None of them regret their deed.
“If I had stayed on the other side of the barricades, I would not have been able to look people in the eyes later,” Kiryl Yurkevich, ex-officer of the Brest Department of Internal Affairs, tells Euroradio. In July 2020, a guy participated in a cordon of a chain of solidarity in the city center: "I made sure that people did not go out into the roadway."
"The participants in the chain behaved kindly, but I was ashamed and sickened and walked with my head down," recalls the interlocutor. "I decided that this was my first and last event of this kind."
In the interview, Kiryl, as well as other former employees of the power structures of Belarus, Viktar and Barys (the names have been changed at the request of the heroes), tell why they decided to change their jobs and how their life "as a civilian" changed.
Kiryl: "I used to rave about the Criminal Investigation, I thought it was romance"
When Viktar Babaryka was detained, I thought it was illegal and published a post on Instagram in support of him. Someone from the management saw it; they called me for a conversation and said: either I work in this system and do not post such things, or I am looking for another job. To which I replied: if you want, fire me, my position is unchanged, I will not break the law as well as participate in some kind of detentions. I said I'm ready to hand over the license. On August 8, I was fired by order. So I did not take part in further dispersals.
I quickly found a new job; friends and acquaintances helped in the search. I went to the international drivers, I am engaged in cargo transportation on a wagon. Mostly I ride in Europe and Russia. The work is difficult but interesting. I can't say that I dreamed about it, but as an intermediate option, it suits me. The salary has become higher. There are many goals and plans.
In any case, I constantly discover something new: I even visited the Urals. So, I'm sure there are still many discoveries ahead.
As you can see, every job I have is romantic [he laughs.]: I used to rave about the Criminal Investigation, I thought it was romantic. Now - a wagon.
Before working in the police, I studied at the Academy of the Ministry of Internal Affairs for five years, so I had a rough idea of what I would do, what kind of contingent I would have to face. I liked the work. But what happened in the summer... On the one hand, it is very hard mentally. On the other hand, you understand the absurdity of the situation: people just stand somewhere, sit on benches, and you come up and put forward some demands to them (I don't know if you can call them legal) - "go," "don't sit," "don't stand here." You feel disgusted, disgusted by yourself.
Would I like to go back to the police? To do this, the country must begin to comply with the laws. We need honest, open courts. Today we see that, in fact, there is nowhere to look for the truth: neither in the courts nor in any other supervisory authorities. Some kind of dystopia. People are afraid to speak, they are intimidated. Nobody knows how things might turn out. Look at how journalists are judged, who, it would seem, are not doing anything illegal. They are given two years in prison, chemistry; people have smaller sentences for theft. Now I have more questions than answers to what is happening.
But in any case, people did not go out in vain. Whatever happens next, we saw how many like-minded people are around, how many good things were done during this time. In any case, I hope that sooner or later everything will change because everything is cyclical. It does not happen like this: we fell to the bottom and never rose again. Everything will definitely change, change for the better.
I don’t communicate with my former colleagues because I don’t see much sense in this. After all, our paths went our separate ways. Currently, the entire current leadership has the position that we are traitors. I am a straightforward person: I cannot - both for yours and ours. And so everything is fine with me, not counting the debt for state education. Now the court is underway, there is a claim for 12 thousand rubles. I have to take care of this. But I don't regret anything.
Viktar: "They said that the people who go out are almost terrorists."
I worked in the Security Department, was engaged in the security of embassies and consulates. I did not participate in the dispersals, but there was no desire to have even an indirect relationship to the powerless actions of the security forces.
We all know what happened. Personally, I was most shocked that people from law enforcement agencies are capable of such cruelty. I could not even imagine that we have people who are capable of treating citizens in this way - using force, weapons! We ourselves were taught that according to the rules, weapons are used only as a last resort. And then the man said a word, and now someone is grabbing a weapon. This was visible both on the video and everywhere. The accessibility and permissiveness of police officers are scary.
Have we carried out any kind of ideological work? Yes, but at a very commonplace level. This job for a person who does not have his own opinion and outlook on things. Who listens to what is poured into the ears. They said that there were riots in the country, and the people who came out were almost terrorists who want to overthrow the government, and this must not be allowed. They say the protests are not peaceful.
They did not agitate to beat. They carefully developed an attitude: we are doing the right thing, but the protesters are not. It doesn't matter what the protesters do.
I realized that my opinion about what was happening in the country was at odds with the opinion of the leadership, so I wrote a statement of resignation and left in November. The reaction inside was different: from "everybody has his own opinion" to implied contempt. Nobody pressed hard.
In general, since the summer, although we, thank God, did not take part in the suppression of the rallies, many people have quit their jobs compared to the usual time.
Nobody called them traitors to their faces, but I know that behind their backs, they responded that way. "Changed the side," "look, with whom you serve (are friends)," "how can you trust such a person, consider him a partner if he went to the other side?" - these were the conversations. But is it really that important? My friends understood why I did this. I did not feel any judgments or negativity in my environment.
I found a job in two months. In profession, in a bank. I am engaged in the promotion of digital channels. Salaries are still slightly higher than before, but there is a prospect for growth. There was none at the old job. So I'm glad I left. Everything is going well.
Some people say they are afraid to leave the security forces, for example, out of fear of persecution. So you can be afraid all your life and sit in one place. I personally have not come across anything like this. Even if I knew that it was waiting for me, I would still stick to my opinion and my plans. I wouldn't just stay out of fear.
Barys: "I had to witness how they beat people"
I would not want to dive into the dark everyday life of the past. We were sent to disperse the protests, but, we didn’t do everything that was said. I personally did not do anything: I did not use force, I did not disperse anyone myself. Simply, having observed what is happening inside, I realized that I do not want to be present in this system even close.
I had to witness how protesters were beaten. These were people from different departments. I didn't understand what was going on in their heads. What were they taught? Who trained them? What did they read or, conversely, did not read? It seems like a person was calm all his life, and suddenly such aggression...
I don't know how this is taught. Maybe one will say something, and five others who do not have their own opinions will believe. Probably, this was all. I have not heard of any "zombification" courses. I think it all depends on the level of human development.
It was worth leaving what was happening. Some colleagues went to write statements. I also decided to file a report. Was it scary? Rather, it was annoying for wasting time on this system. After all, I could find myself in another area, succeed. And so... When a person lives honestly, there is nothing to be afraid of.
I went to the management and explained. I just told them what I saw and that I don't want to take part in this anymore. We all remember the photographs with beaten people very well, and on TV we said - these are not bruises, but paint. Well, if someone draws like that, what can we talk about?
I was told - keep working, and we will consider it within a month. It didn't suit me. Then I was told that if I do not show up for work within three hours, I will be fired for absenteeism. I answered - start timing it. On August 12, I resigned from the power structures. Since it was not possible to reach the agreement of the parties, I had to return the money under the contract. I returned about five thousand. These were my savings. Nobody helped me. Everything that was - everything is mine.
I am often asked how others reacted. You know, so many people called with congratulations that sometimes you don't so many calls even on your birthday. They never supported me like that: they said that I did everything right, that I was great.
Now everything is fine with me, I am doing an internship at an IT office. Yes, I had to start from scratch, but I am slowly mastering everything. I haven't received my salary yet, but it won't change for sure.