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Rock band famous for 2020 protest anthem detained in Belarus

by Elsa Court and The Kyiv Independent news desk January 6, 2024 9:37 PM 2 min read
The soloist of the Belarusian rock band Nizkiz, Aleksandr Ilyin stands in front of people on the music speaker during a performance in Warsaw, Poland, on June 19, 2022. (Volha Shukaila/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
This audio is created with AI assistance

Three members of Belarusian rock band Nizkiz, whose song "Pravily" became known as a protest anthem during the 2020 pro-democracy demonstrations, were detained in Belarus, independent Russian media outlet Meduza reported on Jan. 6.

Alexander Lukashenko's regime continues to crack down on those who have any link to the mass protests that followed the Belarusian presidential election in 2020, the results of which were declared fraudulent by the U.S. and EU.

The lead singer of the band, Aleksandr Ilyin, guitarist Sergey Kulcha, and drummer Dmitry Kholyavkin were detained by security forces in Mogilev in eastern Belarus, according to media reports.

State television broadcast footage of the security forces forcibly entering the apartments of the musicians and carrying out their arrests.

State television also broadcast a video in which Ilyin is recorded apologizing for the band's decision to shoot the music video for "Pravily" at the protests in Minsk. In the video, he blames the decision on a "wave of emotions." The music video appears to have been deleted from the band's YouTube channel.

Lukashenko's regime frequently forces those detained on political grounds to apologize for their actions on camera.

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who ran against Lukashenko and was considered to have won the popular vote in the 2020 elections, was filmed telling Belarusians not to join mass protests when she was arrested in August 2020.

Belarusian state media claimed that the musicians left Belarus after the protests, but later decided to return home. According to the Viasna Human Rights Centre, this claim is incorrect, as the men "continued to live in Belarus, sometimes going to other countries for concerts."

Leonid Nesteruk, the fourth band member, lives in Warsaw, according to the independent Belarusian news site Nasha Niva.

Tsikhanouskaya was forced out of the country and lives in exile. She was sentenced in absentia to 15 years in prison in March 2023.

In absentia criminal trials for "election obstruction" were launched at the end of 2023 against Tsikhanouskaya's advisor, Aleksandr Dabravolski, and the leaders of three initiatives that exposed the rigging of the 2020 elections.

New Belarusian poetry collection explores revolution, exile, war
When Belarusian author Hanna Komar brought the manuscript for her poetry collection “Ribwort” to a publisher in Belarus in the summer of 2021, she was told that their business would be shut down if they published her work. Komar, like thousands of her fellow Belarusians, took part in the 2020-2021
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