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08 July 2022, 16:56

Kuznechik family compare their hiding in Swedish Embassy to prison term

Screenshot from Belaurs 1 TV footage
Screenshot from Belaurs 1 TV footage

MINSK, 8 July (BelTA) – The Belarus 1 TV channel has showed footage of the scandalous escape of Vitaly Kuznechik and Vladislav Kuznechik from the Swedish Embassy in Minsk, BelTA informs.

A reminder, in September 2020, Vitaly Kuznechik and his son Vladislav came to Minsk in a bid to escape the police after they took part in an illegal protest in Vitebsk and went toe-to-toe with law enforcement. They jumped over the fence of the Swedish embassy and asked for political asylum. Here, in the basement, they spent two years.

“We asked for asylum right away. We were immediately told no,” Vladislav Kuznechik said on the video aired by the TV channel. “As soon as we got there, they said: go out, there is no way we can help you.”

“I would describe it as a prison time,” added Vitaly Kuznechik.

They lived in the basement of the embassy for two years. “It was unclear what the Swedish authorities were up to. It seemed they were deliberately kicking the can down the road,” Vladislav Kuznechik emphasized.

The Kuznechik family filed a complaint with the UN Committee against Torture. “As our case got underway in the Committee against Torture, the Swedish authorities tried to stop it, to declare the case inadmissible due to the fact that the Kuznechik family were not under the jurisdiction of Sweden,” lawyer from Switzerland Vadim Drozdov explained.

Human rights activist Martin Uggla added: “It would probably be the best option if someone could escort these men to the border of another country.”

So, the escape was scheduled for 1 June. The TV footage showed that a woman approaches the embassy gates at 14:13 and gives a blue bag with three mats over the fence to a guard. Such mats are usually used when for a night hike. The guard leaves the things near the basement where the Kuznechiks are living. Half an hour later, Swedish Ambassador to Belarus Christina Johannesson arrives and begins to maneuver her diplomatic car to park it closer to the basement. Soon, Deputy Ambassador Rickardsson shows up. He puts the bag, some other things from the basement into the trunk, opens the back door. Johannesson begins to distract the guard, and Rickardsson goes down to the basement a couple of times and signals to the Kuznechiks to leave the basement.

Then Rickardsson comes out from from the basement with a huge poster, with two more shadows clearly showing behind it. The Kuznechiks take passenger seats in the back. The car leaves the premises of the embassy.

"When we left Minsk, we constantly looked back to make sure we were not tailed. We left Minsk and we took a breath," Vladislav Kuznechik recalls.

The car of the diplomatic mission is moving through Minsk: along Gorodskoy Val Street, Timiryazeva Street, then to Zhdanovichi, Zaslavl to the Losha checkpoint on the border with Lithuania. The footage shows the car going though border controls at 18:00. The ambassador gets out of the car. There is no one in the passenger seats. The trunk is also empty. Among the belongings is the blue bag that the woman brought to the embassy three hours earlier. But the tourist mats are gone.

The Kuznechiks made their way through forests to Latvia where they are now staying. "We did it with God's help. We can say that God kept us safe," they add.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Belarus commented on this incident and gave their assessment of the behavior of the diplomats on the air of the ONT TV channel.

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