Memorial Human Rights Centre: Belarusian citizen Yana Pinchuk, threatened with extradition to her home country, is a political prisoner

22 December 2021

Yana Pinchuk is accused in Belarus of inciting hatred against police officers and extremism for running an opposition Telegram channel

Source: Memorial Human Rights Centre


In accordance with international guidelines, Memorial Human Rights Centre considers Yana Pinchuk, a Belarusian national who lives in Russia, a political prisoner. We believe her prosecution is solely related to her political views and her exercise of the right to freedom of expression. We consider the criminal case against her politically motivated.

We demand the immediate release of Yana Pinchuk. We demand that the Russian authorities comply with their international obligations under the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. The Russian authorities must reject the request to extradite Pinchuk to Belarus and she must be granted temporary asylum.

Who is Yana Pinchuk?

Twenty-four-year-old Yana Pinchuk is a citizen of Belarus who has been living and working in Russia since 2018.

On 1 November 2021 she was detained in St. Petersburg at the request of the Belarusian authorities.

Pinchuk was charged with inciting hatred against Belarusian police officers (Article 130, Part 3, of the Belarusian Criminal Code, which carries a sentence of up to 12 years in prison) and with organising an extremist entity (Article 361.1, Part 1, of the Belarusian Criminal Code, which carries a sentence of up to seven years in prison).

According to Belarusian investigators, Pinchuk was one of the administrators of the Telegram channel Vitebsk 97%, declared extremist by the Belarus authorities in March 2021. 

On 3 November 2021 the Vasileostrovsky district court in St. Petersburg remanded Pinchuk in custody.

Subsequently, the Belarus authorities asked Russia to extradite her. Pinchuk herself requested refugee status.

Why do we consider Yana Pinchuk a political prisoner?

Having studied the available case materials, we have concluded that the prosecution of Yana Pinchuk is politically motivated and unlawful.

After the presidential elections in Belarus in August 2020, the results of which were not recognized by most European countries, the United States and Canada, the Belarus authorities launched a massive crackdown on opposition in the country. 

According to Belarus human rights activists, there are already more than 900 political prisoners in the country. Neither the known grounds for politically motivated charges nor the criminal prosecution procedures meet the minimum standards for fair trial or human rights in general.

We have no grounds to expect that the Belarus authorities will uphold the rights of Yana Pinchuk in the event of her extradition. Therefore, we believe that Russia should reject the request to extradite Pinchuk and should grant her refugee status. 

We believe there are no grounds for holding Pinchuk in custody. The case materials available to us do not contain information about the specific reasons for the charges. They contain no evidence of incitement to illegal actions published on the Telegram channel. Pinchuk herself claims she stopped being an administrator of the channel before it was declared extremist.

Recognition of an individual as a political prisoner does not imply Memorial Human Rights Centre agrees with, or approves of, their views, statements, or actions.

More information about this case and the position of Memorial Human Rights Centre is available on our website.

How to help

You can support all political prisoners by donating to the Fund to Support Political Prisoners of the Union of Solidarity with Political Prisoners via PayPal, using the e-wallet at [email protected].

Address for letters: Yana Vladimirovna Pinchuk (born 1997), Remand Centre No. 5, Federal Penitentiary Service, St. Petersburg and Leningrad Region, Arsenalnaya Street No. 11, St. Petersburg, Russia 195009 [in Russian: 195009, Санкт-Петербург, ул. Арсенальная, д. 11, ФКУ СИЗО—5 УФСИН по г. Санкт-Петербургу и Ленинградской области”, Пинчук Яне Владимировне, 1997 г. рождения.]

Translated by Simon Cosgrove

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