Updated at 20:11,29-10-2020

District police officer leaves Belarus in protest against lawlessness

JULIA MATUZAVA, Euroradio

District police officer leaves Belarus in protest against lawlessness
Ivan Kolas / vk.com
On August 12, the district inspector of the Savetsky District Department of Internal Affairs of Homiel Ivan Kolas recorded a video message in which he called Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya president and asked his colleagues not to use violence against peaceful protesters. The next night, due to the threat of detention, he had to go abroad.

Now Ivan Kolas is in Warsaw. He is mastering the profession of motion-designer and really wants to return to Belarus “when the situation changes”.

They taught us how to disperse people with shields


Twenty minutes after Ivan Kolas published his appeal, the authorities came to his home. The policeman did not open the door. He threw off his uniform, badge and identity card from the balcony. After that, a car with security officials was seen outside his house.

"It only remained for me to leave. I didn’t plan to go abroad, it was a spontaneous act. At night, he managed to leave unnoticed in a roundabout way. First I was in Russia, then in Ukraine, now I have been in Warsaw for 5 days. If I hadn't left, I would definitely be in the detention center in Homiel," Ivan tells Euroradio.

On August 13, Ivan Kolas was fired. They considered his video appeal a disciplinary offense. The young man had been working in the internal affairs agency for 5 years.

"Earlier I did not plan to leave the police force, I considered the positions within the system. Although, to be honest, there were many issues that worried me. I mean the attitude of management to employees, that of employees to citizens, these stories about fake protocols. I've always opposed this. But after the elections I was completely disappointed. I just did not expect such violence. It was uncalled for," Ivan recalls.

"But you were probably prepared for the protests that might take place after the elections".

"Yes, a month and a half before the elections, they began to gather us every week, took us to a military unit and taught how to disperse people with shields, how best to hit and detain. Some colleagues liked it, they said: "Yes, we will scatter them all", others said that they would not beat anyone. I was already against it then. I saw how many people come out to support Tsikhanouskaya. And I saw how signatures were collected for Lukashenka: two girls came to our police department and just took our passports".


Protest rally in Minsk / Euroradio


I like the way they treat employees in the IT sphere


Internal affairs officers, according to Ivan, were told the following: "If there are shoulder straps, you have to support the authorities". Kolas, on the other hand, reminded his colleagues in his video that the security forces give the oath of loyalty to “the people, not Lukashenka or Yarmoshyna”. The former district police officer admits that many colleagues regarded his act as a betrayal.

"They just disregard the fact that people were beaten, raped ... I didn’t say that all the police were bad. I just asked to be with the people. But there are, of course, those who support me, not everyone in the police is imbued with this terrible ideology. I communicate with them. Some of them turned to me and asked where to turn after being fired. About 10 acquaintances quit," continues Ivan.


Ivan Kolas now / ByChange


Ivan Kolas did not regret his decision. True, he misses Belarus very much and is ready to return as soon as “the situation changes”. Now Ivan is mastering the profession of motion designer. He turned to the ByChange initiative for help.

"I am planning to send applications for work soon. Previously, I wanted to return to the police, if I could. But now I changed my mind. I really like the way they treat employees in the IT sphere, how the working hours are arranged," admits the former district police officer.

Ivan joined the police to work at the age of 22, after studying at the pedagogical faculty at the Francysk Skaryna State University. Now he is 27. It's high time he found yourself in a new life.