16 January 2021, Saturday, 9:06
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Syarhei Kavalenka: “I raised our flag above the star”

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Syarhei Kavalenka: “I raised our flag above the star”

Syarhei Kavalenka, arrested for hanging out a national flag in Vitsebsk, has been released under his own recognition. He gave his first interview to the website charter97.org.

– I was called pout of the cell at noon, fingerprinted. In the evening, I signed a regulation on changing the measure of restraint from detention to release under his own recognizance,” Syarhei Kavalenka told.

– How were you arrested? It was reported at first that a man who had hung out the flag managed to escape...

– I admit: it was I who hung out the flag. I climbed the tree and hung out the flag. I saw from above that the flag provoked excitement – people were standing with their heads lifted up, they were either surprised or scared. I saw the militiamen fussing, two cars driving up and understood they were going to arrest me. I didn’t have a thought to escape. Frankly speaking, I knew before that I would be arrested.

When I went down from the tree, I was met by two riot militiamen, who seized my legs. I umped down. They began to beat me. They called me a scum, wacko, handcuffed me and continued beating. I didn’t resist, I knew it was dangerous for me. Then their commanders ran up, some lieutenant colonels... They were shouting at me and insulting me.

I managed to set facer towards the people and shouted “Long live Belarus” and “Glory to Belarus!” Riot militiamen tired to shut my mouth wit hands in gloves, twisted my arms, and dragged me to a bus.

– It is said the militia brass in Vitsebsk was alarmed due to your action.

– It is so. I was guarded to the Kastrychnitski district militia department. I saw the chief of the department who was boiling over, shouting at me and insulting me. On his order, I was guarded to medical examination, alcohol and illegal drugs level was checked. They didn’t find anything.

Then I was informed a criminal case under article 339 part 2 of the Criminal Code (repeated hooliganism, or committed by a group of persons, or connected with committing less serious bodily harm) was instigated against me. I refused to give evidence unless lawyer Pyotr Kavalenka, whom I trust, arrived. The investigator began to shout, he said I must hurry up, because his chiefs were waiting. But I decided they could wait. I gave evidence only after Poutr Kavalenka’s agent had come.

– What were you questioned about?

– They asked why I had climbed the tree, why I had hung out the flag. On the third day they gave a layout of Victory square. I was to draw my way to the square. They didn’t want to take me to the “place of crime”. Then I had a face-to-face confrontation with a militiaman. I said I would speak only Belarusian. The investigator said she didn’t know the Belarusian language and wasn’t able to interpreter me.

The prosecutor said before announcing a measure of restraint to me: “You came to someone else’s party, laid your flag on the table and smashed everything”. I answered Belarus is our home, our land, so his comparisons are misplaced.

– How did you find conditions in the detention facility?

– Conditions were very bad. Militia treated us awfully – they were rude, mocked us, insulted, outraged. O understand why former prisoners hate militia after release. Jail guards call people arrested cattle, dogs. They treat them as if they were not human beings. They use their power to play tough guys.

Conditions in wards are bestial as well: wards are damp and cold. In the daytime they allow only sit on beds, one cannot lean to the walls, though we could not read that in the new internal regulations. There were 10 persons in the ward, which is many, but all of them were very kind to me. They met me like a Santa Claus; everybody knew that a white-red-white flag was placed on the main New Year Tree in Vitsebsk.

– Many our readers were interested how did you manage to climb 40-metre tree?

– Very simple. From inside. There were cells reminding drinking glasses standing all round the trunk, and small fir-trees were put into them, and the large tree was consisting of these small trees. I had to climb into the surface only near the top, in order to hang the flag. Nobody saw me from the beginning. I didn’t have fear – I have good coordination of movements. I had been engaged in sports activities a lot: wrestling, box, jogging. But for an untrained person it is certainly dangerous. You shouldn’t repeat it without skills and dexterity.

– Syarhei, what did you want to say to Belarusians by your action?

– I put up the flag higher than Moscow Soviet star, placed on the top of the New Year Tree by the authorities. Our flag was higher than their Soviet, outdated and unnecessary red stars. I know how Belarusians treat out flag and how they love it. Even those how do not know our history, agree that it is beautiful. I raised that flag higher than the star on behalf of those people. I am sure that it will become a state flag soon. There is no escaping that.

I would also like to underline that political rallies in Belarus must take place in the centre of the cities, in the squares, in crowded places. I see how people are inspire by our braveness, they become more courageous themselves then.

We remind that on January 7 a national white-red-white was hung out at the top of the 35-metres-high Christmas tree set up on Victory square in Vitsebsk. An activist of CCP BPF, 34-year-old Syarhei Kavalenka was detained for the act. On January 10 the prosecutor of Vitsebsk decided to place him in the remand prison for 2 months. A case on charges relating Article 339 Part 2 of the Criminal Code (repeated hooliganism, or committed by a group of persons, or connected with committing less serious bodily harm) has been opened against him. He faces up to 6 years of imprisonment under this article.

Photo - Syarhey Serabro