KGB attacks social networks in the run-up to elections

The first week of the election campaign in Belarus was marked by a coordinated attack on pro-opposition groups in social networks by the KGB.

On 30 August the content of some of the groups was deleted, their administrators detained.

Several administrators of pro-opposition groups in social networks were detained on 30 August in Minsk by plain-clothed men. Two moderators of the groups were sentenced to 5 and 7 days in custody, respectively. Others claim to have been beaten and interrogated, but released afterwards.

Arrested for moderating a free concert group

On 30 August Pavel Eutsikhiyeu was detained in Minsk. Two men in civilian clothes approached Pavel’s mother at work and, without showing their IDs, took her home claiming this had something to do with her son. Four more men, whom she took for the KGB agents as well, were waiting by the entrance to the apartment. In the apartment , they interrogated Pavel in the presence of his mother. The questions mainly concerned Pavel’s terms with Raman (probably Pratasevich) and his involvement in VKontakte social network community “Liapis Trubetskoy – free concert in Minsk”. They also demanded the password of the group. The only reply they received from Pavel was: “I do not know anyone or anything, and I will not testify against my friends”.

Then the Kastrychnicki department police took Pavel and seized his computer. After Pavel’s mother requested their IDs, she was shown an ID of Aliaksandr Makarau, an officer of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. No reports were drawn up. Afterwards Pavel was taken to the Kastrychnicki district court, stood trial on disorderly conduct charges and was sentenced to five days of arrest.

Raman Pratasevich was also detained on 30 August, but after a four-hour interrogation he was released, him being a minor. According to the activist, he was beaten, threatened to be accused of petty thievery, and demanded the password of his VKontakte account. The young man refused to tell his password.

Offered mouse poison and taken to the KGB for interrogation

The same day, on 30 August, Aleh Shramuk, moderator of the Internet group “We’re fed up with Lukashenka”, was arrested in Vitebsk.

Some woman rang the doorbell of his apartment claiming to be a mouse poison seller. Shramuk said he didn’t need any mouse poison, but the woman rang again. When Aleh opened the door, police officers broke into the apartment. Without any explanation they detained Aleh, introducing themselves as officers of Kastrychnicki police department. Alesia Shramuk was also interrogated. 

Dzianis Dashkevich, a friend of the detained, who went searching for him, was told at Kastrychnicki police department that Aleh was not there. When Dzianis insisted on more information about his friend, he was interviewed and fingerprinted, and then informed that Shramuk had been brought to the Inspectorate of Corrections and then released after interrogation at 2:30 p.m.

However, Shramuk did not pick up the phone long after his supposed release. On the other hand, his VKontakte page indicated that he was online. His family members were going to report him missing, but at midnight he contacted them. Aleh said that for all of this time he had been interrogated by the KGB. As a result, the group “We’re fed up with Lukashenka” was deleted.

Human rights activist on social networks attack: “The authorities allergic to these initiatives”

Commenting on detention of the VKontakte groups administrators, deputy chairman of Human Rights Center “Viasna” Valiantsin Stefanovich stated that he had strong doubts that these actions of law-enforcement agencies were legal:

‘No information contained there was forbidden by the law or Constitution. The persons expressed their opinions, including that on the current head of state and the government. They had every right to do so. Secondly, the legal character of the detentions it is still unknown. That is, why are they being detained? I fear these are illegal preventive arbitrary detentions. I think they are linked to calls for the election boycott. We can see the authorities being allergic to these initiatives. However, calls for boycotting the election are not prohibited by the current legislation. Still, we can see these absolutely disproportionate measures by the authorities. The recent KGB’s special operation against social networks can be linked to boycott, too’.

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