Virus besets Belarus prisons filled with president’s critics

KYIV, UKRAINE (AP) — A wave of COVID-19 has engulfed prisons in Belarus that are packed with people in custody for demonstrating against the nation’s authoritarian president.

Some of the protesters who contracted the coronavirus while incarcerated accuse authorities of neglecting or even encouraging infections.

Activists who spoke to The Associated Press (AP) after their release described massively overcrowded cells without proper ventilation or basic amenities and a lack of medical treatment.

Musician Kastus Lisetsky, 35, received a 15-day sentence for attending a protest. He said he was hospitalised with a high fever after eight days at a prison in eastern Belarus and diagnosed with double-sided pneumonia induced by COVID-19.

“Humid walls covered by parasites, the shocking lack of sanitary measures, shivering cold and a rusting bed -that was what I got in prison in Mogilev instead of medical assistance,” Lisetsky told the AP.

Lisetsky said that before he entered prison, he and three bandmates were held in a Minsk jail and had to sleep on the floor of a cell intended for only two people. All four have contracted the virus.

A crowd of protesters detained. PHOTO: AP