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Belarus Air Force pilot quits army, eyes IT job after rigged election
Major Alyaksandr Isachanka at the helicopter air controls / photo from Alyaksandr
Euroradio has learned of another soldier who had left the armed forces for reasons of conscience. Pilot Alyaksandr Isachanka graduated from the Military Academy in 2006 and had been serving at the Maculiscy airbase near Minsk until recently. But in August 2020, he left the army.
"I consider it inadmissible to take part in actions to achieve power by violent means using the Armed Forces of the Republic of Belarus," he wrote in his statement.
"My rank was Major, my position was Senior Pilot of the Helicopter Squad. There was about a year left till the end of my contract," Alyaksandr Isachanko told us. "I planned to serve until the age limit, I did not plan to quit and leave the service. But on the fourth of September, I was delisted from the unit."
Euroradio: What influenced your decision to leave the service?
Alyaksandr Isachanka: The events that took place in our country in August and before that. In my opinion, there is a conflict between the authorities and a major part of society. A part of society wants changes in life, but, unfortunately, the mechanisms, which are laid down in the Constitution, do not allow realizing these demands.
Why did I decide to quit? The personnel at the building were informed about the statement of the Minister of Defense in which all those disagreeing with the policy of the Commander-in-Chief were invited to file a voluntary discharge request. As I observe the situation and see that the authorities do not plan to solve the conflict peacefully, I felt that my further service would make an unpleasant imprint. I was compelled to perform my duties, which do not correspond to my convictions.
Euroradio: But you are a helicopter pilot, you did not participate in the dispersal of the demonstrators. Why quit?
Alyaksandr Isachanka: Our unit as such didn't participate in it, but as far as I know, armed forces were partly involved in the streets. Aviation has a supporting function. And the statement itself suggests that perhaps the army will be somehow used against people and society.
I believe that the armed forces should be apolitical in this situation. And the main purpose of the armed forces is to protect the country and people from external threats. And, to put it mildly, it was an incorrect statement that divided the personnel into "us and them".
Euroradio: Had you been ordered to, would you use violence on the streets of Belarus?
Alyaksandr Isachanka: I believe that violence against peaceful protesters is unacceptable. Yes, our laws assume that various actions must be coordinated with the authorities. But it is obvious that the authorities almost never give such consent. If there are demands of society and they cannot be realized, it is necessary to look for a peaceful way to solve problems, to try to hear people. Of course, the power method is an unacceptable method to solve such problems.
Euroradio: Do you think that a law enforcement officer in uniform without signs of distinction can behave more brutally because they think that they will remain unrecognized?
Alyaksandr Isachanka: The uniform itself implies a mandate for a certain amount of violence. But this mandate comes from society. The police have this right -- to use violence only in a limited way. I believe that if law enforcement agencies act within the law, they should of course wear uniforms with insignia, not hide their faces. They must act openly.
Euroradio: Does everyone in the army support Lukashenka?
Alyaksandr Isachanka: It's very difficult to speak for all the armed forces, I just don't have such information. But I can say that quite a lot of people are apolitical, they do not pay attention to politics at all. Some support the government, some do not.
Euroradio: How have your colleagues treated you after your actions?
Alyaksandr Isachanka: Many people came up, expressed support, but I don't see wide support from colleagues. We have to understand that servicemen and other members of law enforcement agencies are limited in their actions. There are many reasons why they cannot express their thoughts and act openly.
Many young servicemen live in service housing, in dorms. And the possibility of losing their jobs, which means [losing the opportunity] to feed and provide for their families, has a rather strong impact on people. In addition to loans and a very narrow specialty, it is difficult to find yourself somewhere other than in the law enforcement agencies. In addition, the so-called incentive payments were introduced in 2015, when the contract was concluded and the personnel was paid money. If a service person breaks a contract, they must return the money as well.
In the family, my decision was supported by my parents and wife. This is probably a question of education and values that a person has.
Euroradio: How easy is it for a pilot to return to civilian life?
Alyaksandr Isachanka : Now I'm in search of a job. Thanks to public initiatives, I'm studying "Front-end development" in the IT field. Indeed, this mechanism works, allows me to get certain knowledge. And then all will depend on purposefulness and diligence.
In my case, some people drew my attention to this initiative. And in general, I found information online about where a person can look. It is not difficult to do. And it really helps.