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Nikolai Karpenkov at a rally in Minsk on September 6, 2020. He’s holding a truncheon in one hand and a red-and-white flag — an opposition symbol — in the other.

‘Use your weapon’ Leaked recording implicates Lukashenko in authorizing use of lethal force against Belarusian protesters

Source: Meduza
Nikolai Karpenkov at a rally in Minsk on September 6, 2020. He’s holding a truncheon in one hand and a red-and-white flag — an opposition symbol — in the other.
Nikolai Karpenkov at a rally in Minsk on September 6, 2020. He’s holding a truncheon in one hand and a red-and-white flag — an opposition symbol — in the other.
Natalya Fedosenko / TASS / Scanpix / LETA

President Alexander Lukashenko authorized the Belarusian security forces to use lethal force against opposition protesters, according to an alleged recording of the country’s deputy interior minister obtained and published by the organization “By_Pol.” A self-described “union of the security forces of Belarus,” By_Pol is made up of ex-security officers who have defected to the opposition. In addition to disclosing Lukashenko’s alleged instructions to police officials, the newest recording leaked by the group reveals plans to build “resettlement” camps and apparently confirms that the special forces mortally wounded a protester in Minsk on the day after 2020 presidential elections.

The organization By_Pol has released an alleged audio recording of Belarus’s Deputy Interior Minister Nikolay Karpenkov (Mikalay Karpyankou) — the current commander of the internal troops. Until mid-November, Karpenkov headed the Belarusian Interior Ministry’s Main Directorate for Combating Organized Crime and Corruption (GUBOPiK) — a division actively involved in suppressing the opposition protests that have been ongoing in Belarus since August 2020. 

According to the content of the tape, it was recorded on October 30, 2020. By_Pol claims that the audio is of Karpenkov speaking at a farewell meeting with GUBOPiK personnel. In his speech, the division’s outgoing head specifically refers to a meeting with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko (Alyaksandr Lukashenka) concerning the suppression of the opposition rallies and the death of Alexander Taraykovsky (Alyaksandr Taraykouski) — the first demonstrator killed during the summer protests.

Alexander Taraykovsky was a 34-year-old Minsk resident who was killed on August 10, 2020 — the second day of protests following the presidential elections in Belarus. According to Belarusian police officials, Taraykovsky was killed by an explosive device that detonated in his hands (allegedly, he was trying to throw some kind of bomb at law enforcement officers). However, footage taken at the location of the demonstration shows that there was nothing in Taraykovsky’s hands and that he was apparently mortally wounded by the security forces. 

The Belarusian authorities never launched an investigation into Taraykovsky’s death. However, an opposition initiative called the “Belarusian People’s Tribunal” conducted its own investigation and concluded that Taraykovsky was shot dead by Nikita Korovin, an officer in the Interior Ministry’s “Almaz” special forces group. 

Though the audio quality is poor, By_Pol has provided a transcript to accompany the recording. Here are the key quotes from the leaked tape (the original English translation has been corrected by Meduza for clarity). 

On Yarygin pistols and Taraykovsky’s death

We’ve been equipped, I’ll tell you, with a very powerful weapon. The Russian Yarygin pistol. […] Yesterday, we took a cardboard box, folded it into four layers, put it on a chair […] we took it [the gun] and tested it. The bullet went through the cardboard box and through the chair. It’s clear why this idiot drunkard died, what his name? (Audience: Taraykovsky). Of course, he was killed by a rubber bullet that hit him in the chest. 

Russian weapons, traumatic weapons, are no different from assault weapons in close-range combat. Because a poor Russian man has to protect himself from a Chechen or some Dagestani, you understand, yes? Moreover, the country has a cold climate, so it makes sense...More than half of them wear sheepskins. 

Update. Commenting on the recording, Alexander Taraykovsky’s widow Elena German said, “A drunkard and an idiot? I have no words. They killed a civilian and now they insult him too. […] I think it’s simply genocide.”

On Lukashenko’s guarantees for security officers

[The] head of state is covering us from all angles in terms of using firearms. Of course, he says, no one is to shoot right away like a madman. He says you have to give a person a chance in this situation, so he realizes. But if not, then, shoot with all you’ve got! Because that’s the kind of time this is. It’s not a color revolution — it’s a hybrid war. And if we fail to hold our ground, the next matter will have to do with the Russian Federation. It will begin to collapse, and then, he says, very little will remain of this Belarus: it will be divided between Lithuania, Ukraine, [and] Poland.

He said, everyone will get an award. [...] He says even if there are thousands [of awards], I, he says, will authorize all of them. This is, in principle, what the president said today.

On the use of force against protesters

As the president said, if someone’s pushing toward you — use non-lethal weapons. Point-blank [at] the legs, stomach, balls. So that he [the protester] understands what he’s done after he regains consciousness. Just injure him in some way: either cripple him, mutilate him, or kill him. Use your weapon [to shoot] right in the forehead, right in the face, right to the point of no return to the condition he was in beforehand.

If they resuscitate him, alright then. He’ll be missing half his brain, well, good riddance. Because everyone who takes to the streets at the moment is taking part in a “railroad war” [guerrilla warfare] […] Those blocking the roads, assaulting policemen, throwing Molotov cocktails — they are terrorists. These are superfluous people in our country.

On a camp for ‘resettlement’

A database is being created. Those arrested for the second time have to remain in this database. The assignment [is] to develop and build a camp [...] not for prisoners of war or even the interned, but a camp for the especially sharp-hoofed [sic], for resettlement. And surround it with barbed wire along the perimeter. Set up two rooms: the furnace — a floor for feeding — and a floor for them to work. But they must be kept there until everything clams down.

On Lukashenko leaving office

The President also said that before the end of December all of these moments [happening] on the street need to be dealt with and dealt with harshly. Everything’s been explained to everyone, he offered a constitution. He also said that he wouldn’t run for office in the next election. […] [Lukashenko said], I know that if I give in to all this persuading now and step down, it’s all over, all of them will simply be destroyed. […] The GUBOP will be dissolved; the internal troops will be dissolved, they’ll make the OMON [riot police] kneel, abuse them, and so on. 

This isn’t the first recording of Belarusian police officials that By_Pol has released. So far, the organization has uploaded recordings from security officers’ chest cameras, taken during the opposition demonstrations, as well as a video of the mistreatment of detainees at a Minsk police station.

By_Pol also released an audio recording of a conversation about jailed opposition figure Sergey Tikhanovsky (Syarhei Tsikhanouski) — the husband of exiled Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya (Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya). Allegedly, the voice on the recording is Belarus’s former Interior Minister Yuri Karayev (Yury Karayeu). In the conversation caught on tape, he calls Tikhanovsky a “creature” and says “there no charges against him — we have to think up [something] and put him in prison for a long time.” 

The Belarusian Interior Ministry hasn’t commented on any of the previously leaked recordings and has yet to comment on alleged Karpenkov tape. 

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Text by Olga Korelina

Translated and edited by Eilish Hart

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