Protester Yauhen Zaichkin’s supposed death in Minsk during brutal August 9-10 clashes with police over Belarus’ presidential vote was reported around the world. But the photographs that helped spread these reports did not show him dead at all, Zaichkin told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Belarusian Service on August 10.
"The photographs were probably taken at the moment when I was taken from the [police] van to the ambulance," he said. “I felt bad in the police van; I lost consciousness. I realized that an ambulance could not drive up, so they put me on the ground, and the doctors got to me through the people.”
The human-rights group Vyasna and Telegram channels critical of the government reported a death from the street violence on August 9-10. With Internet access in Belarus no longer functioning normally, extensive reporting about the protests was not available. The Belarusian Interior Ministry, however, denied that a death occurred.
Zaichkin’ recounted that police had detained him quickly. With other protesters, he had headed toward a World War II memorial in northern Minsk that had become a flashpoint for the protests against suspected falsification of the election results.
“At that moment, a white minibus stopped nearby, five to six people ran out of it -- maybe more people -- in black clothes with the words OMON [the acronym for Belarus’ riot police],” Zaichkin said. “They attacked us and began to herd us into the vehicle. When I saw them running, I realized that they were behind us. I knelt down, stretched out my hand to show that I had nothing. But this didn’t stop them.”
“They detained me, beat me with truncheons,” he continued.
Zaichkin was diagnosed with a concussion, but no fractures. His lip required four stitches.
“There was a lot of blood. I was covered in blood in the police van.” He was given a bandage, but the blood simply made it stick to his clothes.
Zaichkin, whose age and profession were not specified in the interview, spent the entire night in a hospital in Minsk.
“I have a headache. My whole body hurts from the blows. The bruises hurt,” he said of his current condition.
Since he did not have a bone fracture, the hospital released him during the morning of August 10.
Dozens of people were taken to Minsk hospitals after the violence of August 9-10. Some reportedly are in intensive care. Aside from beatings, law enforcement used stun grenades, rubber bullets, and tear gas to break up the demonstrations.
The Interior Ministry has announced 3,000 detentions across Belarus. Some 50 civilians and 39 police officers were injured, according to official data. A criminal case against an unidentified number of people for participation in public disorder has been opened.
Before Zaichkin checked out of the hospital, a policeman questioned him his own experiences that night.
“I told everything about how it happened,” the young man said. “They wrote me a paper to have me record the beatings, but I refused. Probably, I won’t complain. It’s just pointless.”