'They say I sold out to Europe': Belarusian police officer resigns over protests
“Seventeen years of service over… My conscience is clear… Police with the people…”, Yegor Yemelyanov, a former captain of the Belarusian police from Novopolotsk, wrote on Instagram.
His post gathered almost 400,000 likes but no sooner had he drawn up all the documents about his dismissal and left the department, he was detained for violation of the rules with regards to rallies.
Dailyrater caught up with him.
Why did you decide to quit?
“I had been thinking about quitting for a long time. Recently I stopped liking the terms and conditions, and my opinion on some issues of service began to differ greatly from management. I started getting punished all the time. I wanted to quit before the elections, from August 1, but management wouldn’t let me go. I expected to quit by agreement of all parties so that I would not have any legal problems with my employment elsewhere. I was offered a strong recommendation to finalise the contract that I was running out of next year. I said yes.”
Why did you change your mind later?
“What happened after the elections in our country — I cannot describe it, there is no point. It’s just awful. Looking at it, I just couldn’t put on my uniform anymore. That’s my opinion: no normal person will stand up for such criminal orders.
“In order not to be sent somewhere on the square in the future to disperse the protesters and use force against civilians, I came home and talked to my wife after the night of August 11 (I was guarding the department that night). She supported me, she said: “Yes, quit.” I went to the department and asked them to fire me. But, of course, they said, “No.” After that, I just said I wouldn’t go to work, and I gave my ID. I was officially fired for truancy. Then I went home, ate, laid out a post that made all the people know about me. After that, I got a call from the department, to come sign the dismissal documents. It was very quick to get it all done. I came to the department, signed all the necessary documents.”
How did you get held up?
“When I left the department, I was detained and taken to Novopolotsk central police department, where they drew up a report on an administrative offence and put me in an isolation centre for offenders. It’s like a detention centre, but a little lighter. I spent two days there. Then there was a court, where I was acquitted and released.”
How did your colleagues feel about your decision? Did somebody follow your example?
On the same day, two of my colleagues left. Within a week, about eight people had quit. Those I saw, naturally, shook hands, said: “Well done”. But then, as time passed, I learnt from my comrades that what I did is being watered down by the management, who are saying that I was bought, that I had sold out to Europe. It’s not pleasant, of course, but it was to be expected.”
Aren’t you afraid for your future career? Aren’t you afraid of persecution?
“I’m afraid, of course, I’m very afraid. I’m afraid for myself and for my family. As long as things are still going on, I think it’ll be all right. But if this regime and this president stay, I think people like me will be severely punished.”
What do you plan to do?
“To be honest, I’m not thinking about it yet. I have a strong belief that peace will come to our land and we will honestly hold normal elections, everyone will make their own choice, give their vote, and thus we will honestly and peacefully decide who should be president. Personally, I can’t say that I support anybody or that I am against anybody. The main thing is that I’m for honesty and peace.”
And how would you rate the work of your colleagues during the protests?
“About my colleagues, I can say that none of them have tarnished themselves, because security was not particularly involved in the squares [Yemelyanov worked in the department of security, his duties included protection of personal property and legal entities]. Yes, they went out, but there were no particular clashes. My guys were guarding one building, and all events took place in a completely different place. My former colleagues were not involved in the dispersal and use of force. I can’t reproach my comrades.
“I won’t point my finger at the riot police and all the riot police in general, but as far as I know from some of the riot police acquaintances, they do say that the white-red-white flag (the flag used by protesters) is the flag of bandits, fascists. They are for the current government.
“Most likely, those people I know in Minsk were involved because they think it’s normal. I don’t know how much they support cruelty and whether they did it themselves, but in principle, their thoughts are such that it’s necessary to suppress everyone.”
And how do you feel about such harsh detentions?
“I wrote a post on the Internet yesterday. You see, Belarusians go to peaceful protests, they have no weapons. They’re in a good mood. They’ve got flowers and balloons. When they get up on the benches to see something, they take off their shoes, they don’t litter. I think that says a lot.
“About the August 9th and 10th clashes, I’m not saying that all people are perfect. There are provocateurs on both sides. I think there are police officers who were disguised as citizens and infiltrated a crowd of civilians as provocateurs. I do not know this, I do not have specific facts, but such options exist. I condemn, of course, those people who came out peacefully and did something anyway, perhaps in self-defence. There are not-quite-adequate people on both sides, but as it turned out, there are a lot of violent people among the OMON [special police units operated by the ministry of internal affairs] personnel.
What are your plans for the near future?
“I may have fallen ill because of nerves in the last few days, but I’m looking for work, asking friends. I’m going to work in fitness because I have a professional certificate and I love fitness.”