The coordinator of the European Belarus civic campaign was released after the arrest for solidarity with Ukraine.
Maksim Viniarski was detained on 19 December in Niezalezhnasci Square in Minsk. He and a civic activist Natalia Harachka were lighting candles near the Red Cathedral to commemorate the events of 19 December 2010. They were taken to Moscow district’s police station.
“We lit candles near the Lenin statue on the anniversary of the Square’s dispersal. When we were going to leave, policemen noticed us. During the detention they said that we would be most likely released in couple hours. We were taken to the police station of Moscow district, where demanded explanations. It is interesting that on the way to the police station and later policemen were very curious about what was going on in Ukraine, they asked about Euromaydan, whether it was true that hundreds thousand people gathered. Many wondered how serious it was, whether the protest actions in Kiev will bring result.
Some time later Natalia Harachka was released. I was also told to go to the on-duty office to get my belongings. However, Central district’s policemen were already waiting for me there. They put me in a car than drove. When I asked where I was being taken, they responded: “We will drive around for a bit, find a good place and will bury you there”, - Maksim Viniarski told in an interview to the charter97.org web-site.
The European Belarus civic campaign’s coordinator was taken to the police station of the Central district, where earlier – back in mid-December – a protocol was composed. He was charged with unauthorized picketing of the embassy of Ukraine, which took place on 30 November.
On the following day, 20 December, the judge Viktoryja Shabunia found Maksim Viniarski guilty of violating the article 23.34 of the Code of Administrative Conduct and sentenced him to a 15-day arrest.
“When I said that I already got a subpoena on that case for 27 December, they replied to me that the sitting would anyway take place on the day. Then policemen told me that if it was not for Euromaydan, I could have had a shorter jail time and celebrate New Year’s Eve at home”, - Maksim Viniarski said.
He noted that right at his arrival to the jail in Akrescina Street he warned of a hunger strike which he had announced in the court building right after the proceeding ended. The following day Maksim Viniarski wrote an appeal to the head of the jail Jury Sakalouski. In the appeal he also mentioned the hunger strike. Despite that during the meeting with the activist the head of the jail said he did not know anything about the hunger strike and did not want to know.
“In the presence of witnesses – the cellmates – I wrote two more appeals. In one of them I again informed of the hunger strike, in the other – that the cell had bad lighting. I also demanded to provide me with their registration number. However, this demand as well as the complaint about the lighting were ignored”, - Maksim Viniarski said.
The activist pointed out that the rules have toughened in the Akrescina Street jail.
“Now the conditions in the detention center are barely different from the conditions in a jail. Apparently it is the influence of its proximity. The only difference is that is it allowed to sit and lie on the beds during the day. Certain employees treat the prisoners like cattle. Several times during inspections wardens demanded that I reported as the on-duty prisoner. When I refused, they threatened with a penal cell or other punishment measures”, - he said.
The activist thanked all the people, who had sent him postcards with New Year’s wishes.
“Some letters were passed before 31 December, others – later. In one of the postcards there was a New Year’s tree, in many there were Christmas pictures. Thanks to them we managed to create a relatively festive mood in the cell. I also managed to exchange couple words with Aliaksandr Frantskievich. We congratulated each other on holidays during a walk”.
The head of the jail refused to provide Maksim Viniarski with a document that he had spent 15 days there, having suggested to come for it later. The activist could not explain the reasons for such a deed, having said that he had warned the wardens a day in advance that they had to provide him with the document.
Maksim Viniarski is convinced that he was sent to celebrate New Year’s Eve behind bars not so much for the action near Ukraine’s embassy as for the speech on 16 December - the day of Belarusian solidarity - at Euromaydan.
“Policemen let us know that they knew that European Belarus activists were and spoke there. Lukashenka like all the dictators is afraid of solidarity, including international solidarity. Euromaydan is one of the best examples of it. Not only Ukrainians are taking part in the protest actions in Kiev. There were hundreds Belarusians, Russians, Tatars, Georgians. They are fighting for the European future of their countries, not only Ukraine. That is why the Belarusian authorities are scared to death of Euromaydan and react that rough to its support to political prisoners in our country”, - Maksim Viniarski said.