Mikalaj Autukhovich: They wanted to accuse me of bringing batch of weapons to Belarus
13:09, — Interview
After five years of imprisonment the political prisoner has been released into a “larger prison”.
This is how the former political prisoner, entrepreneur and officer Mikalaj Autukhovich called today’s Belarus in an interview to charter97.org’s editor-in-chief Natalia Radzina.
The conversation was long. There is no way to give it in full. Autukhovich is under tough preventive supervision now – he is forbidden to leave his native town of Vaukavysk. It seems, the main thing the former political prisoner wanted to tell is that he has not been broken and is not going to give up.
- Mikalaj, first question is, of course, about health. How do you feel after the five years of the prison hell?
- I have just done the tests. All the results will come in two weeks. First of all I have to deal with the teeth now – they are in bad condition after the prison. It is not yet clear, whether implants could be installed. There is a diabetes suspicion. The health, of course, has deteriorated in five years…
- Were you warned to be careful in your expressions when at large? I know by myself that it is a usual practice.
- No, I was not warned against that. I mean, they did not say directly. They would say in a bit different way, but I know it all, of course.
- 16 months of preventive supervision – is a direct threat to put you in prison again in case of political activities.
- Yes, such supervision, and for so long… When I got registered, they were surprised even at the inspection. This is very tough supervision. I cannot even leave the town. It is hard to explain that.
What are they afraid of? Probably, that I will seek for truth, that I will make disturbances again, influence people. That is bullshit that they do. They saw how people supported me, so now they are afraid…
If you pass lies for truth for too long, and then it all comes out, some will have to be responsible, of course. If you keep silent and say nothing, this will never come out. I do not want to and not going to be silent.
- Will you seek exoneration?
- Yes. Lukashenka tells it himself: “justice above all”, “we are the most just country in Europe”. So let us restore justice!
Why have my family been suffering for 10 years? Why have I lost business? I created 130 jobs, and all this collapse instantly only because some official, who extorted money from entrepreneurs, wanted to save the “regimental honour”.
- By your example they wanted to make the case for all the entrepreneurs, who were going to fight for their rights.
- In principle, that is correct. It all holds on lies and fear. They lie and frighten, lie and frighten… As soon as you start resisting, their mechanism breaks. They start thinking what to do: they come up with crimes, appoint the guilty.
- In the five year that you spent in prison Belarus has changed a lot to the worst. Have you managed to notice that already?
- As I was being released, I did not feel that I was being released at large. I understand, that I have been released at such a point, when anything could happen. I have just been released into a larger prison.
Had I just been released, I already start noticing people in mufti everywhere, who are filming me from everywhere. What is that about? What am I a criminal? Are they trying to intimidate? Are they curious, who visits me? Normal people come visit. Why are you filming? It is idiotic.
- Shortly before the release you cut your stomach open with a blade. What made you do such a terrible thing?
- Human meanness. I have repeatedly asked the administration not to test their boundless capabilities. They either did not hear me, or got scared: they kept arranging provocations, insult my honour and dignity. I will allow no one to humiliate me, that is why I took such a step, when all the other possibilities were gone.
- The treatment of all political prisoners has gone tougher in Belarus after 19 December 2010. Have the authorities set the task of destroying them morally and physically?
- Yes. Meanness, provocation, aggravation of the situation were mostly used against me. They would put specific people in my cell, who were supposed to provoke.
They want to break people so those write the pleas for pardon, and when they cannot – they start going crazy because of that. How is that possible? Why are not they afraid? Some get nervous because of that.
- What helped you hold on?
- Actually, there are many people in prisons, who do not break. But nothing is heard of them, because they do not come out of jails, their complaints do not reach people at large. Such iron people, flints are there in penal colonies and prisons. Although, the majority of people, even those, who call themselves having a pull, work for the administration and take part in provocations, including against political prisoners.
- Now most people on Belarusian colonies are officials and businessmen. Who were your cellmates?
- I was in penal colonies and a high security prison. In prisons there are recidivists, those, who was imprisoned before. In penal colonies I met many of officials and businessmen, yes.
In one colony over a half were officials, merchants, public servants, customs officers, border guards. I spoke to many, they explained their circumstances to me, the people had been imprisoned literally for nothing. It is just awful what is going on…
- Do they now understand what it means to serve these authorities?
- There are different people. I met those, who become fighter for justice, but time passes and they become household managers, start ordering convicts, work for administration.
Not many people refuse to cooperate and live on their own. But there were such people…
- How did your situation change after the transfer from colony to prison?
- In prison I spent two years and two month, all the remaining part – in colony. I though, that it would be easier for me in prison, because there were increasingly more provocations in colonies.
What is three thousand people in colony? You can get pushed “by accident” or stabbed. In prison you are in a separate cell, everything is observed there. But it turns out same bad things and provocations can be arranged there.
I know that people from out of the prison were dealing with me specifically. There are several evidences to that. Who guided them, who told what to do and how to do it. They wanted to provoke me.
- What were they seeking with these provocations? A new term in prison, pleas for pardon, suicide?
- I will tell you, that in prison they also wanted to charge me with bringing a large batch of weapons in Belarus. There were people, who were ready to testify against me: allegedly I own large trucks and carried weapons on them across Belarus’ border. All this was done before presidential elections. There is a very interesting plot there…
- They wanted to accuse you of bringing us weapons to the Square on 19 December 2010?
- It all pointed to that, but thanks to the lawyer, thanks to the media they did not finish the job.
It was an interesting situation. I think, when they arrested me in 2009, they already knew in February that they would do that, because they immediately took me to the jail in Valadarskaha Street, although I was charged for crimes allegedly committed in Vaukavysk and the case was investigated by people from Hrodna.
They were not supposed to take me to Valadarskaha Street in any case. Then it all came out. It turned out that they were preparing to accuse us of a terroristic act.
- You, of course, know that the investigator of your case Mikalaj Alikhvier now lives in the USA. Will you do anything so he is held responsible for falsifying your case?
- Definitely. I really want to get this person’s testimony. At some point after long hunger strikes I was taken to a hospital in Kalvaryjskaja Street, and investigators visited me there, including Alikhvier. He sat by my bed (I no longer got up), shed a tear: “Understand me correctly, they made me do this, forgive me…”
I think, if this person realizes that in the USA he could be punished for breaking the lives of people, he will tell everything.
Apart from Alikhvier there are people, who must testify: there were papers with illegal resolutions. For example: “To start a criminal case against the ‘Nika-trans’ firm or we will get you fired”. There were even resolutions like that on the documents. Officers themselves made copies and kept them in case they need to prove that they had nothing to do with that.
It is impossible to hide these lies for long, it is impossible to present it as truth for long. This will all come out anyway however they hide it. I will fix my health, and then will start fighting further together with lawyers. We will then again look in the face of the authorities. They showed it many times, and I am sure will show again. It should be put in their faces…
- Good luck to you, but it is obvious that with the incumbent authorities in Belarus you will not succeed in achieving justice.
- Yes, I do not rule out that they would put me in jail again. Tomorrow they may charge me with anything, plant drugs or a dead body in my car. With the possibilities like the secret services have any case can be fabricated and any play set.
Everyone sees that, everyone lives like that. In prison I read in papers that leaders of opposition parties report how positively they look into the future based on the outcomes of the municipal “elections”. What positive do they see?! I see nothing positive. The authorities keep lying to us like they always did. They managed to communicated their thoughts to people – what has changed because of that?
Such steps should be made so something changes. Doing the same year after year is stupid. This is not what people expect of them.
- As an Afghanistan war veteran, how did you take Russia’s military invasion in Ukraine and the occupation of Crimea?
- Until the very last day I could not believe this would take place at all. The news that there were some “green men” and come self-defense forces brought me into catatonia. I kept thinking: “Is it real?” Then it all got confirmed.
I did not expect such a turn of events. This is the Russian insolence. In the time of imprisonment I have lost all respect to Russia, have grown completely cold. Of course, not to Russian people, but their leaders. I saw how the power changed, how they handed it in from one to the other, how they grow insolent, knowing that no one would go into war with them.
Now they are pronouncing come “Donetsk Republic”. Come on, it is clear that this is all arranged by provocateurs. It is a shame that no one stands up for Ukraine today. In the meanwhile the country may just get torn apart.
- And Lukashenka can provide assistance to Putin in that. You are, of course, that Russian troops get deployed in Belarus today, aren’t you?
- I am just shocked. I watched the TV and saw how he justified himself and tried to extricate himself. In this situation it was laughable and stupid. Cannot we all see what is going on? Even babushkas in villages understand that.
Gradually, without noticing it, we are becoming a part of the Russian Federation. If we see the real state our economy is in, we will get terrified. This is such a hole and, most likely, they will attempt to cover it with the introduction of the Russian rouble, everything that has gone smash in all these years.
- Are Belarusians ready to defend their independence?
- Can you see the remarks being made today? “I will personally take an assault riffle”. But who is ready to die for the president today? And who is ready to die for the country? These are very different people.
I am afraid that we are not prepared today. Who will become partisans? A small number of people. The fear is so all-embracing that they will do whatever they are told by superiors. Although we are now in such a situation, when no predictions can be made. You can see how fast and suddenly everything changes.
- What would you tell the people, who fought for you and was worried about your destiny?
- First of all I am thankful to all, who supported me, who trusted me. This gave strength, added positive energy.
I knew that people supported me, that is why it was very hard to break me. I told them: you can break me only with physical violence, but you will never kneel me down.
… I just want to improve my health. I know that they can put me in jail again and for long. If necessary, I will bear. But I will not kneel down. I will seek for justice. I am a fighter in life and will always remain one. It does not matter to me, who has violated the law, - whether it is Lukashenka or his aides – everyone must be held responsible.
For some reason no one wants to make this people answer, no one is interested in where our money goes. They swallow everything – stealing and new taxes. Tomorrow they will make us pay a tax on air that we breathe, and will swallow that too. But there is a limit to this, I am sure.
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