A state television channel aired a segment about the first Belarusian who had been convicted for wanting to join Ukraine’s fight against Russian aggression. Eight Belarusians have already been convicted on similar charges. All of them have been recognized as political prisoners.
Propagandists working for the ONT state television channel visited a penal colony known as Vouchyia Nory (Wolves’ Burrows) to film a segment on the detained Belarusians who wanted to join volunteer fighters in Ukraine. Siarhei Vaitsiuk, a 37-year-old IT professional from Brest, is one of them.
According to the Viasna Human Rights Center, Siarhei was detained on April 14, 2022, in a village near the Belarus-Ukraine border. He was looking for a guide to take him across the Ukrainian border illegally but couldn’t find such a person. Then Siarhei went to the border crossing point Makrany. The only items he had with him were his driver’s license, cigarettes, phone, and beer. The Belarusian border guards turned him around and asked him to go home. Siarhei then walked through fields, crossed ditches, reached a village, and entered one of the houses, but the elderly owner called the police on the unexpected “guest”. This is how Siarhei was detained.
First, he was sentenced to 10 days of detention for “disorderly conduct” and “distribution of extremist materials”, then he was placed in custody on suspicion of “mercenarism”. Later, his case was reclassified as “attempted participation in an armed conflict on the territory of another state”. Siarhei was sentenced to 2.5 years in a penal colony. Like other political prisoners, he has to wear a yellow “extremist” tag on his prison uniform. This tag signifies that a political prisoner is put on record as prone to extremism and other destructive activities, which entails certain restrictions. Siarhei is due to be released on April 11, 2025.