FemenFEMEN, the Ukrainian feminist group, has once again struck the chord of public dissent, but this time in the neighboring Republic of Belarus. Three of its members, Inna Shevchenko, Oksana Sasko and Alexandra Nemchinova, arrived in Minsk for the first anniversary of the presidential elections that had once again extended Alexander Lukashenko’s rule (he has been in power since 1994). The female activists staged a shirtless protest in front of the country’s KGB office, chanting “Viva Belarus.” There was a rapid reaction from a group of almost a dozen men, who initially introduced themselves as representatives “of some governmental agency.” The protesters were kidnapped at the South Bus Station in Minsk, interrogated, physically assaulted and ordered never to return to Belarus.

The activists shared the full story at a press conference, upon their successful return to Kyiv.

Oksana:  We were immediately told to be quiet. Inna began to scream and she was quickly hit in the face and we realized that there was practically nothing we could do because not a single person at the train station paid any attention to us. On the contrary, everyone just looked away. Everyone was scared. People in Belarus are too scared to show any resistance. When they threw us into the car, we were put in the car together but we had no idea where they took Sasha [Alexandra Nemchinova]. They immediately took all our phones, all our possessions and began interrogating us. Who were we? Why had we come here? What kind of organization was this? Who was financing this?

Inna: We drove around for four or five hours before stopping in a sparse forest where we were taken out of the bus by force, with our eyes closed. At this point they were wearing masks. They took us into the woods for approximately 100 meters where we were told to stop, lift our heads and remove the hoods. We were then told to remove our clothes and hold up various signs. On the signs were drawn swastikas, fascist swastikas. On the signs it was also written "One Slavic Nation". We were forced to raise these signs. We were forced ... we were told to smile and look into the camera. All this was being filmed on two cameras. Then we were told to dress. We were told that if we can't get dressed by the time we say three, you will die, immediately. We got dressed and we were then again told to undress. We were told to bow our heads and then they poured Zilonka [a greenish iodine-like substance] over me and then with a knife they began to cut my hair.

The kidnappers covered the activists’ bodies with oil, beat them with sticks and warned them to never come back to Belarus. The women were eventually freed near a forest on the Belarus-Ukraine border. With the assistance of a few villagers and the Ukrainian diplomats, the interrogated protesters managed to return home safely.  

Inna: Now is the time where we should analyze the situation. The most important thing that we would like to say is that we do not in any way, not even for a second, regret that we were in Belarus. We know what is going on over there, we see how scared the people are and we see that the government is run by a freak. There exists a special organization that fulfills his whims and desires. We are already planning a second protest in Belarus. We will go there to support its citizens. Through our personal example we will show that these freaks, who are trying to scare the activists, should not be feared. We will come to Belarus. We will go to its people, but this time with much more force. 


(Photo © belapan.com)