Thousands of employees leave the punitive structures.
Former senior investigator of the Investigative Committee of Belarus Andrei Astapovich has become a guest of the new program of the website Charter97.org Studio X97. The host is Yauhen Klimakin.
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- Andrei, until August, you worked as a senior investigator of the Investigative Committee in Minsk, quit your job, fled from Belarus; now you are in Poland, and you did not get there without adventures. In general, many mass media wrote about this, so we will not discuss this already. Here you have organized an initiative uniting those security officials who are against the Lukashenka regime and what is happening in the country now. Let's go back to August, after all. What was your motivation? Why did you decide to leave and flee the country?
- It is difficult to single out one thesis. It was probably still pressure from the degrading image of the power bloc. The employees of the entire bloc began to be hated, treated accordingly, and this put pressure on me. The next point is the very rejection of everything that is happening in terms of violence against citizens. I have participated in some of the meetings. People show no resistance, and security forces start shooting at the crowd. How are people treated? There was hatred for all employees. And you can no let it go so easy for yourself.
Charter'97 editor-in-chief Natallia Radzina told me a story about a retired police lieutenant colonel who got to Akrestsina Street on August 9-10 and cried like a child, sobbing from what he saw there. What happened there if the person who worked in the system and saw different situations was in such an emotional state?
- According to incoming information, it was just a concentration camp. People were tortured, crosses were painted on jackets, clothes were marked on those who needed to "be worked out" especially effectively, as they spoke to each other. They were bullied; these people were very badly beaten. They also were forced to do physical activity: go down, do push-ups, and so on, the whole military drill thing. For ordinary civilians, these physical activities are unbearable.
It is very difficult to restore the complete picture, but I think that it was analogous to concentration camps. And the command was this: so that those who have already got in and out after the administrative arrests would definitely not want to get there and would no longer show any resistance. It was such a cleaning.
Well, why was he crying? Because even when you watch video footage, where five healthy men run up from one side and begin to beat the girl who has fallen to the ground, who does not show resistance, beat her on the head with truncheons, with such force that can kill... You have both rage and anger mixed with rejection of how it can be done at all. Imagine what happened there, when no one was filming, when everyone knows each other. There are no video recordings, no rights. The command has been given; there will be no responsibility. They did what they wanted.
- Mikalai Karpiankou became Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs. He will command the internal troops. How can you comment on this?
- First of all, when I read this news, I thought that now the positions are received not by those who deserve them, but by those who are more trusted by Lukashenka: the main thing is that they don't betray me, they are for me.
- Does the willingness to carry out, let's call things by their proper names, punitive operations matter?
- Sure. By his example and even by not hiding his face, he showed first of all that he was ready to carry it out. The AMAP was those internal troops that dispersed people; the GUBOP, which was engaged in exactly the same activity, is the only unit that previously worked in the intellectual sphere. That is, they carried out real operational investigations and development. And then they began to run and beat people with sticks.
Therefore, Karpiankou now heads the internal troops. Most of all, the AMAP, let's say, showed an active position. Now the "little green men" will also begin to show themselves more actively under such guidance.
- Why is the regime more and more furious?
- I think this is an understanding that soon he will fall. And if he does not calm the people, if his criminal actions do not break these protests, do not make people fear and stop resisting, then they will fall. The economic collapse is close, and when the dollar collapses, the crisis begins, everyone will come out. There will be no such thing that "they will sort it out without me, it doesn't affect me yet, and I'd better sit quietly." It will affect everyone. Everyone will lose their salary; everyone will lose their money and income. And if it collapses like in 2010-2011 or like the dollar in 2008, five or six times - they will simply be swept away, and they understand it.
- Are the siloviki who still work within the system ashamed? After all, they live in houses, meet neighbors on the landing, return home, look into the eyes of a child, wife, mother-in-law, mother.
- I think it's not only embarrassing, but it's also scary - even more than scary. I think there are three categories: embarrassment, fear, and indifference. That is, "my house is on the edge," I provide for my family, sort it out without me; this does not concern me. Most are afraid because they think they will be swept away. Well, plus, they are joined by those who have tarnished themselves. I think everyone is ashamed to some extent, and even, maybe, offended. I talked with some; they say: "It's insulting." Some have worked for twenty years. Whoever worked honestly - that, as it were, invested a piece of credibility in this common system. And at one time, one or two units like the AMAP killed this entire credibility in the bud.
No one wants to go as witnesses right now. For interrogations, when people are called: "I will not go, you will detain me." That is such an attitude of people to everyone. They will not understand whether you are an AMAP member, an investigator, or an operative — you are all the same. First, the criminals, and second, you appear to be a danger to me.
That is not like in other countries: if something happened to you - you call the police officers, the police, no matter what the power bloc is called - you ask for help. And now they just walk down the street, or they call you - you are already shaking, afraid: "Why am I being called?" That is, you feel the danger. This is a punitive body, not a defense body as it should be. In fact, the authority of the current power bloc is the main problem.
- The death of Raman Bandarenka shocked many. Was it a shock for you?
- It was a shock. What caused all this? The man did not agree that the ribbons were cut. And now, you can be killed for this in our country. And there is no responsibility. I sat on this line: crimes against the person, murder, rape, grievous bodily harm, hooliganism, and so on. Trust me, when the murder occurred, we had intercept plans activated, specific cell phones tracked. People were caught and identified literally within a day. At least, we knew who did it — that's for sure - especially in the place where it happened, with the number of cameras and so on.
It's unreal that nothing was done. Previously, an entire unit was raised, and the killer was immediately captured. Here, specific individuals are almost known; there are recordings, and so on. From my sources, it is known that these were Shakuta and Baskau, and they delivered him to the Central Police Department.
- What do you think, knowing the system from the inside, after the overthrow of the regime, those people, whom the Interior Ministry called not indifferent citizens, those who killed Raman, will bear responsibility?
- It is these people who have more money, do you understand? They will be able to try to leave somewhere quickly, run away. Maybe they'll even do it now because the conversations were leaked on the same day. I imagine their state. They understand that Lukashenka is already facing a question: either to get rid of two of his acquaintances and make them guilty or expose the entire power bloc by saying they were police officers. The choice, I think, is obvious. To get rid of two people is not a problem for him. They probably just do not understand now where to go. They will try to hide; they will not even wait for the overthrow of the government.
After the overthrow of the authorities, all Lukashenka's close associates will scatter in all directions, from where they will not be extradited. But this is also a problematic situation. I think that during the transfer of power, Russia will, in the same way, work with the new Belarusian government and will give everyone away so as not to lose credibility and cooperation with Belarus. It will not shelter real criminals; it will betray them. And where should the AMAP members run? I know what their income is, and this will not be enough to run away further than Europe or Russia.
- What should be the fate of Lukashenka and all those security generals who sit at the table with him and wave their heads when he utters all sorts of crazy things? The Hague is crying for them?
- To draw up 25 thousand administrative protocols in a hundred days of protest - it can be assumed that every judge took part in this. That is, everyone falsified. Our courts need to be dispersed, but while you create a new one and everything else, this, of course, is problematic. The prosecutor's office and everything else is the same situation. There should be an honest international court, I think. Most likely, the Hague, the tribunal, and so on.
- Andrei, you remembered that, as an investigator, you were involved in cases of rape, pedophilia, and so on. Please, draw us a psychological portrait of these AMAP members. Who are these people who beat, rape? You can see that they enjoy it, I think. What kind of people are they?
- It is incorrect to speak about the whole unit. If you take a hundred people, any, in some kind of battle, war, I think, twelve people, approximately, will be complete sadists. I think the same about the AMAP. There is a certain percentage of people who are just crazy, really sick. But when they do all this, they defame the entire AMAP, and each employee is already just fighting for his life. When the new government comes, they will not figure out who is who: everyone is done.
They are already collecting dirt on each other; such information is passing through. In terms of the fact that this one was a complete sadist: he raped, he thrust these rubber sticks where he shouldn't, he broke skulls, and so on. These are the ones I'm ready to betray during the transition of the new government, I personally stood there in the ranks and could hit someone and so on, but I personally did not run. That is, sabotage is already beginning; the collection of information, compromising evidence on their own colleagues, I think, is happening.
- Until August, the regime knew that these people were sadists, murderers, rapists? Deliberately kept in their ranks?
- They were trained. Almost half a year of training was conducted for these elections. But they were not trained to rape and kill; they were trained to walk in the ranks, and so on. The person was charged with the fact that people should be beaten and physically prepared for this, each of them. It is also a team. They live ten people together now permanently in the barracks. All who served in the military understand what it is - brotherhood, unity, this is your family at the moment. And this also unites them. And they understand that now they are fighting, as it were, for the entire unit: either we or they.
- Are the bosses blackmailing them?
- I even think that it is simply unrealistic to quit the AMAP and such units without any consequences, not only economic ones; they are tied up with debts, mortgages, apartments, and so on. They just won't let you out and immediately put you in jail because they have information about all their colleagues and the whole situation, what happened, who gave what orders.
They are simply intimidated that if you leave now, you are a traitor, a deserter, you will immediately go to the Zhodzina detention center. I think this is the main blackmail on the other side. They are afraid of all sides.
- Andrei, please tell us about the initiative that you organized, ByPol.
- No matter what anyone says, there are a lot of people who disagree with what is happening. We are simply engaged in, first of all, collecting information for investigations, for international sanctions, bringing entire units to justice, for the main principle of crime and punishment to work.
Police officers are people under 40, mostly, except for colonels and above. And they still have to live their whole lives in this country, well, most of them. Their children live. They are hated inside the country and persecuted everywhere abroad. And we are trying to ensure the main principle: to find the guilty persons. Many now want to fight, and when we grow and gain strength, they will understand that there is where to go, in which direction to cooperate, what to do. We will not reveal all the cards for now.
— But hundreds, thousands, dozens of people come to you?
- We do not have time to process all. The team that works now does not have time to answer everyone. People come from absolutely all subdivisions of the power bloc. There were no judges. The only ones who have not come to us are the judges.
- We invite judges. What is the attitude of ordinary employees of the security apparatus, police officers, the Investigative Committee towards the regime? Do they respect, obey, despise?
- There is a certain percentage, in principle, the same as in the elections: 80% or 75% are for changes, and 25% are for the regime. I think there is a ratio like that. The only thing that holds back is the fear of losing a job, and these are all the nuances.
Everyone I know spoke very negatively about the current regime, and everyone hates it in the same way and wants changes. And within the system itself, they want changes.
- After the beginning of mass repressions in August, many security officials began to leave, just like you. Is this process ongoing?
- I know that the process escalated after the death of Raman Bandarenka. This was not a protest action on the square, although Taraikouski was killed there. But then they could justify each other somehow. Here, specifically, they came to a private courtyard, where people gathered peacefully. There were no grenades, no stones, nothing. The man simply said, "Don't cut the ribbons; this is our yard."
Now we understand that, for your purely personal opinion about what should be done and what shouldn't, you can be killed by unknown people who pretend to be either employees or vigilantes.
There were more squads that started killing people, and it is not clear who these bandits are. We receive information that they are now beginning to dress up criminals in supposedly civilian "yabatka"...
—... "not indifferent citizens."
- Yes, "not indifferent citizens." And they are blackmailing: we'll turn a blind eye to your crime, cut your sentence, anything else. And they go, these crazy citizens, and begin to do God knows what. Being in the system, you just don't want to be involved. Exactly the same as I do. I don't want to be involved in this. I'm leaving! And this is probably the main message. The more this happens, the more people will leave.
- What advice would you give to those Belarusians who go to protest actions?
- It's hard to talk about it while being here. Because I'm safe, and they're on the front line. But I will say one thing; this is the basis: as long as people are walking, there will be this resistance within the power bloc system. The regime cannot be restored economically. The resource is flowing out. I think partisan resistance will also begin. It doesn't mean that the detachments will sit in the forests; sabotage will occur in all directions: at work, within the power bloc system, in the economy; the necessary information will be supplied. And all this will be actively carried out.
But these protests themselves are very important. 500 thousand gathered on August 16. These people have not disappeared anywhere; they are there. Someone gets tired; someone is sick, we still have many sick, now is the coronavirus. In terms of partisan warfare, all the same five hundred thousand and the whole country that went out everywhere, fought, they can show themselves.
- Is sabotage already starting inside the structure?
- There is information that even the employees themselves, the fighters who run, are sabotaging. Somewhere, someone allegedly dropped a shield. Someone is trying to go on sick leave; someone did not catch a person, although they could. These are the ones who want but cannot leave. They are really in danger themselves. Well, they pretend that they are supposedly for the government, but, in fact, they try to avoid making punitive actions very aggressive. But there are also those twelve percent, as we have already said, who are already simply defending themselves, because they have done things.
- You worked in the structure for five years. How can we defeat the regime, this terrible bloody system?
- Unfortunately, it takes time just pulling out the resource. And human resource. Now there are large shortages in the entire power unit. And people will leave. Each such trigger - murder, death, unjustified violence - will force a person to make a final decision. Many have thoughts: we must leave.
For me, such a trigger was my watch. I've been holding myself back, too, for a long time. But here's the watch. You come, you're angry, angry. You don't understand what's going on, how to act. The management can't tell you anything sensible; they can't give you any advice. You say: "F*** you, everyone, I'm quitting!" People were beaten up - that's all; I made a decision.
They killed Raman Bandarenka - that's it, I quit. At the ultimatum on October 26, people also believed - they quit. And everyone makes his own step, and the resources go away. And they are recruited from the street, as we say, under the fence, with an ad, people with secondary education. Although there are twice as many of them, they are not professionals, namely in the intellectual sphere. Even physical training - you need three or four months to prepare, or even six. That is, some leave, but there is no one to fill in.
This toxic Lukashenka's regime with all its criminal organization must now be overthrown. And for this, all methods are good. Pulling out resources, pulling out a human resource is very important.
Constant resistance. Someone can go to rallies; someone can draw leaflets, posters, someone can not pay the tax or refuse to pay utility bills, someone can hold an action "Stop petrol," it was very effective. Such ideas are being worked out; they will be constantly thrown in. And we somehow think, hope to overcome this all together.
- Andrei, what would you like to say to those security officials who still work in the system? You can even address them. Here is your camera.
- The difficulty is that there are several types of current security officials. The first are those who have soiled themselves, but you have a chance, if you have not committed grave and especially grave crimes - this is Article 20, apply it. You will be able to repent, refuse to carry out these criminal orders, leave now, justify yourself, and provide information for future investigation. This, roughly speaking, is now a criminal organization. If you leave a criminal organization, you can be released from this responsibility.
Those who have not soiled themselves, do not close your eyes to everything that is happening, because this is a fateful moment, and now it is very important and necessary to change this situation in the country because we will all live better, including you in your power unit. You know what the disadvantages are now. And in this trade union, which we have stated, we have registered all these shortcomings and come up with ways to solve them. We will even demonstrate them in the near future. You can see how much better the conditions inside the system will be. And the country will be better.
The contribution of everyone, not only the power bloc, every citizen, is now very important. And if we all together, at the same moment, as a single collective said "no" to the current government, each in his own direction, we would have already won. We only need to reverse this: "figure it out without me; I'm afraid for some of my own good." You are given guarantees. And, I think, they will be executed, because those who left, who suffered from this regime, including from the power bloc, when the regime changes and new authorities come, they will, first of all, remember about you; they will need to purge these generals who put money in their pockets. They have soiled themselves and everything else.
Make this decision if you are an honest person. Accept it now, when there is still an opportunity. And then you will come and be a leader yourself; you will build a country with new, fair laws.
- In general, do not forget about conscience.
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