Media Freedom in Belarus: UN Security Council Arria meeting
Co-founder of BY_help and BYSOL – about mass blocking of accounts and about helping Belarusians who suffered from repression
Ksenia Turkova: Last week it became known that law enforcement agencies began to block the accounts of Belarusians who received compensation from the BY_help initiative. What happened this week, accounts continue to be blocked?
Andrey Strizhak: Indeed, the accounts of some of the transfers that were made directly from one of the accounts of the co-founder of BY_help Alexey Leonchik to Belarus were blocked.
The total amount, which we know from the documents, is about 1 million 400 thousand Belarusian rubles, which is about 550 thousand euros. This does not mean that all the help that came from BY_help was blocked or arrested, this is only 14% of the total amount of the collection (in total, By_help and the BySol fund managed to raise about $ 7 million), this is not a critical amount. But this is very disappointing. And this suggests that the government is crossing the border every day, economic repression is intensifying. But there is another very important aspect: it turns out that now no one who has money in accounts in the Republic of Belarus can be sure of their safety. Any transfer from abroad can be interpreted as a translation aimed at undermining state foundations. There is no guarantee that all billions of dollars and rubles that are in the payment system of the Republic of Belarus will not be blocked. There are even cases when transfers between relatives were blocked.
All these transfers are compensation payments for injuries and beatings by the security forces. And, in fact, by arresting these accounts, the authorities repressed these people for the second time. Moreover, it is usually not just the amount received from BY_help that is blocked, but the entire account, to which, for example, the salary comes. And if this is the account of the only breadwinner in the family, then the family is left without a livelihood. This is a gross violation of the rights of citizens, like everything that is happening now in Belarus. Power is out of control and continues to dig this hole underneath.
The Belarusian banking system is now completely captured by the security forces and is under their control. It is possible that in Belarus they can generally switch to cash, because there is no trust in bank payments.
K.T. And what can people who have blocked accounts do in such a situation??
A.S. There is an algorithm of actions: the first step is to appeal the blocking at all possible levels. First of all, this is the Investigative Committee and this is the bank itself. Why do you need to do this? We have no illusion that someone will say: “Ay-ay-ay, we probably made a mistake, here’s your money back!” It will not happen. But in order to record the crimes that the authorities are now committing, documents are needed. With something it will be necessary to go to a new, fair court and prove the guilt of specific performers. The second step is that we launched a platform that allows, at the test level, to directly connect Belarusians inside the country with those who need help. Thus, we exclude the chains of transferring money to the accounts of a fund or a company, and then back to Belarus. It is already impossible to stop this – for this you will have to completely block the entire payment system. Although I won’t be surprised if I see non-working ATM machines and cards that have turned into just a piece of useless plastic..
K.T. How can residents of other countries help Belarusians now? How to do it safely, given these recent locks?
A.S. The BYSOL Solidarity Fund uses money transfer mechanisms that are not directly tied to the Belarusian banking system. They include it as part of the mechanism, but most of the mechanism is in the blockchain realm, in the cryptocurrency realm. The mechanisms that are used there make it possible to encrypt transfers so that the authorities cannot understand which of the transfers is a translation of assistance, and which is an ordinary commercial translation..
The second way – there is an excellent initiative called INeedHelp _by, it was founded by a Belarusian from Florida, USA, Philip Gavrish. It works like a grocery assistance system. For example, you have an American bank card, pay for a grocery package that allows a family of four to live for two weeks, and thus support people who have been fired, arrested, beaten.
So there are plenty of ways to help. Although we are joking in the team: the day when there were no new introductions is wasted. We work in a constantly changing environment. We constantly adapt to them and are ready for any challenges.
We have a lot of new ideas: now we are starting to promote the idea of supporting courtyard initiatives, the BYSOL fund has now launched a separate collection to support such grass-roots structures. We helped individually for a long time, but we see that whole structures of people who understand what solidarity is, what a sense of shoulder is, have already begun to form. And these structures will also work for changes in the country and will receive our support..
K.T. What stage is the Belarusian protest going through now? Do people have a feeling that victory is much further than it seemed to them before??
A.S. I see a serious crisis now. People see that the authorities are using all the new ways – they use, in particular, a mixed system of light infantry. They cut off the protest columns and disperse the protest, and then the riot police get involved. Obviously, the tactics of the protesters should change. In addition, the authorities began to massively use the tactics of criminal cases. We first encountered this during a march to Kurapaty (national memorial to victims of Stalinist repressions – GA), when cases were opened for 231 people.
The authorities have a huge resource for the implementation of violence in a variety of ways: for example, the removal of children from parents who participate in protests. There is economic repression in the form of an extended amount of fines.
In short, the authorities have a lot of tools. But we also have a lot! We study various experiences: the experience of the Polish resistance of the 80s (the trade union movement “Solidarity” – GA), we study the experience of the underground workers during the Second World War. We are ready to move to this level, and our foundation in any case will help people, we will not leave them.
Journalist, TV and radio host, philologist. She started as a correspondent and presenter on NTV under the direction of Evgeny Kiselev, worked on TV6, TVS, REN TV, radio stations Echo Moskvy, City FM, Kommersant FM. From 2013 to 2017, she lived and worked in Kiev, participated in the creation of the information radio station Radio Vesti, directed the Russian-language broadcasting of the Ukrainian channel Hromadske TV, was a host and executive producer. Since 2017 works for Voice of America in Washington DC.
@GolosAmeriki name = twitter: site /