Belarus Authorities Arrest Protesters, Crack Down on Opposition Leaders
In case of extradition to Belarus, a member of the strike committee; Belaruskali may be imprisoned for 6 years
Andrei Prilutsky, a member of the strike committee of OJSC “Belaruskali”, was arrested in St. Petersburg. The reason was the extradition request of the regime of Alyaksandr Lukashenka. Prilutsky is charged with Article 364 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus – “violence against police officers”. If extradited to Belarus, he could face up to 6 years in prison.
In the evening of August 9, Andrei Prilutsky was near a cafe when he saw that a group of people in balaclavas and without any insignia were beating an elderly man with truncheons. He ran up to this group and shielded the unknown. The attackers rushed at him, knocked him to the ground and began to beat him. A scuffle ensued, as a result of which Prilutsky ended up in a pre-trial detention center in the city of Soligorsk, Minsk region, where he spent a week. He was then sentenced to 15 days of administrative arrest and released after 7 days. In the local pre-trial detention center, he witnessed the brutal treatment of the detainees by the Belarusian security forces. Moreover, according to Prilutsky, before his release, he was escorted to the office of one of the police officials, who said “something like an apology.”.
Prior to this incident, Andrei Prilutsky, an electrical fitter at the elevation section of the 1st mining department of Belaruskali, was an apolitical person. However, after leaving the pre-trial detention center, he began to assess what was happening in the country differently. Prilutsky joined the strike committee of his enterprise and became an opposition activist. In November 2020, the Belarusian police again became interested in him in order to prosecute him, and the police officers who detained him in August changed their testimony, stating that he was a participant in the rally, which actually began 2 hours after his arrest. After several interrogations, Prilutsky came to Russia hoping to find work here and subsequently receive political asylum. He shuttled between St. Petersburg and Kaliningrad, was going to fly to Moscow, but on December 29 he was detained at the Pulkovo airport. Currently, Andrei Prilutsky is in the St. Petersburg remand prison No. 1, where he will stay until February 6.
“In parallel, there will be an extradition check and consideration of the application for political asylum”
Lawyer Andrey Fedorkov, representing the interests of Andrei Prilutsky, in an interview with the correspondent of the Russian service of the Voice of America, said that his client learned that he had been changed in absentia from the preventive measure to detention and that he was on the international wanted list from the St. Petersburg police.
“There is the Minsk Convention, which regulates the procedure for mutual assistance in criminal cases between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus. And in accordance with this convention, the Belarusian authorities sent documents for the extradition of Andrei Prilutsky to bring him to criminal responsibility on the territory of the Republic of Belarus. And as part of this procedure, the St. Petersburg public prosecutor’s office in transport went to the Moskovskiy District Court with a request to take him into custody, “the lawyer explained..
After his arrest, Andrei Prilutsky made a statement that he feared for his life and health on the territory of Belarus and that his criminal prosecution was motivated by political motives and connected with his social activities. And he added that he would ask for political asylum in Russia and object to his extradition to Belarus. The official request for asylum will be submitted after the end of the New Year and Christmas holidays in Russia. “That is, two processes will take place in parallel: an extradition check carried out by the General Prosecutor’s Office of Russia, and the Federal Migration Service will consider an application for granting Andrei Prilutsky asylum on the territory of Russia. And in this case, this is the only way to avoid his extradition to Belarus, ”Andrei Fedorkov comments on the current situation..
And he continues: “Based on the available documents and from the video footage of the detention of Andrei Viktorovich Prilutsky in Soligorsk, his words are confirmed that on August 9 he did not participate in any rally, for which he was initially brought to administrative responsibility. Secondly, indeed, violence against civilians that day was used by people without identification marks. And in such conditions, it is not possible to say that a person “used violence against a law enforcement officer”. Since the employee must have the appropriate insignia, he must introduce himself that the detainee understood who he was dealing with. In this case, people were snatched out of the crowd and beaten by someone who is not clear. “.
“We have the same” dad “sitting in the Kremlin for more than 20 years”
The correspondent of the Russian service of the Voice of America asked the chairman of the Boris Nemtsov Foundation for Freedom to assess what happened to the Belarusian oppositionist Vladimir Kara-Murzu Jr..
“The whole world saw last year what was happening in Belarus, when the presidential elections were obviously stolen,” the Russian oppositionist began. – Alexander Lukashenko, who, probably, the whole country calls “Sasha – 3%”, simply took and “drew” 80% for himself. And not just the opposition, as it happened before, but people who had never been interested in politics before, began to take to the streets of Belarusian cities. Moreover, not only in Minsk, but also in Grodno, Brest, Vitebsk, Gomel and many other cities. There was a stereotype that Belarusians are the most peaceful and calm citizens in Europe, but it turned out that even they can be “gotten” in 26 years of dictatorship ”.
The fact that Lukashenka is often called “the last dictator of Europe”, according to Kara-Murza, is a big mistake: “In fact, Lukashenka is the penultimate dictator of Europe, and the last is Vladimir Putin. The irony of the situation is that they don’t like each other very much, but their regimes are very interdependent. And the last two dictatorships of Europe hold on to each other and support each other in every possible way, ”explains the interlocutor of the Voice of America.
Therefore, according to the chairman of the Boris Nemtsov Foundation for Freedom, there is nothing surprising in the way the Russian authorities behave towards Belarusian activists who are asking for political asylum. “Recently, Ukraine made a decision that Belarusian citizens will be allowed to stay in the country not 180 days, as before, but 365 days. The Baltic states are actively helping Belarusian activists seeking political asylum.
As far as I know, Andrei Prilutsky just came to Russia to ask for political asylum here. And we see how the position of the Kremlin and the rest of Europe contrasts with the dictatorship of Lukashenka, the same contrast is manifested in the attitude of people who seek protection and support. The position of the Putin regime in support of Lukashenka is absolutely shameful for our country, but, unfortunately, there is nothing to be surprised at: we have the same “dad” in the Kremlin for more than 20 years. And he pursues exactly the same policy that we see in Belarus with regard to elections and attitudes towards political prisoners. By the way, according to Memorial’s lists, there are more than 300 of them in Russia, and this figure exceeds the late Soviet era. During the Vienna meeting of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Soviet government acknowledged the existence of about 200 political prisoners in the USSR. This, of course, was an underestimated figure, but it is still underestimated “, – Vladimir Kara-Murza Jr. is convinced.
And he sums it up: “In general, I am a historical optimist. If we look at Europe 30 years ago – and by historical standards, it was just yesterday – then half of the European countries lived under dictatorial regimes. And now in Europe there are only two dictatorships – Putin’s Russia and Lukashenko’s Belarus. But it seems to me that in the 21st century, even two dictatorships in Europe are too many. And I have no doubt that the day will come when not a single dictatorship will remain in Europe. “.