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Lifesaver for ages 9 and up -- Belarus: Help teens get medical care

    Wednesday, April 15, 2020 - 11:36

    Emil Ostrovko © Private 


    In April 2018, 17-year-old Emil Ostrovko was waiting for his girlfriend at a bus stop in Minsk, the capital of Belarus. They were going to spend the day together. Suddenly police officers arrived. They beat Emil and arrested him for carrying illegal drugs. 

    Emil worked after school for a courier company. His boss told him that the parcels he was delivering contained things like tobacco and cigarettes. No one ever looked for the owner of the company and Emil has been in prison ever since, waiting for release in 2024.

    The same thing happened to Vladislav Sharkovsky when he too was 17 in 2018. He may not be freed until 2028.

    Neither teenager is well. 

    Emil struggles with chronic bronchial asthma and he was not allowed to carry his medicine with him when he first got to prison. He got frostbite when he was forced to carry snow with his bare hands, and his feet were injured when the shoes he was forced to wear were two sizes too small.

    Vladislav has developed a cough in prison, flashes in his eyes and a blood clot in a vein that can cause swelling and pain. On March 9, 2020, he complained that his stomach hurt. Later that day, he fainted at mealtime. 

    The poor health of both Emil and Vladislav increases the chance that a COVID-19 infection could make them very sick. 

    Besides, Amnesty International believes that youths should not be put in jail for minor, non-violent drug offences. The United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child says that people under 18 should not be jailed if any other punishment would do. Even then, it should be for a very short time. It also says that they should not be treated as criminals for anything related to drugs. But Belarus is ignoring these standards. The government has hundreds of children in prison for accepting jobs that they did not know were related to drugs.
    Please ask the president to free Emil and Vladislav.


    Please send a fax, email or letter to the president. 

    • Start your letter Dear President.
    • In your first sentence, describe something about yourself, such as your age. This makes your message different from others he will receive.
    • Tell him that Emil Ostrovko should not be in prison for six years and Vladislav Sharkovsky for ten years just for a minor, non-violent drug offence. 
    • Ask him to free them both right away since they are not well and are therefore at risk of infection during the pandemic.



    President of Belarus Aleksandr Lukashenko
    Ul. Karla Marksa, 38
    220016 Minsk

    Postage:    $2.71
    Fax:         011 375 17 226 



    Please send a greeting to Emil to cheer him up. (Unfortunately, we have no address for Vladislav.) You could mail a postcard, photo or drawing. When Emil got cards recently, he wrote “They showed me that my life matters and that I am not forgotten. Many of my fellow prisoners are young people like me and their circumstances are like mine. They ask me to share solidarity cards with them and they keep them as symbols of hope and encouragement.”

    Emil Ostrovko
    Correctional Colony Number 2
    Ul. Sikorskogo 1, otryad 1
    Mogilevskaya oblast
    213800 Belarus

    If you have not received this Lifesaver directly from Amnesty International’s Toronto office and would like future actions, reach us at There is no cost.