I retreated to the hill close to the Pushkinskaya subway station. But the place was not safe enough, it turned out. Suddenly I was hit from behind, thrown off my feet and dragged several meters across the ground. Thank God I managed to grip my camera as it slipped off my shoulder. Next, the policemen grabbed me and forced me into a white van. There was no one in it besides me. So you can say I had a VIP tour…
The policemen got very aggressive and started beating me in the van, punching me in the jaw a couple of times. By the way, my wife and I had joked about her having dental surgery, me encountering the riot police, and both of us being unable to chew for a while as a result.
While in the van, they made me unlock my phone and tablet. The policemen scrolled through my phone's gallery and ranted about the large number of pictures it contained. That was logical, though, surely: I am a photographer. Then they ordered me to take all memory cards out of my pockets and cameras.
In just a couple of minutes, they calmed down and even asked me whether I wanted some water. “Why didn't you tell us straight away that you work for TUT.BY?” they asked. But hey, it was written all over me that I was from the press, plus I had a badge.
In about 40 minutes, they put all my devices into my backpack, returned it to me and dropped me off somewhere on their way. However, they kept the memory cards. Unfortunately, it was not the first time when my memory cards were taken away from me. It had happened at Pushkinskaya before. It's some kind of a memory card Bermuda Triangle...
The first thing I did was to check if the cameras were operational and if everything was in place. It was, but I had to get a lens and one of the cameras repaired. I believe it was clumsy mishandling rather than intentional damage.
I had no psychological trauma whatsoever. Regretfully, this is simply the reality you have to put up with if you are a journalist in Belarus. Well, they punch you a bit, no big deal… The main thing this time is that there were no boots or batons involved.
This detention story is certainly far beyond the scope of a normal journalistic routine. Sadly enough, it is quite typical and common in our work nowadays. The other story I have to tell, though, rings louder bells. In fact, it thunders.