We will talk about this and other things with the former political prisoner, 38-year-old programmer Aleksei Golovkin, who was forced to leave Belarus urgently in December 2023.

He is now in a refugee camp in Switzerland.

"Ihar Lednik said that his health is deteriorating, and if he is not treated sympathetically, he will not live to the end of the term"

- I would like to start the conversation with another death of a political prisoner behind bars - Igor Lednik, who died on February 20 in the Minsk district hospital.

The 63-year-old political prisoner was brought there from the Bobrui colony.

Medics tried to resuscitate him, but to no avail.

Igor Lednik had the 2nd group of disability due to heart disease, as well as other chronic diseases.

You met Igor in the colony, including in the medical section.

Tell me how he felt.

What brought him to death?



— We met Igor in the spring of 2023 in Sanchastka.

I had problems with blood, and he was already there.

It was in very bad condition.

If psychologically he felt very well, he was a friendly, sociable person with a smile, then physically he felt very bad.

He walked very slowly, he was short of breath.

He said that the heart is very disturbing, it does not work well.

A few months before that, he underwent an operation on the intestine and a part of the intestine was removed from the outside through the abdominal cavity.



- Was the operation on the intestine due to being behind bars?

Could it have been caused by the food that was there?

What was she connected with?



- I can't say that.

I don't remember anymore.

It seems that this operation was performed on him in the pre-trial detention center.



- Such an operation on the intestine is quite difficult, it requires appropriate equipment in the hospital and long-term rehabilitation.

What do you know, did Igor Lednik undergo rehabilitation after the operation?



- Of course, there was no rehabilitation.

As soon as everything was more or less healed, they were sent to the colony to serve a term.

Rehabilitation in general does not exist in our colony.

- Ihar Lednik had a sick heart, in such cases a person needs regular monitoring by a doctor and certain medications daily.

Did he have such an opportunity?



- They gave him some pills.

Another thing is that he had to be under permanent control by a cardiologist.

A cardiologist can come once every one or two months, take a quick look at everyone and eat.

And it is necessary to control the state of health of such patients once a week.

Igor said that his health is deteriorating, and if by the end of the term his health is not really taken care of, and for this it was necessary to take him to the hospital and monitor his vital signs, if he is not treated sympathetically, then by the end of the term he will will not survive.

How, actually, it turned out.



- Igor Lednik had the second group of disabilities.

As far as is known, in order for her to be appointed and not filmed in Belarus, one must have very serious illnesses.

You also have the second group of disabilities.

You were detained in December 2020, in June 2021, judge Dmitri Kedal sentenced you to three years in prison under four articles, and in fact - for protest comments.

From the beginning, the court knew that you have the second group of disabilities, that you suffer from hemophilia, but nevertheless you were convicted.

Was the question of illness raised in court, what was the reaction?

Alexei Golovkin

- Of course, the judge knew.

My lawyer focused on the fact that I have the second group of disabilities.

The prosecutor asked for five years for me, and the judge gave three.

Maybe even through disability.

But the disease itself is not a mitigating circumstance.

There is no such concept in the criminal or criminal procedural code that if you are sick, the term can be replaced by something milder - house arrest, for example.

Maybe you need to be near death, have fourth degree cancer, and all the rest are not really considered diseases.

"It's not very pleasant to sit with blood clots, I don't recommend going there with such a disease"

- What does it mean to be in prison with such a disease as hemophilia?

Medicines, risks, special conditions...



- Sitting with non-coagulable blood is not very pleasant.

Bleeding is common.

After handcuffs, large hematomas.

The furniture there is all made of iron, you constantly bump into something, then the bruises start. And to get help, you don't always get it.

I do not recommend going there with such an illness.

When a person is staged, there is no such thing as medical assistance.

If something happens at the stage, you just have to pray.



- Do you need to take medicine daily for your illness?

Did you receive them?



- I need to get injections, but not every day, but once a week or every 10 days.

If we talk about the pre-trial detention center, there were no complaints in this regard.

Every time I said I needed a shot, the doctor came right away.

It was completely different in the colony.

You need to make an appointment, it will take some time, because the appointment is once every two weeks.

While waiting for the appointment, it all hurts.

If bleeding occurs in an unpleasant place, for example, in a joint, it is not very pleasant, and at this moment it may turn out that the necessary injections have ended, and new ones have not been delivered.

Two months before the release, they told me: "Let's go home soon, what are the injections.

Suffer."

And I was without injections for two months, which is against medical instructions.



- In an interview with Nova Chas, you talked about the unit for people with disabilities in the colony.

Tell us more about him.

How many prisoners are there, with what diseases, what kind of help is there, are there any reductions due to illnesses.



- Every colony has a unit where people with health problems sit - disabled people, very elderly people, people with mental illnesses.

A very specific unit in terms of the contingent.

Relaxation - practically no one from this squad goes to work.

There is no more relaxation.

Administration workers especially do not enter this unit, they do not want to get their hands dirty.

That's why they delegate all activities "to ensure order" to other prisoners, so-called activists, and all the dirty work is done by these people - they force disabled people to stand up, remove snow on the street for hours.



- How many prisoners are there in the Bobrui colony, what part of them are people with disabilities and what part of this unit are political prisoners?



- There were 2,400 people in the colony at the time of my release.

If I'm not mistaken, the largest colony in Belarus.

Detachment of the disabled - about 100 people.

At different times, there were 5 to 10 political prisoners in this detachment. The political prisoner Uladzimer Gundar, convicted in the "Autukhovich case", is sitting there, and he has no legs.

The head of the independent trade union, Gennady Fyadinich, has heart problems.

He also walks very poorly, also short of breath, heart problems.

He is forced to walk with a broom and sweep all the time.

He does not go to work, but he was not released from this side job.

All political prisoners, without exception, are engaged in such work.

No one else.

Political prisoner Aleksandar Sokolovsky is sitting there, so he had a heart attack during his imprisonment.

"Gen Fyadinich needs to sit down, rest, after scraping all the bulls off the asphalt"

- Tell us more about the state of health of 67-year-old Gennady Fiadynich and 64-year-old Wladimir Gundar.



- Every day, Fedynich is taken to the sanchastok to be given pills.

I don't know if these are the pills he needs, I don't know the quality of these drugs.

As for Gundar, he feels fine physically.

It is clear that the man does not have a leg - he is already sick, but he did not observe any great weakness.

He walks on crutches all the time so he doesn't have to sit still.

Such an energetic uncle, a wonderful person.

And Gen Fiadynich needs to sit down, rest, after scraping all the bulls off the asphalt.

And the site is large, which he needs to clean.

Keep in mind that it is very hot in the summer and very cold in the winter.

Only a few months a year there is a comfortable temperature.

If a person does not feel well, in such conditions it is difficult to sit until the end of the term.



- Can we say that political prisoners are deliberately brought to death behind bars?

If nothing changes for a year, two or three, will reports of the death of political prisoners become more frequent?



- I am convinced.

Logically, the number of such deaths will increase over the years.

Time is running out.

When a sick person was imprisoned in 2020... I was lucky.

I have a short term.

And time goes by.

5–6 years to sit.

Unfortunately, this is not the last death.



- In 2020, it was often said that political prisoners will not serve their terms.

Have such sentiments persisted now, when people think that they will not serve their terms to the end?



— In 2020, when I was just imprisoned, everyone believed that I would not have to sit until the end.

Over time, there was more and more disappointment with the current situation and less faith that something will change in the near future... Everything has gone very far.

Terror in the country is at the level of the thirties of the last century.

We can only wait for foreign political will, if some states press very hard.

Nothing can be done inside Belarus.

Now it is actually Russian occupation.

They will not let anyone go.

"Witold was the brightest police inmate I've ever met"

- You were in prison together with Vitold Ashurka.

What is most often mentioned in conversations with him now?



- I was not lucky enough to get in touch with Ihor Lednik again, only for ten days.

And I was lucky to be together with Vitold for several months.

With all due respect to everyone else, some are more oppositional, some less, but Witold was definitely the brightest political prisoner I've ever met.

The very first and brightest.

And it remains.

The person is very idealistic and principled.

I must have talked to all of you.

He often said "you are a criminal, and I am a political prisoner" when he quarreled with someone.

He did not go very far in contact with those who violated the law on non-political articles.

A very well-read person.

We talked a lot all the time.

It was very interesting.

His state of health was ideal for his age - 50 years.

When I read about death from "cardiac arrest" it was very strange.

This does not happen.



- Have your views on the situation in Belarus changed during the years of imprisonment?

What do you think about what is happening in Belarus now?



- My views have not changed.

I have been participating in protests since 2011.

I am not an accidental person, I consciously approached everything.



- Why did you decide to leave Belarus some time after the liberation?



- Shortly before my release, a criminal case was opened against me again.

The investigator said that I would sit further, that my term would be extended.

They took me to the so-called investigative events in my hometown of Hrodna.

As a result, the deadline was not added, but I did not receive any papers that the case was terminated.

After my release, an aura of uncertainty hung over me.

In addition, there were complaints against me that "Baysol" provided me with financial assistance.

Therefore, I thought that it is better not to risk it, and left.



- You are a programmer, you had a good job before you were imprisoned.

You are now in a refugee camp in Switzerland.

What will you do next?

What help do you need?



- I don't need any help.

There are wonderful friends here in Switzerland, our Belarusians.

They are always there and will help if needed.

What will I do?

Must see.

First, you need to get a positive decision from the migration service.



- What gives hope in this difficult situation?



— The regime that has now formed in Belarus is neither economically nor politically effective (almost no one recognizes this government).

This regime, like the Russian one, will collapse sooner or later due to its inefficiency.

After all, it is a big job to control the whole society all the time.

That's why everything will collapse.

You have to wait a little.

"PK Svoboda"

"PiK Svaboda" is a daily YouTube program and podcast in which Svaboda journalists discuss the main event of the day with politicians, public figures, experts and analysts.

Hot questions and topical comments about important events for Belarus and Belarusians.

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  • Anna Sous

    Journalist of Radio Svaboda

    Editor of the "Only women" community on Facebook 

    sousa@rferl.org

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