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Capitol rioter Evan Neumann applies for asylum in Belarus, local media says

Smoke fills an area in the Capitol on Jan. 6 as police confront rioters. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)

MOSCOW — A man who allegedly participated in the Capitol riot Jan. 6 and is wanted by the FBI is now seeking asylum in Belarus, the country’s state media reported Monday, presenting him as a “simple American whose shops were burned by Black Lives Matter activists.”

Evan Neumann, who appears to have sat down for an interview with Belarusian state television in a segment titled “Goodbye, America,” is wanted in the United States on charges of violent entry and disorderly conduct on the Capitol grounds, as well as for assaulting, resisting and obstructing law enforcement during civil disorder.

The Belarusian Foreign Ministry could not be reached for comment.

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Both Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and his close ally, Russian President Vladimir Putin, have frequently referenced the Capitol riot, calling the prosecution of those involved an example of “double standards” by the United States because it frequently criticizes crackdowns on anti-government protests abroad.

When mass protests broke out across Belarus last year over its presidential election, which the international community has widely denounced as rigged, thousands of demonstrators were brutally beaten by police and arrested. Many said they were tortured in prison.

But Neumann could be welcomed in Belarus as part of the regime’s anti-Western propaganda efforts. Lukashenko, who has been in power since 1994, has said the United States stoked last year’s opposition movement to unseat him.

Tim O’Connor, a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Belarus, who is based in Vilnius, Lithuania, said in a statement that the embassy has “seen Belarusian state media reporting about Mr. Neumann. Due to U.S. privacy laws, we are limited in what we can say about individual U.S. citizens.”

“The United States is a country where the rule of law is respected and where government is transparent and accountable for its actions,” O’Connor added. “Every citizen can count on an impartial and objective court system. There has not been a single case of transparent, accountable investigation into and prosecution of the actions of Belarusian police that resulted in deaths, systemic torture and the continued repression of Belarusian citizens, of whom over 800 remain in jail for peaceful protest against the regime.”

In an excerpt of Neumann’s interview, the Belarusian state television presenter said Neumann “sought justice and asked uncomfortable questions” after the 2020 U.S. elections. The 48-year-old “lost almost everything and is being persecuted by the U.S. government,” the presenter added.

The full interview will air Wednesday. In the preview released Monday, Neumann said he went into hiding once he was alerted that he would be added to the FBI’s Most Wanted list. A lawyer recommended he take a trip to Europe, he said. The state television presenter said Neumann had been living in a rented apartment in Ukraine for four months.

Neumann said Ukrainian security service agents started pursuing him, so he then crossed into Belarus on foot through the Ukrainian swamps of Pripyat, near Chernobyl. He claimed to have encountered snakes and wild boars on the journey.

The Ukrainian border guard service said it does not provide information on individual cases.

Belarusian border guards detained him Aug. 15, according to the state television report. The interview took place in the Belarusian city of Brest.

Neumann said he does not think he committed any crime.

David L. Stern in Kyiv contributed to this report.

Before: Pentagon leaders had acute fears about widespread violence ahead of Jan. 6

During: FBI was forced to improvise a plan to help take back the Capitol

After: GOP efforts to undermine 2020 results restarted immediately after Jan. 6