Evan Neumann of Mill Valley, California is the newly minted star of state television in Minsk, Belarus.
Neumann, who is wanted in the U.S. on six criminal charges related to the attempted insurrection on Jan. 6—including two felonies for assaulting an officer—was featured in the Belarusian state TV special, “Goodbye, America,” which aired in full on Thursday. He recounted a treacherous journey through forested borderlands that landed him in Minsk and expressed his unwillingness to face justice in the United States. Neumann said he is seeking political asylum in Belarus because the U.S. is, in his opinion, no longer a country of law and order.
In Thursday’s premiere of his interview, Neumann said that unless he is able to return to the United States, he would like to stay in Belarus and perhaps get an IT job. He said that Belarus did him “a big favor” and in return promised to be “a productive and a good citizen.” Neumann mentioned living in Moscow in 1994 and complained that both Russia and Belarus are being “demonized” by the Western media. He described U.S. sanctions against both countries as “a form of terrorism.”
Neumann claimed that upon return to America, he would face certain torture. “I’m not strong enough to withstand torture,” he said, while grinning ear to ear. He expressed the need to obtain “government protection” from the United States by another country. Neumann explained his choice of a destination to the TV presenter Evgeny Gorin: “I know that Belarus resists the West. Besides that, your country was closer than Russia.” He described leaving his temporary refuge in Ukraine with only $1,000 dollars on his person and heading for the border.
In a country dealing with a severe migrant crisis in a cruel and callous way, this transplant from California is being handled in a markedly privileged way. For the Belarusian and Russian state media, he is a convenient pawn for besmirching the U.S. government. Russian President Vladimir Putin, as well as Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, repeatedly used the Capitol insurrection to take jabs at the U.S.’s election integrity and to claim that the rioters are facing “political repressions,” in an attempt to deflect from domestic issues plaguing Russia and Belarus under their authoritarian leadership.
During the special on Belarusian state TV, Neumann bemoaned “political repressions” and claimed that the criminal charges against him are totally unfounded. He accused the federal government of staging an elaborate set-up on Jan. 6 and claimed that the doors of the Capitol “were opened from the inside and we were invited to come in.”
Neumann’s actions on Jan. 6 have been thoroughly documented. According to the criminal complaint, filed on March 23 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, a man later identified as Neumann was videotaped assaulting and berating police officers in the performance of their duties. In video footage described in the criminal filing, Neumann was nothing short of a menace during the Capitol storming, referring to police officers as “little bitches” and responding to their demands to move away from the barricade with statements like: “... you’re nothing” and “No, you can’t tell me what to do, you piece of shit.”
As recounted in the federal filing, Neumann was videotaped punching officers and striking them with a metal barricade. He exclaimed: “I’m willing to die, are you?”
Despite the gung-ho attitude Neumann exhibited during the failed insurrection, the rebel from California seems hellbent on avoiding time behind bars. After being stopped and questioned by the FBI at the San Francisco International Airport in February of this year, Neumann rushed to sell his house in Mill Valley in April for $1.3 million and fled the United States to avoid prosecution. In his interview with Belarusian state TV, he claimed being “tipped off” to upcoming charges by his many friends in federal government. Neumann failed to mention his encounter with the FBI in San Francisco, which was most likely the triggering event that prompted his abrupt escape from the U.S.
Appearing on Belarusian state TV this Thursday, Neumann portrayed himself as an innocent victim of government persecution and claimed that he left the United States on the recommendation of his lawyer, to buy time and figure out what was going on in his criminal case. Neumann told state TV that he found the charge of assaulting a police officer “very upsetting” and claimed that he did not commit any criminal acts.
Russian state media followed suit, falsely alleging that Neumann “never made it past the barricades” and became the target of a “special operation” merely because he was photographed in a close-up shot during the Capitol riot. Russian state TV is already using Neumann’s saga as a basis to claim that the Kremlin is more lenient towards the protesters than the U.S. government.
Vladimir Shapovalov, deputy director of the Institute of History and Politics at Moscow State Pedagogical University, weighed in with his view on the prosecution of Jan. 6 rioters. He told state TV channel Rossiya-24 on Monday: “Almost everyone who took part in the protests has been arrested. The policeman who killed the protester was acquitted. Russia does not have mass prosecutions even for participation in unauthorized rallies. The American system clearly demonstrates regressive tendencies, in contrast to Russia.”
During his appearance on Belarusian state TV, Neumann failed to mention the extensive video footage documenting his activities on Jan. 6, as well as his history of other criminal charges stemming from blatant disregard for law enforcement and authorities in general. In an earlier interview, featured by ABC7 News, Neumann—a wealthy and successful businessman with no apparent reasons for his discontent—contended that disobeying orders is “his duty as an American.” He claimed: “If we don’t take advantage of our rights, we lose them.” Ironically, Neumann’s flagrant resistance to lawful authority led him to seek asylum in authoritarian Belarus—often described as “Europe’s last dictatorship.”
Bogdan Bezpalko, member of the Council for Interethnic Relations under the President of the Russian Federation, told Russia’s state TV program Vesti on channel Rossiya-24 on Monday that in order to escape America’s reach, Neumann had to abscond to either Russia, Belarus, or China. Bezpalko surmised: “Apparently, Belarus turned out to be closer.”
Many in Russia suspect that life in Minsk could catch him off-guard. In a rant criticizing Americans’ lack of knowledge about Belarus on the state TV show The Evening With Vladimir Soloviev on Monday, editor-in-chief of RT and Sputnik Margarita Simonyan opined: “Europeans are a lot better informed. Americans know nothing about nothing.” During the same show, host Vladimir Soloviev brought up Neumann’s escape from the United States and his application for asylum in Belarus. Discussing the rioter’s destination of choice, the state TV propagandist couldn’t help himself, and simply laughed.