By: Lane Johansen
On November 26, 2021, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reported that the day prior, Andrey Kuznechyk – a journalist who has worked as a freelancer for RFE/RL – was detained in Minsk.
Kuznechyk’s wife, Alesya Rak, told RFE/RL that her husband had returned from a bike ride on November 25 accompanied by four men dressed in civilian clothing. The men did not present any identification. After searching their apartment, Rak said, the unidentified men “took all the electronic equipment and Andrey’s phone; my mobile phone, my tablet, and money.” The four men then led Kuznechyk away without providing any reason for his detention.
The arbitrary detention of Andrey Kuznechyk is the latest in a harsh crackdown on opposition and independent media in Belarus. Belarusian authorities blocked RFE/RL’s Belarus Service on August 21, 2020, and two months later, annulled the accreditation of all journalists in Belarus working for foreign media.
Tens of thousands of people have been detained in Belarus since protests erupted in August last year after Alexander Lukashenko – commonly known as “Europe’s last dictator” – claimed to win the presidential election with 80% of the vote. An arrest that made international headlines earlier this year was that of Roman Protasevich, a dissident and journalist who was detained on May 23 after Belarusian authorities forced down a Ryanair flight from Athens to Vilnius. Protasevich is currently under house arrest at a secret location and faces charges of organizing the protests against Lukashenko’s declaration of victory in the August 2020 election. He faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.
RFE/RL has reported that there are currently over 800 political prisoners in Belarus.