$1,000 fine: Belarus authorities give wedding anniversary ‘gift’ to journo family

Kobryn district court has imposed a fine of nearly 2,000 Belarusian rubles on Ales Lyauchuk and Milana Kharytonava, a married couple and Brest-based contributors of Belsat TV.

Judge Vadzim Zdanovich set a penalty of BYN 1,150 for violation of the law on media and BYN 230 for disobedience to the police on Ales Lyauchuk. In accordance with the sentence, Milana Kharytonava, who was tried on the same charges, was fined BYN 460 and 115 respectively. In total, the family journalists will have to pay more than a thousand dollars to the state budget.

Belsat journalists Ales Lyauchuk and Milana Kharytonava were brutally detained by unknown men in civilian clothes in Kobryn on March 18. In addition to the ruff detention, professional equipment of the journalists was seized. Milana Kharytonava’s phone was broken and her fitness tracker was stolen. In Kobryn police department, protocols were drawn on Ales and Milana for ‘disobeying the police’ and ‘violation of mass media law’. Police officers even threatened them with murder.

“Today, the authorities have made a very special gift on the occasion of our 10th wedding anniversary – $1,000 fine. We see that the regime has created a gangster police state, where anyone may be grabbed and beaten by plainclothes thugs in the city center, personal belongings may be stoles. Every Belarusian may be heavily fined or even sentenced to 15 days in jail,” Ales Lyauchuk told Belsat TV.

“There was not a single grain of truth in what the policemen were saying in court, and they just decided to outnumber us. Seven witnesses (all of them are policemen) were testifying against us; only one witness was saying on our behalf. In fact, although many people filmed our arrest by their phones, the police intimidated them. They made the witnesses remove the videos, at least one of them was detained. The police ‘gang’ came to their places to throw a scare into them. If our arrest had been made in accordance with the law, they would not have taken such steps. It turned out that the arrest was run by Kobryn police deputy head Vyachaslau Klimchuk,” Milana Kharytonava stressed.