Ukrainian human rights activists detained in Minsk

Ukrainian human rights activists Yevhen Vasiliev (left) and Kostyantyn Reutskyi (right) were detained in Minsk while filming the situation on the streets. Photo: Kostyantyn Reutskyi Facebook page. 

International

Article by: Olena Makarenko
Two Ukrainian human rights activists were detained on 12 August in Minsk, Belarus while filming the government crackdown on protests that engulfed the country following a rigged election giving dictator Lukashenka an implausible victory. Ukrainian human rights organization released an open statement calling on the Belarus government to release the Ukrainians immediately.

The detainees Kostyantyn Reutskyi and Yevhen Vasiliev represent the human rights organization Vostok-SOS. Reutskyi is an executive director and Vasiliev is a member of the board and coordinator of monitoring and registering of human rights violations.

Vostok-SOS is an NGO aiming to help people from Donbas. It was founded in 2014 mostly by IDPs following the Russian aggression in Crimea and Donbas and was among the first volunteer initiatives helping the victims of the aggression. Until nowadays it provides legal, psychological, and other support to IDPs, those who live on the frontline and not far from it, and people who suffer from the consequences of the war. As well, Vostok-SOS participates in developing civil society in Donbas, register’s human rights violations related to the conflict, and advocates for defending the rights of those affected by the war.

In Minsk, Reutskyi and Vasiliev were registering the situation on the streets with their mobile phones.

In this video there is a fragment where we can see them. They were among those witnessing how a man was detained on the street.

In this tweet from Hromadske we see how Vasiliiev was detained.

Here are the posts from Minsk Reutskyi published before the detention.

In this video, a woman shames the law enforcers in the car and demands they leave.

And these are the pictures from the 12 August morning in Minsk when some 250 women formed a chain near Kamaroŭski marketplace to protest against police brutality and to show solidarity with victims.

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On the evening of 12 August, Ukrainian human rights activist Maksym Butkevych posted on Facebook that, according to his Belarusian colleagues, a criminal case has been opened against Vasiliev and Reutskyi. They are incriminated with violating Article 293 p.2 of the Criminal Code of Belarus – “Mass disorders,” punishable by three to eight years in prison.

“I have little doubts that the paranoid searches of the Belarusian dictatorship of ‘who to appoint as responsible for organizing the protests’ will now include attempts to find a ‘Ukrainian trace’ – or even focus on this version. It seems that Yevheniy and Konstantyn will be molded into some important ‘behind-the-scenes’ agents. And this is a very bad scenario,” Butkevych wrote.

Oleksandra Dvoretska, a board member at Vostok SOS, informed that Belarusian police searched the apartment in Minsk where Vasiliev and Reutskyi stopped., belonging to human rights activist Tetiana Raviaka, during which the computers of Raviaka and Reutskiy, as well as Vasiliev’s passport, were confiscated.

Dvoretska wrote that the whereabouts of the Ukrainians are unknown and that sometimes it takes 1-2 days to figure out where someone has been detained, especially if there are 6000 of them as there are now.

In a comment to RFE/RL, Raviaka told:

“They are my friends, we studied at human rights courses together. They arrived in Belarus only today, had some coffee, went for a walk, and were detained. They could not and did not take part in any riots… They came to us at a difficult time to support us, because that’s what human rights activists do. We also visited Ukraine and other countries at a similar time,” Raviaka says.

The mission of the two Ukrainians was to help their Belarusian colleagues, who have a lot of work to do in connection with the arrests of citizens during the mass protests over the August 9 presidential election.

The Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs informed that the Ukrainian Embassy in Belarus takes all the measures to identify the place and conditions of the detention.

The protests in dozens of cities of Belarus are ongoing for the fourth day following the falsified presidential elections. Law enforcers act aggressively even to people who just walk by on the streets. According to official information, since 9 August about 6,000 were detained. Belarusian human rights activists claim the official numbers are understated.

Edited by: Alya Shandra

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