'They beat me - I lost count of how many times': Protesters in Belarus tell their story

Stanislav shows us a gruesome stack of photographs he keeps by his side.

They’re evidence for a case that might never be heard in court. They show his body covered in bruises.

The images are as raw and vivid as his memory.

"Time and again they took me out of the row of prisoners," he remembers.

"I lay with my face to the ground. They asked me to straighten my legs.

Stanislav said he was beaten all over. Credit: ITV News

"Then they beat me from the soles of my feet to the tops of my thighs and on my back. I lost count of the times."

Stanislav was arrested on his way to a demonstration in the wake of last week's disputed Belarus election.

The anti-terror police found photographs of protests on his phone and medical supplies in his bag.

"They thought I was going to treat those hurt in the violence," he says.

He was questioned and clubbed around the head. Eventually he was thrown into the back of a bus with a score more prisoners.

"It was so full of people," he says. 

Peaceful protesters hold their phones with lights shining. Credit: AP

"We were lying one on top of the other. I lay near the door and on the floor so they covered me with more people.

"It was very hard to breath. The people on the top? The police just kept beating them."

His foot is in plaster.

He can walk only with the help of a crutch.

His 'crime' was to oppose the regime of Alexander Lukashenko.

President for 26 years who has ruled for much of that time through fear.

Patryk Jaracz is a London based photo-journalist who travelled to Minsk to report on the election. He too was among the thousands seized.

Credit: Patryk Jaracz

"I didn’t realise just how cruel and sadistic they are. I still can't believe things like this are happening in 2020," he told me.

"You can hear people screaming behind cell doors. New prisoner who are being tortured."

He spent a terrifying 85 hours in the notorious Okrestina detention centre.

'We were ordered to strip naked. I got beaten even more with batons. I got kicked in the ribs," he says.

"There was a pool of blood on the floor from the person who was there before me."

President Lukashenko has come down hard on protesters. Credit: AP

On Tuesday, Lukashenko handed out medals to 300 members of this security police.

These are the shock troops of a security state which seems to be staying loyal - so keeping the president in power.

They've handled the big protests of the past week peacefully, but the president had a warning for his opponents today.

"Those who are sharpening their swords will be met with serious resistance," he said.

"Such actions will be cut off utterly and completely."