The Belarusian Yelena Levchenko, named best center in the 2010 World Cup and finalist in the WNBA that same year, was released this Thursday after serving fifteen days of arrest administrative to face the last dictator of Europe, Alexandr Lukashenko.
“They have endangered my health. They seized my mattress and sheets. There is no hot water. They have not allowed me to shower for 13 days. They have blocked the toilet chain. This is a nest of bacteria. They did not take me out for five days. for a walk. I have lice. All this damages my health, “he said after leaving the detention center.
Levchenko, the athlete most critical of the Belarusian regime, made these complaints in the trial held this Thursday in Minsk, in which they imposed a fine for participating in a second opposition demonstration.
“They have made the wrong scapegoat. Yelena has lived so long, she has had to overcome so many things to win, that it will not be possible to bend her. She is faithful to her principles and, first of all, to herself,” he told Efe Natalia Marchenko, another well-known basketball player.
Levchenko was sentenced on September 30 to 15 days of administrative detention in the detention center of Okréstina, tragically notorious for the abuse and torture of protesters.
The crime of Levchenko, who was arrested at the airport when she was preparing to fly to Paris for her rehabilitation, was participating in two peaceful marches in Minsk, on August 23 and September 27.
Lukashenko’s biggest criticism
However, his real sin was to criticize the regime for manipulate the results of the presidential elections on August 9 and violently repressing the mass demonstrations of the last two months.
She was also very critical of the decree issued by the Belarusian Minister of Sports, Sergei Kovalchuk, which obliges athletes by contract to learn the national anthem and not make statements to the press without authorization from their clubs or federations.
The document will also oblige athletes to use or wave only the flag and national symbols (red and green), in clear opposition to the red and white banner, which has become one of the symbols of the protests.
The basketball player denounced the “psychological pressure” on athletes and considered that said decree is a violation of human rights.
“According to article 33 of the Constitution, each person has freedom of opinion, conviction and expression. No one can be forced to express their opinions or renounce them. That is, it happens that the Constitution is violated. How is it possible?” commented.
Levchenko warned that his country is increasingly similar to North Korea. “In the 21st century it is not possible to adopt these methods in central Europe,” he said.
He was also one of the 830 signed athletes of the petition to put an end to police violence, punish those responsible for the repression, release the detainees and political prisoners, and call a new presidential election.
Support from other athletes
In the now traditional Sunday marches, the athletes advance in their own columns with the slogan “Athletes with the people.”
Levchenko, 37, has received endorsement from several of his colleagues, although basketball players like Yegor Mescheriákov they regret that many in Belarus are afraid to express their opinions publicly.
“Behind closed doors support us 90%, but only a few do it publicly,” he said.
And it is that there are many elite Belarusian athletes who are, at the same time, members of the KGB, the Army or the Ministry of the Interior.
This week it was also learned that the swimmer Alexandra Guerasimenia, a three-time Olympic medalist, went into exile in Vilnius, where he has assumed the leadership of the Sports Solidarity Fund.
That fund, founded in August 2020, provides financial, logistical and psychological assistance to athletes who are persecuted by the regime.
The IOC asks for explanations
So far, he has assisted around twenty athletes and maintains a regular dialogue with the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
Precisely after the fund addressed the IOC for the violation of the rights of athletes, its president, Thomas Bach, announced that it will investigate whether Minsk discriminates against athletes “because of their political opinions” and contacted the Belarusian Olympic Committee to inquire about Levchenko.
In addition, he sent a letter to Lukashenko “asking him to confirm that Belarusian athletes will be able to continue preparing for the Olympic GamesWhatever opinions they may have expressed during these difficult times. “
“The statement that the protest is deflating is not true. The people have no intention of surrendering,” he predicted to Efe. Yekaterina Snítina, captain of the basketball team.