Letters from Lukashenka’s Prisoners: Ihnat Sidorchyk
Ihnat Sidorchyk is a film director, actor and poet. He was detained on 10 August 2020 and initially charged with “organisation of mass riots” for having called on friends to meet in central Minsk on 9 August (the day of the presidential election) via a Telegram chat. In February 2021, Ihnat was sentenced to three years of restricted freedom in an open penitentiary (so-called “khimiya”), finding him guilty of “group actions that grossly violate public order”. Ihnat was released to await an appeal hearing, but he was re-arrested in June 2021 to begin serving his sentence.
Letters from Lukashenka’s Prisoners: Danila Hancharou
Danila Hancharou is a lighting designer who had previously been employed at the New Drama Theater in Minsk. On 15 March, his apartment was searched, and he was detained for having held a one-person picket. Having been sentenced to 15 days in prison, he was due to be released on 30 March. But on 26 March, he was taken for interrogation and charged with the “organisation and preparation of actions that grossly violate public order.” He was subsequently transferred to a pre-trial detention centre. On 9 July 2021, he was put on trial and sentenced to two years in prison. He remains imprisoned in “correctional facility” #17 (IK-17) in Shklow in the Mogliev region of Belarus.
Letters from Lukashenka’s Prisoners: Ksenia Syramalot
Ksenia Syramalot is a 21-year-old student at the Faculty of Philosophy and Social Sciences of the Belarusian State University. She was the spokesperson for the Belarusian Students’ Association and a volunteer at the Human Rights Center “Viasna”. On 23 November 2020, she was detained for “organising or participating in group actions that gravely breach public order” under Art. 342 part 1 of the Criminal Code. Her apartment was searched, and she was held in the KGB pre-trial prison. On 16 July 2021, she was sentenced to two years and six months in prison in a case known as “the student case”, which involved 12 defendants.
Letters from Lukashenka’s Prisoners: Elena Talkacheva
Elena Talkacheva is a journalist and was a business reporter for the independent news website, Tut.by. She was detained alongside 14 of her colleagues on 18 May 2021 in the framework of a criminal case initiated against Tut.by for tax evasion.
Letters from Lukashenka’s Prisoners: Levon Khalatrian
Levon Khalatrian worked as a bar manager and was a volunteer with [opposition politician] Viktar Babaryka’s campaign in the lead-up to the presidential election on 9 August 2020. He was detained two days after the election, on 11 August 2020, and was reported to have been badly beaten at the time. He remained in pre-trial detention for 6 months.
Letters from Lukashenka’s Prisoners: Marfa Rabkova
Marfa Rabkova is a human rights defender and a coordination of the volunteer service at the Human Rights Centre Viasna. She took part in the campaign “Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections”, which saw over 1,500 observers register for election monitoring during the 2020 presidential election. Rabkova was detained on 17 September 2020.
Letters from Lukashenka’s Prisoners: Maxim Znak
Maxim Znak is a lawyer who has been in detention since 18 September 2020. Shortly after his detention, he told his lawyer: “Normal life of society is impossible without law, just as human life is impossible without food”.
Letters from Lukashenka’s Prisoners: Aliaksandr Vasilevich
Aliaksandr Vasilevich is a businessman, owner of the Vondel/Hepta advertising agency and the “Ў” Gallery, which was formerly one of the main cultural centres in Belarus. He is also the co-founder of the online media Kyky.org and TheVillage Belarus. He was detained on 28 August 2020 by representatives of the Financial Investigation Department of the State Control Committee.
Letters from Lukashenka’s Prisoners: Maryia Kalesnikava
In September 2020, the prominent Belarusian opposition figure Maryia Kalesnikava was abducted from Minsk and taken to the border where security forces tried to expel her from the country; she ripped up her passport in defiance. In the days that followed she was charged with incitement to undermine national security and placed in pre-trial detention. The letter that follows was written by Maryia Kalesnikava to her father on 16 July 2021, the day the Supreme Court rejected her complaint regarding the extension of her detention until 1 August.