case started on March 15, 2017 .
On February 23, two policemen from Brest kidnapped a punk in Stolin, brought him to the forest and started pressing him to give information on local anarchists. At some point, they asked him for his last wish and pointed a gun to his back. Moments later they were offering the person money for information on local anarchists.
On February 26, a raid happened in Minsk in the flat of a social activist. According to the police, they were searching for weapons, explosives and other interdicted materials. Nothing of that was found in the flat, however, cops confiscated a laptop, a phone, hard drives, newspapers and leaflets. Apart from that, cops seized his father’s knife. The activist pointed out that several weeks before the raid police had been calling and inviting him to come for a conversation – he declined the invitation. He connected the raid with an attempt of the police to punish him for that. The interest of the police can be connected with his active stance on the developments in Ukraine.
On March 12, Svyatoslav Baranovich  was sentenced to 3 years for attacking police officers during 15 March protest against the parasite law. Baranovich was helping anarchists to escape the detentions and in a scuffle punched one of plain-cloth cops.
On March 26, activist Ilya S. was fined 200 euros for ignoring calls to come to the KGB for an informal conversation.
From March, information started appearing about anarchists getting banned from entering Russia. Those bans are given to the people arriving to the country through formalised borders where after the passport control they are told about the ban. The logic behind these actions is unclear. Among other things, it can be connected with the collaboration with the Belarusian secret police or the “Network case”.
An antifascist Y. who was planning to go to Moscow for work was detained in spring. He was accused of publishing a Nazi propaganda video and charged with incitement of ethnic hatred. The video was shared on his private page and was actually accompanied with a comment ridiculing Nazis. His house was raided and he spent several days in custody. He is awaiting trial.
On April 19, anarchist Fyodor B. was detained by the anti-extremist police on charges of distribution of pornography. However, the cops were not interested in the video on his social networks, but rather in his activity in the anarchist movement, his contacts and private life. Currently he is under travel restrictions.
On May 3 in Stolin, three anarchists and anti-authoritarian activists were raided and questioned by police. Cops were interested in anarchists and punks – who is organizing concerts, how people from Minsk are coming to the events and so on.
On May 6, Aleksandr K. was visited by the police who questioned him about the action that had happened one day earlier in Brest, when the M1 motorway had been blocked shortly in a protest against the construction of a battery factory. He refused to give any official testimonies and only gave information on his alibi for that day.
In the early morning of May 16, the police broke into a flat of Ilya M. conducted an inspection of his place. They said that the raid was happening because of the blockade of M1 motorway. Computers, mobiles phones, flash drives and a photo camera were seized.
It is also known that police raided one flat in Baranovichi in connection with the same action. Apart from that, in Minsk anarchist Roman was raided as well.
Anarchist Vanya K. was raided on May 18 – cops were searching for extremist materials. Clothes with the inscriptions “Animal Liberation”, “Anti-Globalism Marvin School” and “Destroy Capitalism” were seized. Apart from that, they took hard drives, flash drives, phones and letters.
At the end of May in Brest, the police raided a flat of an activist because of some graffiti painted in another town. They checked his computer and clothes. They seized one book.
At the beginning of June, one of the antifascists fans of FC Viktoria was arrested. He is suspected of distribution of pornography on the internet. Similar cases against football fans were started in Gorodeya, Ivatsevichi, Gorki. There were several similar situations in Minsk. It seems to be a coordinated attack against active football fans.
On June 30, special task forces and anti-extremist police attacked an anarchists camp in the forest next to Krupki town. After shooting into the air all participants of the camp were forced to lay on the ground. Then activists one by one were forced on their knees to speak out their names on camera. All in all, the whole raid lasted more than 8 hours with activists spending most of the time laying on the wet ground under heavy rain. Police seized literature and called forest service. Two activists were charged with illegal removal of plants and distribution of extremist materials.
In July, at an anarchist conference “Pryamukhino Readings” in Russia police detained a Belarusian anarchist Artem M. He was charged with consumption of drugs (Artem refused to undergo a medical examination). He was also told to leave the territory of the Russian Federation within 5 days on the grounds that he “posed threat to national security”.
In July, anarchist Nikolay D. was detained next to his house. The same day the court ruled to fine him 100 euros for the propaganda of Nazi symbols. The case was connected with his anti-Nazi post on Facebook several years ago.
The same day the court sentenced Maria R. to a fine of 110 euros for a photo in a hat with “Class War” inscription that had been previously ruled to be extremist.
At the end of July, police started performing inspections of flats of those who had been detained in the forest previously. Relatives of some were questioned as well.
In August, the police came to Vanya K. to question him about the raid that happened earlier in May. The cops said that the charges were changed from distribution of extremist materials to a hate crime. Vanya refused to talk to the cops. The police told the parents of the activist that he might be connected with the anarchist group Wave Belarus and this was the main reason why repressions started.
On August 29, a presentation of the human rights initiative “Pravovoye Deystviye” that supports antifascists and anti-authoritarian activists was sabotaged – the owners of the place cancelled it at the last moment.
On August 30, the court ruled ACAB and СЛОН (Death to cops from knives) slogans on the clothes of football fan Aleksei S. to be extremist. Afterwards the police raided his flat claiming that they were searching for evidence of hate crimes.
At the beginning of September, in Grodno group of people saw a fire in the woods. They called a fire brigade but on the following day they were held for 8 hours in a police station where cops were trying to charge them with the fire as one of the people in the group was an eco-anarchist. In the evening, all the people were released.
On October 12, cops raided the flat of Aleksandr K. from Brest. He was accused of putting a leaflet on one of the houses in the city. During the raid, the cops were not interested in leaflets, instead they seized a laptop, phones and other devices.
At the same time, the police raided the house of Dmitry L. seizing the hard drive from his computer.
On October 14, both were questioned at the police station. After that they were hold till the end of “pigeons feeding” action (weekly protest in Brest against the construction of the battery factory).
On November 2, in Grodno a musician Ales D. was fined 250 euros for reposting information in social networks from an anarchist group that was ruled to be extremist.
Two weeks later antifascist Vladislav S. was fined 150 euros for a similar act. Back then, Vladislav was serving a sentence in an open penal facility (where he is allowed to leave prison for work). The administrative case might have been an attempt of the police to start a new criminal case against him for breach of conditions.
In the same city on November 20, Aleksandr G. was fined 300 euros for propaganda of Nazi symbols and the distribution of extremist materials.
And winter again
On December 2, six activists were detained for putting a funeral wreath to the statue of 19th century policeman.
In Brest, at the beginning of December antifascist Dmitry K. was sentenced to 2 years of freedom limitation (similar to a house arrest). He was accused of a fight in the bar, where a drunk man attacked Dmitry. Dmitry fought back, and 6 more people came to help the drunk. As a result, Dmitry and several other fighters suffered minor injuries. Both sides didn’t want to press charges, however, the police charged only Dmitry with the accident.
On December 11, an art-activist from a theatre laboratory Fortinbras was sentenced to 110-euro fine for an action “Deconstructing militia” that happened several days earlier. The action was held in support of the LGBT community.
Three days later Dmitry Poliyenko was fined with 400 euros for avoiding preventive conversations at the police station. One more court hearing was planned on December 19, however, activists didn’t go to it, so results of the hearing are still unknown.
On December 27, Nikolai D. was fined with 400 euros for the propaganda of Nazi ideology (another post in Facebook).
We are also aware of several more cases for shares on social networks. Apart from that we got information of multiple raids and informal talks with antifascists. Information on those cases is not public.
The good news
On April 25, antifascist Thomas K. who was previously serving a sentence for a fight, got an improvement of serving conditions and was transferred to serve the rest of the sentence at home.
On October 24, Dmitry Poliyenko was released having served 2 years in prison for an attack on a road policeman during Critical Mass. During his time behind the bars he experienced multiple problems in prison caused by the prison administration.
Anarchist list of extremist materials was extended by 2 brochures, 3 leaflets, 1 sticker. 5 internet websites were blacklisted, including the website of Anarchist Black Cross Belarus. “Class War”, “Terror machine”, “ACAB” and “СЛОН” also ended up in the list of extremist materials. From now on, distribution and storage of these materials can be prosecuted as an infringement.
At the same time, cops from anti-extremist police are actively creating fake pages in social networks, where they are publishing materials on anarchists, including pictures and private information they got during illegal raids. One of the pages is created in name of an anarchist who was a suspect in an attack on the KGB building in 2017. On this page, the police is publishing profiles of different anarchists and antifascists with the description of their lives, interests and some information that can be considered provocative inside of the anarchist movement. And, of course, links to extremist materials from this fake pages are not investigated.
1: Currently, the police is using this article to prosecute antifascists and anarchists for some pictures of Nazis or antifascist symbols that include swastika (like crossed or broken swastika).
2: This cooperation papers make you an official informant of the police or KGB. In 2015, a scandal broke out because it turned out that a number of the right-wing opposition youth signed these papers, including top activists.
3: The police usually performs raids at activists’ places who are listed as witnesses to charge them directly after the raid.
4: On that day, over 30 anarchists and their supporters were detained after protest against the parasite law. During detention the police used pepper spray in public transport to get activists out of the enclosed space. Later on the Ministry of Internal Affairs announced initiating criminal proceedings for an attack on the police with pepper spray.
6: Under Belarusian administrative law, the police can inspect living places of citizens without any criminal case if they have enough reasons to believe that there is something suspicious going on. This became one of the favourite tactics for raids in the country as it doesn’t involve fabricating a case for raids.