Help for Ruslan Kostevich, a soldier who fled Belarus to stay out of the war

  • Story

My name is Kostevich Ruslan, I am 19 years old and I am a Belarusian soldier. After the start of the war in Ukraine, our unit was sent to the border. No one told us what we were going there for and how long we would be there. Upon arrival, everyone was given 120 rounds of live ammunition. We patrolled the compound day and night. I had a non-statutory phone (smartphone) from which I drew information about what was going on. I understood that I had eight months left to serve, and there was no telling what I might be involved in. I was and will be against the war. 

Our unit was actively turned against Ukrainians. Columns of Russian military equipment were passing through us. Individual units from the camp were sent to the border itself. To all this, living conditions in the camp were like this: torn, furnace-smoked tents where we slept on bunks. At night, in early spring, I would patrol in rubber boots. Any more and I would have gotten frostbite. They couldn't even provide us with the most basic things. There were 3 functioning night vision goggles per unit, and there were 2 pairs patrolling at night + 1 at the entrance to our tent and 1 at the entrance to the control tent. What was the point of that if we couldn't see anything? And no one taught us how to handle weapons.

One day I came back from patrol to my tent, turned on my phone and saw what had happened in Bucha. It shocked me so much that I decided to leave the duty station at any cost. I left the camp. During my absence the unit ideologist got in touch with me. He told me to go back, then they would send me immediately to the unit, where they would put me in the infirmary until the end of my service. I listened to him. I was already on my way back — the military commandant's office came to pick me up. They took my phone, where after some time they found my photos from demonstrations in August 2020.

I was returned to the camp, and the very next morning on the order of the Minister of Defense I was sent to the solitary confinement cell for 10 days. At the end of 10 days they added another 10. As a result I served 20 days. Then I was taken to the unit, where I found out that a criminal case was opened against me. In this regard I was sent for a medical examination, where I was diagnosed with a non-conscription heart disease: insufficiency of the aortic valve with 1st degree regurgitation. I was admitted to a military hospital for commiseration. I was hospitalized there for a month and a half and went home. I was home five months earlier (taking into account the brig).

Back in the army I managed to hire a paid lawyer, who told me that if I was discharged on health grounds, and if I had the same diagnosis at the time of the deed, then I was not a subject, because this is a strictly military article. In other words — the case will be closed. 

This case may be closed, although I don't believe it. Because of the fact that I made a splash in the highest instances — it's very important for them to put me in jail at any cost. Today I am also a suspect in the theft of military property (I left the camp with a military sack). This means that in any case I will be imprisoned at home.

I am now in Georgia and am preparing to fly to Europe for education and protection. I would be very grateful to anyone who would express support for me while I am settling in.

How much is needed?

2000€ — purchase of a laptop; accommodation and food in Georgia for 2 months; English and Polish tutor; flight to Poland.

The collection is over. Сollected:
€ 2 173
The collection is over. Сollected: € 2 173