There are 26 men of letters in captivity; in total, there are 120 cultural figures in captivity.
Criminal proceedings have been initiated against a documentary filmmaker Larysa Shchyrakova (her 16-year-old son Sviataslau has been placed in an asylum) and an Orthodox priest Uladzislau Bahamolnikau. A new criminal case has been opened against a local historian Uladzimir Hundar, who has already been sentenced to 18 years of imprisonment. In Hrodna a DJ and singer Kiryl Zhaludok has been sentenced to 1 year of imprisonment.
The practice of blacklisting for political reasons received official confirmation: on December 7, Government Resolution No. 839 determined that starting in 2023, those who have been tried in criminal and administrative cases for participating in protests will not be able to work as tour guides.
The policy of de-Belarusization persists: on December 8, the head of the administration of the president, Ihar Siarheyenka, stated that they will consider transliterating geographical names using the Russian language in Belarus.
I. Criminal politically motivated cases against cultural figures, authors and performers
- On December 6, in Homel, police detained Larysa Shchyrakova. Her 16-year-old son Sviataslau was placed in a shelter – “Social and Pedagogical Center” in Homel district. A criminal case has been initiated against Larysa Shchyrakova under Art. 369-1 of the Criminal Code (“discrediting the Republic of Belarus”). Larysa Shchyrakova is a documentary director, popularizer of history and ethnography, performer of folk songs, reconstructor of folk rites, coordinator of a project honoring the memory of the repressed “Killed and Forgotten”, performer of the role of a repressed and shot Belarusian political activist Paluta Badunova in the film “Paluta Badunova: To Remember and Not To Forget”, directed by Valer Mazinski. Lately, Larysa Shchyrakova has been engaged in ethno-photosets. Now Larysa Shchyrakova is being held in pre-trial detention center No. 3 on Knizhnaya Street in Homel.
- On December 6, the Homel Regional Court handed down a verdict in the criminal case against an English teacher from Khoyniki Iryna Abdukeryna. The sentence is 4 years of imprisonment in a general regime colony and a fine of 100 basic units (3200 rubles). Iryna Abdukeryna was detained on the morning of April 5, 2022. The reason for the detention was allegedly that Iryna Abdukeryna had recorded the movement of a column of Russian military vehicles on her phone and forwarded the recording to the “Belarusian Hayun” telegram channel. Iryna Abdukeryna was charged according to the following articles of the Criminal Code: Part 1, Art. 130 (inciting enmity), 361-1 (participation in extremist formation), 361-2 (financing extremist activities), 369-1 (discrediting Belarus).
- On December 8, in the court of Lenininski district of Hrodna, a DJ and singer Kiryl Zhaludok was convicted for 1 year of imprisonment in a colony under general regime according to Part 1 of Art. 368 (insulting the president) of the Criminal Code. Kiryl Zhaludok was detained on August 8, 2022, and was held in pre-trial detention center No. 1 in Hrodna.
- On December 9, they initiated a criminal case against a priest Uladzislau Bahamolnikau under Art. 342 of the Criminal Court (organization and preparation of actions that grossly violate public order, or active participation in them). Police detained Uladzislau Bahamolnikau on August 31, 2022, breaking down the door of his apartment. Uladzislau Bahamolnikau was sentenced seven times to administrative arrest, without leaving the bars, since August 31. He spent 100 days in the detention center in Akrestsina. Father Uladzislau Bahamolnikau had served the funeral for the artist Raman Bandarenka, who had been killed during the post-election protests in 2020, and announced a hunger strike in support of the political prisoner Ihar Losik. Uladzislau Bahamolnikau is a cleric of the Church of the Epiphany in Minsk, the head of the church-historical museum of the Belarusian Orthodox Church, philosophy teacher at the seminary, and son of a famous Belarusian archaeologist Uladzimir Bahamolnikau.
- On December 15, it became known that a criminal case had been initiated against a local historian from Baranavichy Uladzimir Hundar for insulting the prosecutor, under Art. 369 of the Criminal Code. Uladzimir Hundar had already been sentenced to 18 years of deprivation of liberty in a high-security colony.
II. Politically motivated administrative detentions and arrests of cultural figures, authors and performers
- On December 2, in Miory, police detained Vitold Yermalionak, the head of the museum association “Heritage of Miory Land”, history teacher of the highest qualification category, author of more than 450 publications, laureate of the award “For Spiritual Revival”, “Man of the Year of Vitsiebsk region” – 2010. Vitold Yermalionak was detained together with his son Anton. Vitold YermalIonak works in the same school where political prisoner teacher Ema Stsiepulionak worked.
- On December 9, in Homel, Illia Mironau, an activist and organizer of concerts, was sentenced to 12 days of administrative arrest.
- On December 10, it became known that in Braslau, police detained a drummer of the Braslau band “Labukhi” Siarhei Sadouski, the organizer of concerts and the festival “Living Sky of Braslau”, which has been taking place since 2013.
- On December 13, the members of the musical group TOR BAND Dzmitry Halavach and Yauhien Burlo were not released, they were sentenced to arrest for 15 days for the third time in a row. TOR BAND musicians were detained on October 28 together with their wives. The wife of Dzmitry Halavach was sentenced to a fine, the wife of Yauhien Burlo was sentenced to an administrative arrest.
- On December 14, in Minsk, police detained Vital Mahuchau, history teacher at the Minsk State College of Architecture and Construction, just as he was getting out of the college.
III. Conditions in places of imprisonment
On December 2, it became known that a lawyer and poet Maxim Znak had been placed in a cell-type facility, where prisoners have the right to shop for only 32 rubles a month, receive one package for six months and go for a walk for 30 minutes. On September 6, 2021, Maksim Znak was sentenced to 10 years of imprisonment in a high security colony under three articles of the Criminal Code: Part 3 of Art. 361 (calls for action against national security), Part 1, Art. 357 of the Criminal Code (conspiracy to seize state power by unconstitutional means). 361-1 (creation of an extremist formation and its leadership). On March 23, 2022, the political prisoner was added to the “List of persons involved in extremist activities”. On May 24, 2022, the KGB added Maxim to the list of persons “involved in terrorist activities.” Behind the bars, Maxim Znak wrote a book consisting of 100 short stories called “Zekameron”.
IV. Dismissals from state institutions of culture for civil position
- On December 8, Iryna Monich, the mother of art critic Mikita Monich, was fired from the National Art Museum – her employment contract was not renewed. Mikita Monich wrote on social networks: “There were no violations of labor discipline on her part, and there were no complaints about the performance of work duties on the part of her immediate superior. Moreover, the management of this boss did not even inform him that he would lose the employee. So mom is looking for a job.” Mikita Monich was fired from the museum in July 2020, for a poem that he published on social networks based on the “Belgazprombank case” and the arrest of Viktar Babaryka.
- In Biaroza, a teacher of the highest category, Mikalai Zhukevich, the author of textbooks on Belarusian literature for primary and secondary classes, was fired.
On December 7, Government Resolution No. 839 determined that starting in 2023, it will not be allowed to work as tour guides for those who have been tried for participation in protests under the following articles of the Criminal Code: art. 130 of the Criminal Code (inciting enmity), Art. 342 of the Criminal Code (active participation in actions that grossly violate public order), Art. 367 of the Criminal Code (defamation of the president), Art. 368 of the Criminal Code (insulting the president); art. 369 (insulting a representative of the authorities); art. 370 of the Criminal Code (mockery of state symbols) and other articles. The ban on the profession will also apply to tour guides who have administrative convictions according to Art. 19.11 of the Administrative Code (distribution of extremist materials), 24.23 of the Administrative Code (unauthorized picketing), art. 24.22 of the Administrative Code (distribution by means of mass media of deliberately false information that undermines the honor and dignity of the president).
On December 8, the head of the president’s administration, Ihar Siarheyenka, spoke before the Republican Council on Historical Policy in the administration and stated that in Belarus they will consider transliterating geographical names through the Russian language: “The issue of transliteration of geographical names of streets and settlements using the Russian language will be considered. Citizens’ appeals are now being received on this issue, and we have decided to consider it and clarify how to further use the Russian language in the names of streets, settlements, and in transport.”