Raman Bandarenka: an ordinary guy who cared

Простой парень, ему было не всё равно. 2 года назад не стало Романа Бондаренко

Raman Bandarenka passed away two years ago. On 12 November 2020, he died in the emergency hospital after being beaten by unknown people (so the prosecutor's office claims) in the courtyards of Minsk's Cherviakov Street, now the famous "Square of Changes."

The General Prosecutor's Office opened a criminal case into the death of Bandarenka only in mid-February 2021, after the names of the people allegedly involved in the murder had appeared in the media. But in September, the investigation was suspended: the investigators still could not identify the suspects.

At the same time, the prosecutor's office succeeded in quickly following up (a few days after Bandarenka's murder) on a hot case that later went to trial. Top officials, up to Lukashenka, said that Raman was drunk, while medical documents proved the opposite. The doctor and the journalist, who dared to publicize this fact, were convicted "for divulging medical secrets."

Here's how the events unfolded.

"I'm coming out"

That fall, the "Square of Changes" made national headlines for its resilience and intent to stand up for its people and their views. The "DJs of Change" mural was painted over many times but later reappeared. The white-red-white ribbons from the fence were cut off, but the locals kept tying them back on.

Простой парень, ему было не всё равно. 2 года назад не стало Романа Бондаренко
Mural on the "Square of Changes" / photo from social feeds

On November 11, the (then) unidentified people came to the yard again and started cutting the ribbons. They were five men and three women. Masked, no faces visible. Someone posted a message in the local chat room about it. Mr. Bandarenka reacted: "I'm coming out.

Locals gathered in the courtyard while Raman stood there and watched the verbal altercation: a visitor and some unknown guy were arguing, said one of the witnesses later.

Then Raman "said something, and the masked man asked": "Why are you so cocky?" He pushed Raman closer to the mural. Raman tried to dodge, but the man grabbed him and, with all his might, threw him back against the slide. Raman hit his head hard.

What happened next can be seen in the video. At first, Raman was beaten, then they carried him away and loaded him into a van that pulled up. On the way, he was still resisting.

Bandarenka was taken to a police department, most likely by riot policemen. This follows from a telephone conversation, presumably between the head of riot police Dzmitry Balaba and the duty officer of the riot police of the Main Department of Internal Affairs, Henadz Molashau. This conversation was made public in September.

"Yes, from the riot police bus; they took him to our bus and then to the Central police department," says the officer on duty. As it turned out, the detainee was diagnosed by doctors with "bodily injuries and a serious degree of trauma. He had a cranial trepanation at the hospital".

"Did he complain on the way? Anything?" a voice that sounded like policeman Balaba asked.

"Well, he did complain... Actually, they thought he was drunk. It turned out he was feeling bad. Well, it was bad, yeah," was the answer.  

"The first thing the doctor said: Raman has no chance"

When at 4:30 a.m., unknown young men rang the doorbell of Raman Bondarenko's mother, the doctors were already operating on Raman. For the next few hours, Alena periodically dialed the intensive care unit.

"I called all night, and they said the operation was going on. At about six or early seven o'clock, they said that the surgery was finished and that he was in critical condition. When I got to the hospital, the doctor first said that Raman had no chance," Alena later recounted.


Простой парень, ему было не всё равно. 2 года назад не стало Романа Бондаренко
The next evening, people gathered in the courtyard at the "Square of Changes" / Euroradio

Raman died on the same day, November 12. The next day, the Investigative Committee tried to explain what had happened. The official version was as follows: "On November 11, the police received a report that a fight had happened in the yard of a house in Charviakova Street in Minsk between aggressive locals who were hanging ribbons and people who were taking them down. The police officers who arrived on the scene found a man with bodily injuries and signs of alcohol intoxication.

Several high-ranking officials those days claimed that Bandarenka was drunk.

"This has been proven. The conclusion was presented today by the Investigative Committee. They put it all out there. He was drunk," Aliaksandr Lukashenka said.

He "was drunk - 100 percent," said Natallya Kachanava, chair of the Council of the Republic. And "false information was thrown on the Internet that he was sober".

Meanwhile, an article with the official test results appeared on the Internet. And they showed that there was no alcohol in Bandarenka's blood.  

Простой парень, ему было не всё равно. 2 года назад не стало Романа Бондаренко
Test results of Bandarenka: 0‰ ethanol / photo from social feeds

The "0  permille" case

A week after Raman's death, the Investigative Committee opened a criminal case, but not for his murder, as might have been expected. But about the "disclosure of medical secrets". Artsyom Sarokin, a doctor at the Emergency Hospital, and Katsiaryna Barysevich, a journalist for a news portal, became the defendants in the case.

It was thanks to them the society got the proof that Raman Bandarenka was not drunk that night. His blood test showed 0 ppm of ethanol.

The doctor and the journalist were found guilty. Katsiaryna Barysevich was sentenced to 6 months of jail and a fine of 100 basic units, doctor Artsyom Sarokin to 2 years in jail with a year's suspended sentence.

Простой парень, ему было не всё равно. 2 года назад не стало Романа Бондаренко
Artsyom Sarokin and Katsiaryna Barysevich in court / BelaPAN

Shakuta, Baskau and others

The names of people who may be involved in the death of Raman Bandarenka were heard almost in the first days after the murder. Raman was beaten on November 11, and on November 14 the media reported that the man who had attacked Bandarenka looked very similar to the then chairman of the Belarus Hockey Federation Dzmitry Baskau. And the man who attacked Bandarenka and gave him several blows looked very similar to the world champion in Thai boxing and kickboxing Dzmitry Shakuta.

The mentioning of Baskau's name in this context ultimately lead to Belarus being deprived of the right to host the 2021 Ice Hockey World Championship. Baskau also came under the IOC sanctions. He eventually had to resign as chairman of the BFH.


Простой парень, ему было не всё равно. 2 года назад не стало Романа Бондаренко
People looking like Dzmitry Baskau and Dzmitry Shakuta in the Square of Changes

A full-fledged independent investigation of the events in the "Square of Changes" appeared in January 2021. Audio recordings and cell phone billing of people who could have been in that courtyard that evening were analyzed and published.

The list included, in addition to Baskau and Shakuta, Lukashenka's press secretary Natallya Eismant, sports news anchor Hanna Eismant, hockey player and member of Lukashenka's hockey team Pavel Volchak and his wife Zhaneta, as well as special police and riot police officers. All in all, about a dozen and a half names.

Almost a month later, the General Prosecutor's Office got moving and opened a criminal case on "intentional infliction of grievous bodily harm, which resulted in death by negligence" (Part 3 Article 147 of the Criminal Code). But for the official investigation the case turned out to be unsolvable. Six months later, the investigation was suspended because they could not find those involved in the crime. The relatives found out about the suspension of the case from the mass media.  

Instead of an afterword

"He was an ordinary citizen who cared. He might not have understood anything about politics or ideology, but he understood that there was no justice or law in the country. He came out every time, even though I told him not to go alone. Raman was always coming to the "Square of Changes," teaching children to draw," his friend Vadzim told Euroradio after Raman's death.

"He was just an ordinary guy," says Vadzim. "He served in the special forces, loved his country. He was sympathetic, he helped everyone, no matter who approached him. I hoped something would change in this country".

Raman Bandarenka was 31 years old.


Простой парень, ему было не всё равно. 2 года назад не стало Романа Бондаренко
That evening, people in the "Court of Changes" learned that Raman had died / Euroradio

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