MINSK, October 28. /TASS/. Belarusian police officers may use combat (lethal) weapons against protesters only in case of sabotage or terror attack, Belarusian Minister of the Interior Yuri Karayev said in an interview, published in Germany’s World Economy e-zine Wednesday.
"Combat weapon could be used to stop criminals, when all other methods are already exhausted. Use of weapons is possible only from the standpoint of legality and restoration of order. Nobody says it could be used against peaceful protesters indiscriminately," the minister said. "[If] a person carries out sabotage or a terror attack, attacks police officers, <...> of course, they must be stopped via any means at a police officer’s disposal - from physical force to combat weapon," the minister said.
Karayev pointed out that it is his job to convey the importance of preservation of a police officer’s life in case of an attack to his subordinates.
"I keep asking: why a police officer only made a warning shot after he had been on a receiving end of a beating for several minutes already, including attempted gun grab? […] I understand that our officers were not ready to kill compatriots. We’ve been getting off to a slow start for 26 years. And it bit us when the situation changed dramatically. It is my job now, to convey to every district policeman that their life depends on how fast they can reach for their gun and decide that they are being killed already, and the time for persuasion is over."
The minister underscored that all attempted attacks on police officers will be thwarted decisively.
Nationwide demonstrations have engulfed Belarus following the August 9 presidential election. According to the Central Election Commission’s official results, incumbent President Alexander Lukashenko won by a landslide, garnering 80.10% of the vote. His closest rival in the race, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, came in second, with 10.12% of the ballot. However, she refused to recognize the election’s outcome, and left Belarus for Lithuania. After the results of the exit polls were announced late on August 9, mass protests erupted in downtown Minsk and other Belarusian cities. During the early post-election period, the rallies snowballed into fierce clashes between the protesters and police. The current unrest is being cheered on by the opposition’s Coordination Council, which has been beating the drum for more protests. In response, the Belarusian authorities have castigated the ongoing turmoil and demanded that these unauthorized demonstrations be stopped.