A California man who stormed the U.S. Capitol and allegedly assaulted police officers on Jan. 6 has fled to Belarus and was granted political asylum, according to the country’s state media.
Evan Neumann, 49, was indicted in December 2021 on 14 counts, including assaulting officers and entering a restricted building with a dangerous weapon. But as the Los Angeles Times points out, he had already fled to Belarus — a Soviet-style dictatorship that Putin is using as a staging ground for his invasion of Ukraine.
From the L.A. Times:
The U.S. government says Neumann, who hails from a family that owned prominent hotels in Sonoma County, flew to Washington, D.C., on Jan. 5, 2021, and was spotted on police body-cam video outside the Capitol on Jan. 6, wearing a red MAGA hat and an orange and yellow scarf commemorating the Ukrainian Orange Revolution of 2005. Neumann, who spent time in Eastern Europe and reportedly supported the pro-democratic Orange Revolution, also sported a gas mask, according to the government.
As the Capitol riot intensified, Neumann taunted officers, saying they “kneel to antifa because they’re little b****es,” and that they will be overrun by the crowd. “I’m willing to die. Are you?” he reportedly told an officer. He also reportedly used a police barricade to ram officers who were trying to hold back the mob of Trump supporters.
Belarus has been described as “Europe’s last dictatorship.” According to The Gaurdian‘s Mark Rice-Oxley, since the former Soviet republic’s president Alexander Lukashenko came to power in 1994, “parliament has been emasculated, political opponents driven into exile or disappeared, and the media have been silenced.”
“This is a country where the KGB is still called the KGB,” Rice-Oxley writes. “It is the last European country to use the death penalty – a bullet to the back of the prisoner’s head. Last month, Lukashenko announced he intended to bring back ‘serfdom’ to ‘teach the peasants to work more efficiently.'”
According to reports, Neumann first flew to Italy and then traveled to Ukraine, but he began to fear that he could be extradited due to Ukraine’s close ties to the U.S., so he later crossed the border into Belarus.