Valentina Alinevich: Harmful pollutants have turned the snow in the penal colony in Novopolotsk blue

The mother of the political prisoner Ihar Alinevich visited him in prison.

A “long meeting”, lasting less than 24 hours, took place on 24th December. Valentina Alinevich described the conditions of her son’s confinement in an interview for

I was not sure whether I would be permitted to see my son until the very last moment. – Informed Ihar’s mother. – Both of us were in a peculiar state of suspension. He wrote that he was constantly punished lately and that it was possible for him to be denied the right to receive a visitor. In the end I saw him, but the meeting lasted less than 24 hours. Ihar was brought to me at 15:00, and taken away at 9:30 the following day.

His appearance has not changed significantly. He has lost some weight and become paler. But it is not at all surprising, everyone there looks like that. He has not lost his spirit. There was nothing peculiar in what he said about himself. Ihar informed me that they had increased rigour recently. The previous head of the penal colony had been sent to the Punishment Execution Department in Vitebsk in order to improve his qualifications. Other prisoners talked about the plans of closing the colony in Novopolotsk because of Naftan’s development, but the plans have been changed, although Naftan borders the colony.

Valentina Alinevich informed that the number of prisoners in the colony dropped threefold. 960 people are held there at the moment. She also pointed to the dramatic ecological situation of that region.

Emissions of harmful substances take place at night, and the next day the snow has a blue colour. I know that Andrej Sannikau has lately filed a complaint concerning ecological problems in the colony, but instead of punishing the adjacent petrochemical giant, they penalized the prison. Other prisoners’ relations criticized the fact that it is virtually impossible to buy either vegetables or dairy products from the prison commissary, whose price markups are set between 30% and 40%. Inmates should be allowed to call home, but this is the only penal colony in which this right remains an abstraction. Prisoners held in other colonies are allowed to make 3 calls per month. The penal colony in Novopolotsk is an exception, although they have a phone call schedule. What is more, prisoners are to sign a declaration, which may stay unsigned, and should inform their families, but the letter may not reach the addressee on time. The key to the room may disappear, and so on. It is characteristic of this penal colony – the colony, let me remind you, the head of which was to improve his qualifications – and concerns not only Ihar.

Valentina Alinevich talked with his son the entire night.

We discussed a wide range of topics, spanning from political prisoners – both former and future – through Belarus and Russia, Chodorkovsky and Perievierzyn, Ukraine, our friends and relations, to Europe and organizations defending human rights. – she told. – Although we could hear watchdogs barking behind the walls of this tiny room, and despite the barred window, we managed to celebrate a little bit. Together with my husband, we brought a small Christmas tree, candles and the traditional ice creams our son had asked for. Ihar told us he had begun to receive Christmas greetings, and asked me to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year on his behalf. He also wanted to express how grateful he is for your solidarity.

Ihar Alinevich, together with other activists of the anarchist movement, was detained in September 2010. In May 2011, he was sentenced to a maximum penalty of 8 years for taking part in an anti-war march near the General Staff headquarters. He was also found guilty of participating in allegedly violent protests against the Russian embassy, and attacks on banks and casinos.


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Other political prisoners