Aleksandr Bravko var forberedt på å bli banket opp, men han forventet ikke at det skulle bli så rått.

– Jeg ville ta noens plass

Ingeniøren Aleksander Bravko deltok i demonstrasjonen etter valget i Hviterussland for å vise sympati med den oppvoksende generasjonen og for å skjerme dem fra det han visste kom til å komme.

Aleksandr Bravko er en 50 år gammel ingeniør fra Minsk i Hviterussland. Han gikk ut for å delta på den fredelige demonstrasjonen på Pushkinskaya stasjon etter valget i Hviterussland 9. august 2020. Han var forberedt på å bli banket opp, men han forventet ikke at det skulle bli så rått. Han ble blant annet nesten kvalt av et hviterussisk flagg som politiet stappet ned i halsen hans. Etter at alt dette skjedde, er han ikke lenger redd.

Aleksandr Bravko ofret seg selv. Foto: August2020

Norpublica har fått lov til å publisere noen av øyevitneskildringene som er samlet inn av et hviterussisk team av journalister og frivillige. I samarbeid med hviterussiske og internasjonale menneskerettsadvokater, og med tillatelse fra ofrene, har gruppen samlet og publisert bevis på tortur og umenneskelig behandling etter presidentvalget i Hviterussland i August 2020.
For flere historier, se August 2020

Les også Ukas tall: I fengsel for å gjera jobben sin

Og journalisten Kiras historie: – Jeg vil ikke skjule arret

Minsk november 2020

When I learned the election returns – heard the figure of 80% – something seemed to explode in my head. Indeed, I had seen how many people came to the election with ribbons, and all those lines to the ballot boxes! Everyone was hopeful. And then this insolent slap in the face. I met my daughter, who wanted very much to go to that peaceful protest. But she is so fragile, weighing just 49 kilos, an IT specialist, a smart girl. So, I told her: “I will go now, and your mom will, and you please keep in the rear echelon”.

After I had heard about the rough detentions of cyclists in Minsk, and how boys and girls had got their arms twisted, I thought long about what I could do. I stuffed cigarettes, bandages, gauze, and iodine into my backpack and put on shoes without laces: I was heading for a police van. My decision was to take someone’s place, some girl like my daughter. Indeed, it was actually the revolution of the young, who did not know any other president, and they deserve to live differently.  

I got prepared, well, as much as you can get prepared for a beating. I am a tough guy, I have lived long and seen a lot. I understood I would be beaten up but didn’t expect them to be so ruthless.  


So, I went: I had a white band tied around my one arm (I had voted for Tikhanovskaya) and a flag in my other hand. That flag had a history: way back in 1993 it flew over the building of the local executive committee in the town of Vietka. After Voldemort had come to power, they took down the flag and gave it to a musical school for rags, but the school headmaster washed it and gifted it to me. The flag had been with me ever since, going to rock festivals and uniting Belarusians. I would have been sorry to see it taken away from me, but had it stayed back home, its history would have been over. Carrying my flag along, near the Kommunarka confectionery I joined a column marching from Serebryanka along Partizansky Avenue. Cars rolled by, all honking and waving bands. All of a sudden, I heard people on a slope shouting: “Run up here!”

A minivan without number plates sped out from under an overpass, and men in black shot out of it. I was not going to run or put up resistance because I had a purpose. I was hauled into the minivan. A man in a black balaclava, who looked 20-25, pulled the flag over my head and kept shouting nasty words and asking, “So where is your Tikhanovskaya? How much have you been paid? Where do you live, in the Republic of Belarus?”
“And where do you live?” I retorted.
He started hitting me on the head: “Now I’ll have you eat up this flag!” And he began shoving the flag into my mouth. I clenched my teeth and kept silent. I saw his frenzied eyes and understood that there was no point in talking.

There were other people lying under me, with me atop, and the lad lying under me covertly squeezed my hand. All the while we were driving to the police van that man in black tried to push the flag into my mouth and hit me on the head with his fists: my nose was smashed and I had black eyes.

When we were unloaded from the minivan, he said “That’s their leader”. He tore the flag out of my hands and tried to strangle me with it right by the police van. I just managed to put up a fist to my throat to keep my Adam’s apple free. He was enraged, tried to pull my hand away and kept choking me. What saved me was that they got orders over the radio to hurry up for more detentions. They were working nonstop at the time. He half-tore my flag and let me go.

The detainees, about 25 all in all, were thrown into the police van. I put my torn flag into a pocket. Drivers kept honking on the street, blocked the way, and the van kept swerving. We inside were thrown about from side to side. Water drizzled from above when the air conditioner started working. When the van stopped, the conditioner switched off, and there wasn’t enough air to breathe. There were six of us in one cubicle, but that was still paradise. When we were later taken on to Zhodino, ten people were packed into a cubicle with barely enough room for five. We did our best to fit in: I sat down on the floor, with another guy on my lap and still another on his.


We came to a relatively new building, trams were heard rumbling by, and I understood that it was the central district police station. A “death corridor” formed next to the van: one policeman threw us, one by one, out of our cubicles, and the other lined up five or six on each side and beat us up while we ran along. It was important not to fall, otherwise one was in for kicking about. After they had stopped strangling me, clubbing was next to nothing. Simply, when a blow comes your way, you have to relax, then the blow spreads throughout your body. And I’m used to bearing pain.


There already were people along all the walls in the police station. They kept moving us about to make room for everyone. Then we were laid face down into the asphalt with our hands locked on the back of the head. It was terribly uncomfortable, but we got kicked for any turn of the head. They would also beat us up for shivering with cold. And they kept provoking us. There was a lad lying next to me, he had his spectacles smashed. They would come up to him and ask “sympathetically”:
– What, the cops smashed your spectacles?
– Yes
– A-ha, cops? Take that!

Yelling and screaming never ended as people were being beaten up left and right: those who protested, who moaned and who wept.  A 16-year-old boy was being beaten up next to me. He was lying on the floor, huddled up in a ball, and they would run up to him and kick him in the belly.
He screamed and wept.
– Why are you weeping?
– I’m afraid
-Weren’t you afraid out in the square?


People in black cursed at the top of their voices. But there was one guard standing above me who, although looking like another “cosmonaut”, kept saying: “Gentlemen, keep your heads straight not to get hurt”. He didn’t beat up anyone, and when those beasts in black went away (they were like gods ruling everyone, as if given a carte blanche), he allowed us to relax a bit and put down our hands, which grew quite numb. We were not allowed to go to the WC, saying, pee into your pants. Many did. I lay like that from 9 p.m. to 11 a.m. I began to shake all over. The guard asked:
– Why are you shaking?
– I have osteochondrosis. My back is giving in
– Wanna go to the WC?
– I do
– Then go, but slowly
He led me along the corridor, and I saw that boy. His left leg was blue, and the right one was twisted unnaturally, broken. He also needed to go to the WC.
I asked the guard: “Let me carry him to the WC”.
I picked up the boy and hauled him along, and the guard waited for us patiently.
As I carried the boy, there was a woman of about 60, in workwear and with a mop, standing in the corridor and spitefully looking at us as if we were inhumans: “I’m not going to wash up after these protesters!”
I felt very hurt. 

The boy could neither lie nor stand, but only sit. He felt bad, yet he remained with us till 11 a.m., and then we carried him into a police van; they never called emergency aid for him.

It was getting dark, and they kept bringing more and more people. There came out a man, must have been some boss, complained that he could not see well enough in the dark, and found a “solution”: “I will hit you, and you call out your names”. So, he would rush to you and hit you in the belly, and you had promptly to sputter out your name.

Then they took me into the police station, made a list of my belongings and took my picture. There were heaps of smashed cellphones on desks in a large hall. I was lucky to have switched off my phone and shoved it into my backpack.
The photographer asked: “Tell me honestly, do you do it for the idea, money or simply because you are dumb?”
He could not understand why no one confessed how much he had been paid. All the officers kept asking one question: “How much have you been paid?”
Indeed, they had all been told that someone was paying us for something. And I thought, are you all so brainwashed as to believe that?


I managed have a drink of water in the WC, but not everyone was as lucky as I. But even criminals get a better treatment. They were just breaking people psychologically, those young ones, and beat up like hell those who screamed in pain. For some reason they were harder on stout people. They would beat up those they didn’t like or those who drew attention to themselves. Next to me there stood an engineer aged about 28, and he kept asking in a quiet voice: “But why are you beating me? Could you explain what for?” They called him “the star of the season”, and everyone had a go, just rushing and beating him up.

There were about a hundred people lying in the backyard. There was not enough room. From time to time we were put up with our faces to the wall and our legs shoulder-width apart. I would start drifting into sleep with fatigue and stress, but then my legs would buckle, and I would wake up with a jerk. The policemen joked: “Learn from him to sleep standing”.

In the morning we heard the engine of a MAZ truck: a prison van drove up. The guards were surprised:
“What, we’ve got just one van?”
But the most zealous one retorted: “Give me a sec, I’ll pack them all into one van”.
And they started squeezing us in like sardines into a can, 36-38 men plus the lad with a broken leg in the corridor into a van for 15.

We quickly ran out of air. It was very hard to go an hour and a half to Zhodino, but we kept cheering up one another.
When I was searched in prison, a sergeant found the flag in my pocket and asked what to do with that rag.
“It’s a flag, not a rag, put it with my things, I’ll mend it back home”.
The sergeant laughed out: “And then come back to us here”.
But the lieutenant standing next to us told him: “Shut up. It’s his right”.


Zhodino, too, had a “corridor”, but no longer that of death. They had ordinary guards there. They prodded us with their batons but were not brutal.
The cell was opened, and from there it came:
– Officer, we are full

– Wrong guess! – says he.
There were nine people inside, all professional lads, IT specialists, and ten more people were crammed in and another ten an hour later. As a result, there were 29 people for 10 bunks. We slept on the floor, on the table and benches, alternating and yielding to one another. There was a team spirit and good atmosphere. We thought up games and told jokes. But then we lost track of time. We lacked information about what was going on outside. Total lack of knowledge.

The prison guards treated us okay. Nobody was beaten up. When we asked for something, they said “okay” and brought nothing, except for one occasion when it was a matter of life or death.

A lad with an artificial kidney had to take medicines every day. We continually checked his pulse in the cell. He was all blue from heavy thrashing, yet he held on and didn’t want to show his bruises in order not to terrify others.

For three days we kept banging on the door for guards to bring his medicine from his backpack. It was not until we had filed a complaint with the prison warden that his backpack was brought after all. Then finally a doctor came and must have sent the guy to the hospital there and then.

Those not charged with anything were supposed to be set free within 72 hours. Some started to be released. I suggested that those who were the first to be set free hide notes with our names and phone numbers in their clothes. We jotted down four notes in the hope that at least one of them would reach those for whom they were intended.

I was taken to court and charged with having taken part in an unauthorized rally.
The judge asked me:
– What were you doing there?
– Heading for a police van
– What for?”
– You see, I have a daughter. There was a time when my generation failed, and now we are responsible for that. I went to take somebody’s place
– What for?
– I can’t explain if you don’t see it
– If you headed for a police van, this means you were taking part in the rally. Seven days in prison

I served five. In the evening I was suddenly yanked out of the cell and made to sign a paper saying that I’d face criminal charges if caught again.

We were set free in groups of six people. Two lads walked right in their socks: their shoes had been lost upon detention.
I went out and saw so many people: volunteers, psychologists, doctors, drivers, friends, and relations. They dressed and bandaged our wounds and gave us sandwiches and hot tea. We couldn’t have even imagined that the ice had been broken to such an extent!

I switched my phone on to make a call, and suddenly messages came rolling out – over 200 of them: “Уou are a hero, we are proud of you”. It turned out that my daughter had written a post about me on the social networks.

I simply did what I should have done earlier. And now our children are answering for what we have overlooked or failed to do in our time. These lads, our kids are now paying the price for our silence.

The most terrible moment for me was when that 16-year-old lad was being kicked in the stomach at the police station, he was screaming and writhing. I was lying on the pavement, choking with fury, impotent rage. After all, I had gone out so that lads like him should not find themselves in such places, so that with my 66-kilo body I take somebody’s place, and now I saw a kid being beaten black and blue next to me.


And then somebody says to me that it was a fake and that girls just painted their buttocks blue… But I saw it all and want everybody to know about it. How brutal it was.
One just cannot bury one’s head in the sand and say: “Well, what can I do?”
What has changed in me after all that?
We have always been scared. I had been afraid before being detained. And then I realized that I could cope with my fear.
Besides, as the song has it: “We haven’t known one another before this summer”. Many came to know their neighbours and saw themselves as people, as a nation – and this in itself is already a victory.

P.S. Alexander has filed a complaint with the Investigative Committee and is waiting for an answer


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