Story By: Gheorghi Caraseni, Sub Editor: Alex Cope, Agency: Real Press
Over a dozen Belarusian cops and special forces officers have thrown their badges and uniforms in the bin in dismay with President Lukashenko’s heavy-handed reaction to the protests and civil unrest sparked by the disputed outcome of the recent presidential election.
The incident, although seemingly insignificant compared to the vast demonstrations in Belarusian cities, could spell trouble for President Alexander Lukashenko, 65, who, until now, has had the Eastern European state’s security apparatus firmly in control.
These emerging signs of descent within the police force and special forces come amid the largest-ever demonstrations in Belarus after the presidential election saw Alexander Lukashenko, dubbed ‘Europe’s last dictator’, extend his 27-year rule with another five years.
Lukashenko has served as the president of Belarus since the establishment of the office on 20th July 1994 and was recently voted in again with a reported 80 percent of the votes on 9th August.
However, the election was marred by allegations of widespread electoral fraud, and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called it “not free and fair”.
The opposition candidate Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who has sought refuge in neighbouring Lithuania following the election, has since declared herself the winner of the elections, demanding that Lukashenko start negotiations.
All opposition candidates have filed appeals to the Central Election Commission of Belarus (CEC) calling for the results to be invalidated.
Lukashenko leads a notoriously authoritarian regime in Belarus and has had many sanctions imposed on him for the violation of human rights by the European Union and the United States since 2006.
In response to the election result, hundreds of thousands of protesters have taken to the streets to demand that ‘Europe’s last dictator’ leaves office.
Protests have reportedly been met with a strong police response and numerous demonstrators have claimed to have been beaten by cops in police vans and station cells, with many posting images on social media. So far three protesters have been killed in clashes with the police.
As a result of the ongoing unrest, over a dozen Belarusian cops and special forces officers have reportedly thrown their badges and uniforms in the bin in protest.
Former police captain Egor Yemelyanov, 36, told Real Press: “I worked as a policeman for 17 years and I loved my job for the first 10 to 12 years.”
The ex-cop refused to specify exactly what happened for him to have a change of heart several years ago, only commenting that the leadership’s attitude had changed and he no longer felt comfortable in his role.
He added that he had been too worried about what he would do for work to quit earlier, but the response by authorities to the protests, and the full support of his wife Marina, 33, and other loved ones, gave him the final push he needed.
“The current situation was the last straw,” Mr Yemelyanov told Real Press.
“I never thought something like this could ever happen in my country. This is insane. There are criminals everywhere, but I’ve never seen anything like this. It is like genocide,” he said.
“They have to stop it as soon as possible, people are not scared anymore. It’s like 1941 (Nazi occupation of Belarus) all over again.
“I hope the country’s leaders will soon realise that they are wrong and stop before more civilians lose their lives. They need to open their eyes and stop pursuing profit and power.”
Regardless of the outcome of the face-off between President Lukashenko and protesters, Mr Yemelyanov has lost the taste for the uniform for good, he told Real Press. Once the situation settles down, he is hoping instead to start a new career as a professional fitness trainer.
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