Andrei Sannikov, a presidential candidate in Belarus, has spent already 50 days in the KGB pre-trial detention centre. There are almost no letters from him, and his state of health is unknown.
During the brutal dispersal of the protest rally on December 19, 2010 on Independence Square in Minsk, Andrei Sannikov was beaten up violently. When he was transported to a hospital after the beating, his car was intercepted. Sannikov was dragged out from the car with the use of force and arrested. The wife of the opposition leader, Iryna Khalip, was arrested then as well. A journalist Illya Kuznyatsou, who was giving a lift in his car to Sannikov and Khalip, was arrested for 15 days. After 40 days in the KGB jail Iryna Khalip lives under house arrest. Andrei Sannikov remains behind the bars.
Today we offer attestation of eyewitnesses of Andrei Sannikov’s beating on Independence Square, an hour before his arrest.
Ihar S., an activist of “European Belarus” civil campaign:
- When a cordon of internal troops’ soldiers started marching, we were standing next to Andrei. Soldiers with iron shields started to advance. We were pressed from two sides: there were troops on the one side, and demonstrators from the other side. In 10-15 minutes we heard an order: “Beat!” The crowd was pressed form behind, people started to fall. Andrei fell as well. Leanid Navitski, who was beside, lay on the top of him to protect him from blows. Leanid was shoved aside and Andrei was beaten. Andrei was beaten by truncheons while he was lying. He was beaten on the head all over the body. Andrei was lying and trying to protect himself with his arms. No one was allowed to come near him, so that people could not defend Sannikov.
Leanid Navitski, an activist of “European Belarus” civil campaign:
- Soldiers of the internal security troops with iron shields started to advance. I tried to take Iryna and Andrei past the crowd. But there were lots of people, people hustled. People started to press the shields. Then soldiers started to hit on the heads by clubs. Andrei fell, and then Iryna fell beside him. I had a bulletproof vest on, and I hid them by my body. They trampled us underfoot. Soldiers were marching in a line, without breaking. They tramped on our arms, legs, they hit us on the head.
I asked Andrei later: how had he fallen? He said that someone seized his leg and twisted to make him fall. He had a serious wound, and he could not step on the leg then.
There was an impression that they had been searching for Sannikov in the crowd and wanted to manhandle him. They were beating him purposefully. Andrei was taken bad, and I though that he was unconscious, he was lying with his eyes closed… I started to awaken him, and he said that he is alive, but his leg was injured badly.
Iryna and I helped him to come to the Red Church.
- A journalist Illya Kuznyatsou told to the Belarusian Association of Journalists that he helped you to get to the hospital…
- It’s true, we met him near the Red Church, and he offered to take us to the hospital in his car. We managed to get to Victory Square, where we were blocked by traffic police cars. Me, Illya, Andrei Sannikov and Iryna, who was giving an interview on air of Echo of Moscow at that moment, were thrown away from the car. Andrei could not stand independently, passers-by rushed to help the presidential candidate. I saw that some guy was struck down on the snow, he was handcuffed, and passers-by were shouting: “Shame on you!” Then Andrei and Iryna were pushed into our car and taken to Akrestsin Street jail. Me and Illya drove to Akrestsin street with traffic policemen as drivers. We heard their conversation through walkie-talkie, there were orders to detain groups of people in the centre of the city, at bus stops, simply passers-by. We heard that an order was made to stop a Peugeot car near the Main Post Office. There was Statkevich in the car.
- Was Andrei Sannikov first taken to Akrestsin Street pre-trial detention centre?
- Yes. When we were taken there, he was there already, I helped him to reach the waiting room where arrested were held. Sannikov was not allowed to sit down, he could hardly stand on his legs. He was held like this for more than an hour. We demanded to render medical assistance to him. There was only an assistant nurse in the prison. Then we were placed to cells, and he was taken to the KGB prison.
Since December 29, after accusation was presented and the lawyer saw him, nothing is known about the state of health of the presidential candidate.
Paval Sapelka, a lawyer:
Viktar Navitski, “European Belarus” activist:
- I was knocked down at once. But I realized from the start: it was a targeted beating. They wanted to beat Sannikov proper. We were pushing us back to a certain spot. Then they attacked us with truncheons, and started to kick us…