A man wanted by the FBI for his involvement in the violent Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol has fled the country and is seeking asylum in Belarus, the country’s state-run media reported over the weekend.
Evan Neumann faces six charges in U.S. District Court for his conduct on Jan. 6, including assaulting a police officer and engaging in physical violence in a restricted area.
In an interview with Belarus 1, the California man disputed the charges.
“I do not believe that I have committed any crime,” Neumann told a state TV host in a segment called “Goodbye, America!”
“One of the charges was very offensive,” he added. “It is alleged that I hit a police officer. There is no reason for this.”
However, there is documentation to support the charges. The criminal complaint includes bodycam footage of Neumann attempting to break through the outer barricades around the Capitol on Jan. 6, at one point reaching over the metal barrier to punch an officer with a balled fist:
Neumann told Belarus 1 that he fled the U.S. for Italy in March at the advice of a lawyer, and went on to rent an apartment in Ukraine for four months. He said he left Ukraine for Belarus after Ukrainian security services started following him, and that he arrived at the Belarusian border on Aug. 15. When he arrived there, he was taken into custody.
The criminal complaint notes Neumann attended the Ukrainian Orange Revolution in 2004 and 2005, which could explain why the country’s secret police may have taken an interest in him. He wore an orange and yellow scarf commemorating the event to the U.S. Capitol in January:
Belarus appears eager to use Neumann’s story to boost its anti-West propaganda.
In an excerpt from the segment translated to English by The Moscow Times, the host portrays Neumann as “the same type of simple American whose shops were burned by Black Lives Matter activists,” adding that he “lost almost everything and is being persecuted by the U.S. government” only because he “sought justice and asked uncomfortable questions.”
Belarus’ authoritarian leader, Alexander Lukashenko, claimed victory in a heavily disputed election last August, sparking massive protests and leading to renewed global scrutiny of “Europe’s last dictatorship.” Lukashenko, who has been in power since 1994, responded by brutally repressing dissidents and arresting thousands.
In May, Belarusian authorities hijacked a Ryanair flight so they could arrest Raman Pratasevich, a journalist who has been critical of the regime.
And in August, a prominent Belarusian activist who helped Belarusians fleeing prosecution was found dead under suspicious circumstances in a Ukrainian park, not far from his home.
The country’s dire political circumstances were again highlighted during the Tokyo Olympics this summer, when Belarusian sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya was granted asylum after officials threatened her for questioning team management on social media.