The first lists of IT workers who donated to relief funds for victims of repression appeared at the beginning of 2023. Until now, even those who have not been in Belarus for a long time are called to the KGB for interviews. Employees of special services at such meetings offer to transfer to state organizations sums that many times exceed the size of the donation. According to the latest reports of human rights activists, the security forces are now putting pressure on the relatives of those who left. And also demand to pay in cash.

Threats to parents who remain in Belarus

In a conversation with Svoboda, Anton asked not to give his full name. In Belarus, he worked in a small outsourcing company. He says that in 2020 he actively and generously donated to the needs of the repressed through Facebook Pay. After that, he moved to Lithuania and resigned from his previous company. Now works in another. About six months ago, the former head wrote to Anton and informed him that he had been contacted by the KGB.

"He said that the company received lists of those who donated from the KGB and asked them to come to Belarus. To go to a conversation, to repent, to pay compensation. Like, then there will be no criminal case and I will be able to come to Belarus to visit my parents. Naturally, I refused, because I had already heard many sad stories. Moreover, I no longer work in that company and I am not threatened with dismissal for disobedience," says the interlocutor.

Anton's parents stay in Belarus. Mother works as a school psychologist, she has a year to retire. The father is in the civil service.

"Recently (employees of special services. - RS) came to them. They asked where I was, and threatened that if I did not pay compensation for donations, my parents would have trouble. Naturally, I am shocked," says Anton.

Risk group

Zhanna also works in IT and also asks not to give her full name. The girl lives in two countries. Most of the time she is in Poland, but periodically she also comes to Belarus: her parents have an apartment and a farm there. In 2021, she helped the family of a colleague who was imprisoned, donated to the fund. She says that she heard many stories about colleagues who were forced to pay for donations in 10 times the amount.

"I was in Belarus for the holidays. I usually behave very carefully, I don't pick up the phone when they call from unknown numbers. I went to the farm - and somehow picked up the phone on the answering machine, because I hadn't woken up yet. They ask if I am in Belarus, and they invite me to a meeting with the KGB, to talk about data. Like, if we make an agreement and I pay, nothing will happen to me. They hinted that they know about the parents, who are in Belarus. I was scared, I said that I was abroad. Turned off the phone, took out the SIM card. I called my relatives from someone else's number to bring my things to the station," Zhanna says.

According to the girl, she got out of Belarus through Russia. I got to St. Petersburg, and from there with transfers to one of the Baltic countries.

"I am still shaking from that trip. It's clear, I don't set foot in Belarus anymore," the interlocutor tells emotionally.

"Payment means admission of guilt"

Anna

(name changed for security. — RS) works not in the IT field, but in a state institution as a lawyer. He will soon have to undergo re-certification at the Ministry of Justice. She says that she was recently summoned to an interview with the KGB and interrogated for 5 hours. Also about data.

"I really transferred money to help sick children, for cats and dogs. But this is not a crime. According to my feelings, they did not have specific documents that I paid fines or donated to support funds. They told me that they definitely have lists, that I made a donation on a specific date in August 2020, but they cannot show those lists, because there are many surnames," says Anna.

According to her, the conversation with the employees of the special services was difficult, long and unpleasant.

"I promised to think about it, they let me go. I went to the bank, took a statement. I definitely did not make any transfers on that date. Now I'm desperate. Certification ahead. I can't lose my job. Pay to get off the hook? But then I admit guilt," Anna hesitates.

"There is no need to look for something rational here"

Svaboda asked the founder of the ByHelp Foundation,

Aleksei Levonchyk, to comment on this and other cases.

"If Anna pays, she may not be recertified, because paying means admitting guilt and makes you a target for the next attack. Then they can demand money again, they can imprison. If she doesn't pay, they can get rid of her. There is no good universal advice. She will decide herself," says Levonchyk.

According to him, if a person has not systematically donated and the special services cannot confirm this with anything other than their own printed documents, it is better not to give in and not to pay. The founder of the By_Help foundation also reiterates that if a person has paid compensation, there is still no guarantee of problems in the future.

Aleksei Levonchyk

"We know of cases when people transfer an amount 10 times larger than the donation. They come to them again and demand to make another payment. Yes, if he paid, then he is guilty, you can come to him again. You can plant it - he is guilty! They want to extort money from you, make you repent, and then extort money again. There were situations when a person was advised to redeem himself, he redeemed himself, and he was imprisoned. There were situations when a person was imprisoned, then told to pay the price, he paid, but he was not released," says Liavonchyk.

The interlocutor advises not to look for something rational in the actions of the special services and calls their actions "a game with a cheater".

The founder of the ByHelp Foundation says that he has recently received information about the new tactics of the security forces. If earlier they forced large sums to be transferred to the accounts of state institutions, not so long ago they began to demand cash. Without providing any documents about the payment of the so-called compensation.

"If you paid in cash, it's more likely that they will come to you again. Like, we don't have the documents that you transferred, what are the available ones? Our employees do not take bribes." I'll repeat again: this is a game with a cheater," — convinced Alyaksei Levonchyk.

For donations, 60 people were sentenced to 186 years in prison

According to the information of "Vyasny", more than 60 people have already been sentenced in Belarus for crimes under Article 361-2 of the Criminal Code ("Financing of extremist formations"). Their total term of punishment reaches 186 years in prison, and this information may not be complete.

In most cases, the punishment is imposed in the amount of several years of imprisonment. However, there are more serious terms.

Mykolai Vasilevich

, a massage therapist from Minsk,

was sentenced to 9 and a half years. State media wrote about 54 donations.

Dmitri Sluka

from Babruy

received 8.5 years. Menchuk

Paul Kharitonov

was sentenced to 5 years for donating 20 dollars.

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