On the evening of August 11, 2020, 19-year old Nikita Shpakovsky meets with his brother, Alexander, and a mutual friend in the centre of Minsk. After a walk in the park, they see the friend off and head home. As they pass the Central police department, they see a large number of men in blue police uniforms. A man wearing the black outfit of the riot police (OMON), shouts: “Stop!” and runs towards the brothers.
Brutal beatings and humiliations
Scared, Nikita and Alexander run away – they know that law enforcement have been randomly detaining large numbers of citizens over the past days. Soon a riot police bus catches up with them. Nikita complies when ordered to lie face down on the bus floor, another detainee on top of him. They are both repeatedly hit. At the Central District police station, the young man is thrown face down on the pavement, badly fracturing his nose. While he bleeds heavily, he receives more blows in the abdomen and is taken to a courtyard. Alexander is also there.
« There were people lying on the pavement - as I understood, other detainees - facing the ground, hands behind their heads, legs spread wide apart, says Nikita. I was ordered to drop my rucksack and lie down; I obeyed and took the same position as the other people. I feel we stayed like that for about a couple of hours.»
“ Hi mom, I am well, just walking around the city”
After examining the backpacks, the officers ask Nikita for his mobile phone password. When he refuses, he is repeatedly hit on his back and buttocks with a rubber truncheon while one officer asks: "Do you want a baton shoved up your anus?"
Alexander can hear the sound of the blows and his brother’s moans. After using Nikita’s fingerprint to unlock the phone, the officers text his mother to say that the boy is doing well and is just walking around the city. Once they discover a subscription to an opposition news channel, they beat him again with truncheons.
While in the courtyard, the brothers and the other detainees are periodically forced to sing the national anthem and other popular songs.
No food or water for 24 hours
At around noon on August 12, Nikita is transferred, with other detainees, to the detention centre on Okrestina Lane, and placed in the exercise yard: “We were 68 people in a space with bare concrete walls and metal bars instead of a ceiling, says Nikita. We had to relieve ourselves in buckets. It’s only around 11 pm that we received one or two half-litre bottles of water, despite us repeatedly asking for water the whole day. We got no food at all.”
Two weeks in reconstructive surgery
Nikita is finally examined by a doctor who recommends immediate hospitalization, due to the complexity of his nose fracture. An ambulance picks him up on the night of the 12th, and Nikita can call his mother from the doctor’s phone. Later, Alexander joins him at the same hospital, where the two boys spend a fortnight for reconstructive surgery.
Nikita’s medical records show a “closed fracture of the back bones of the nose with displacement, post-traumatic deformation of the external nose, concomitant multiple trauma: contusions of soft tissues of the head, bilateral para-orbital haematomas, multiple abrasions of the forehead, lumbar region, hips, knees and elbows".
Nikita files a complaint and gets a fine
On August 14, Nikita files a criminal complaint with the Investigative Committee of the Republic of Belarus. No criminal case has been initiated to this day. On October 6 however, a court rules that Nikita is to receive an administrative fine for “participating in an organised mass march along the road from the building at 26, Pushkin Ave. to the building at 28, Pritytski Ave. in Minsk on 11 August". As the data from Nikita’s mobile show, he was in a completely different part of town on that day.
Read more details on Nikita’s ordeal, with photos and an audio testimony, here (in Russian).
See more information on police violence in our new joint report Corridor of Truncheons.