Reprinted with permission DailyKos
In January, American citizen Evan Neumann was allegedly seen punching police officers as he berated them and used a metal barricade as a battering ram while he and a violent mob attacked the U.S. Capitol. After months on the run, this weekend Neumann resurfaced on television in Belarus announcing his quest for political asylum.
The 48-year-old former resident of Mill Valley, California, appeared on the state-controlled Belarus-1 TV network on Sunday. Neumann told a correspondent he fled the U.S. for Europe this summer after charges against him for his alleged role in the insurrection went public.
The Department of Justice filed six charges against Neumann in March but did not unseal them until July. The criminal complaint included charges of assaulting police, obstruction of law enforcement, unlawfully entering a restricted building, disorderly conduct, engaging in physical violence on restricted grounds, and violent entry on Capitol Grounds.
U.S. Assistant Attorney Brian Kelly initially asked for Neumann's records to be kept under seal to preserve the integrity of the case. But in June, prosecutors asked a judge to unseal the documents so the public could aid law enforcement in tracking Neumann down.
On the FBI's "lookout" list by Janaury 27, it was an anonymous tipster and reported "family friend" of Neumann's who clued authorities into his residence in Mill Valley. An affidavit accompanying Neumann's charges detailed how in February the FBI's special surveillance unit watched Neumann travel from his home to the San Francisco International Airport.
FBI special agents stopped him for an interview at the airport, where Neumann admitted to flying to Washington, D.C., on January 5 and back to California on January 7. He stopped short, however, of answering any questions about whether he entered any federal buildings during his trip to D.C.
"Neumann admitted that he interacted with law enforcement in Washington, D.C. but declined to elaborate further or to answer if he had any physical engagement with law enforcement," the previously sealed affidavit states.
In security footage from January 6, Neumann is allegedly seen speaking directly to officers and can be heard verbally abusing them. He suggested to cops that lawmakers inside the Capitol were "gonna kill your fucking children, they are gonna rape them, they are gonna imprison them," court records showed.
When officers asked Neumann to back off, he allegedly responded: "No, you can't tell me what to do, you piece of shit."
Neumann, appearing to sport a gas mask and a "Make America Great Again" cap in the January 6 footage, was also heard reportedly telling officers that the crowd would "overrun" them.
"I'm willing to die, are you?" Neumann said.
Neumann is also seen numerous times in footage, prosecutors allege, grabbing a metal barricade and using it to aggressively break up a line of officers. Prosecutors said Neumann swung his closed fist at police repeatedly, at times successfully striking them.
The Moscow Times—first to report the interview—said that during Neumann's spot with Belarus state TV, he was described by the network correspondent as "the same type of simple American whose shops were burned by Black Lives Matter activists."
That description is steeped in Russian propaganda that has been unleashed in recent years targeting racial and social divisions in the U.S. In 2018, according to a comprehensive report by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, since 2016 disinformation agents from the Russian firm the Internet Research Agency (IRA)—funded by Kremlin oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin—have manipulated and infiltrated online social spaces and specifically spaces where Black Americans talk politics, elections and civil rights, or advocate for the Black Lives Matter movement.
Similar manipulations of online social media platforms unfolded ahead of the 2020 U.S. election. In an investigation by CNN, it was revealed at length how Russian troll farms were erected in places like Ghana and Nigeria and how locals were hired to agitate racial animus online.
Notably, the 2018 committee report found no single group of Americans was targeted by IRA operatives more than Black Americans.
In the minutes-long interview where the Belarus-1 chyron reads "Goodbye, America!" just below his face, Neumann claims he fled there because he was being stalked by security officials in Ukraine. He also claimed he was subjected to wild boar, snakes, and an unforgiving swamp-like crossing when he moved from Ukraine to Belarus.
In the segment, Neumann recounts how he flew from the U.S. to the European Union in March, feigning that he was on a business trip. He then took a train from Switzerland to Germany where he eventually secured a car. He then drove from Germany to Poland in short order and by mid-March, he settled in Zhytomyr, Ukraine. After staying for just four months in a rented apartment, he told Belarus-1 he fled to Belarus at night on foot. A report by ABC in July indicates Neumann sold his U.S. home in Mill Valley last April—just after charges were filed—for a substantial $1.3 million.
There is no extradition treaty between the U.S. and Belarus, meaning someone convicted of a crime in one nation does not have to be forcibly returned to another to face trial or sentencing.
A representative for the FBI did not immediately return request for comment Monday.
This is does not appear to be Neumann's first foray into so-called political revolution. Department of Justice footage from January 6 featured in Neumann's criminal complaint highlights how he wore a scarf commemorating Ukraine's 2004 Orange Revolution during the January 6 attack. Neumann also listed himself as an attendee at the Orange Revolution in 2004 and 2005. That revolution involved a series of intense protests in response to the overturning of the rigged election of Viktor Yanukovych.
Yanukovych, notably, rose to power in part because of his backing from ally and Russian President Vladimir Putin, but also thanks to the heaps of political consulting offered to him by none other than Paul Manafort, former President Donald Trump's onetime campaign chairman-turned-convict-turned-pardon-recipient.
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