Rail War: what we know about “Rail guerillas”
Since the onset of the invasion of Ukraine by Russian troops, including from Belarusian territory, the “Rail War” has been unfolded in Belarus. To slow down and prevent the movement of Russian military equipment into Ukraine, Belarusians are disrupting the railway network. Despite the state considering such actions as acts of terrorism, sabotage on the railroad does not stop: over a month more than a dozen of such acts have been recorded. At least 11 people have been detained, human rights activists report. Law enforcers are on the lookout for “rail guerillas” and conduct raids in towns where acts of sabotage have taken place. Viasna tells what is known about the “purge” of railroad employees all over Belarus.
Unloyal railroad workers being purged
According to the Telegram channel of the pro-democratic Belarusian Railway Association, more than 30 railway employees were detained this week. Many of them appeared on pro-government Telegram channels in the so-called “repentant videos” against the background of the national flag of the Republic of Belarus, calling not to subscribe to the Telegram channel of the railway association. Viasna human rights defenders are aware of at least 11 detained rail guerrillas.
The case of the “rail guerillas” is handled by the KGB. KGB officers arrest railroad workers, search their homes, and check their telephones. Articles of the Criminal Code referred to in search warrants are as heavy as espionage (Article 358 of the Criminal Code), high treason (Article 356 of the Criminal Code), an act of terrorism (Article 289 of the Criminal Code). Some of the detained railroad workers were prosecuted under other articles. Thus, train driver assistant Raman Kirdun detained in late March faces charges under Art. 361-1 of the Criminal Code (participation in an extremist formation) for registration with the “Victory Plan” chatbot, a strategic plan prepared by the opposition in order to mobilize forces and put economic and political pressure on the regime.
Additionally, law enforcers are having "preventive conversations" with railroad employees.
Railway association declared “extremist formation”
On March 21 the Committee for State Security declared the Telegram community “Association of railroaders of Belarus” as an “extremist formation”. This means that the participants of the chat room can now be prosecuted under criminal article 361-1 of the Criminal Code (participation in an extremist formation).
In search of "rail guerrillas," law enforcement officers have been working following their typical procedure: they visit people who were previously prosecuted under “political” articles, search their homes, confiscate equipment and “protest” symbols, check their phones, and if they find subscriptions or reposts from “extremist” Telegram channels, they fill out reports under Article 19.11 of the Administrative Code and detain them pending trial. It is known that “special operations” based on such models took place in Stoŭbcy, Dziaržynsk, Baranavičy.
“During interrogations, the GUBOPiK [Main Directorate for Combating Organized Crime and Corruption] beats people and forces them to sign trumped-up protocols,” locals say.