For over 20 years Syarhei Vasilyeu, a computer scientist and former resident of the Belarusian city of Homiel, has led a double life. In 1995, Vasilyeu, who held the position at Milkavita dairy plant, signed an agreement on secret cooperating with the Committee for State Security (KGB) and then headed the Information Technology Center at the Belarusian Trade and Economic University of Consumer Cooperation. He was tasked with test purchases of drugs, observation of opposition activists, setting up a pseudoindependent website, etc.
In 2016, Vasilyeu and his family left Belarus for Poland. He shut off the website and informed his KGB of finishing their cooperation. The ex-KGB agent got in touch with Belsat TV journalists and granted an interview – for the first time in his life.
My first task was to expose recruits who dodged military service. But I wanted something more than just visiting military enlistment offices. In the early 2000s, there was a large drug trafficking network in Homiel and once KGB operatives let me be in when they were detaining a drug courier. I made a test purchase of drugs, a group immediately arrived at the scene and arrested him. He was sentenced to some years of custodial restraint, but main dealers ended up badly. One even hanged himself. They did not pay me for the task, I just did a favor to my friends from the KGB.
In 2007, Alyaksandr Tsitou, who is now Deputy Chairman of the Homiel KGB, asked me to set up a website. He did not go into detail about its content. At that moment, I graduated from Homiel University, my major was Automated Information Processing Systems. We launched gomelbest.com, the platform that declared itself to be independent. Soon squibs about the local opposition began to appear there. They were written by KGB officers. I believe that some articles were penned by Tsitou himself.
The only responsibility of the KGB’s Constitutional Security Department is persecuting and harassing the opposition. In addition to maintaining the website, I attended various events in the office of opposition groups in Paleskaya Street. I was to report to the KGB who was present at an even, what subjects were discussed, etc.
The turning point occurred in 2011. I was ordered to get acquainted with Vyachaslau Dyianau, the leader of “Revolution through social networks’. I did not managed to do it, but I saw ‘silent protests’ in my own eyes.
There was an activist in Homiel, Kseniya Yaraslautsava. Homiel KGB officers were set to stop activists from holding rallies; they threatened her to take away her child. Her family whad an inspection by the children’s services. It did not work and the curator offered me to plant drugs on Kseniya. When they have no other option, they do so. But I refused.
My curator wanted me to work undercover as a reporter and side with independent journalists. The Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ) is of the greatest interest to the KGB. Several years ago I participated in a training for cameramen organized by the BAJ in Ukraine. The curator said: “Syarhei, take it seriously. You are on a mission.” I think such ‘on mission’ person always accompanies Belarusian journalists during seminars and conferences.
In general, they give very much attention to the independent press; its issues are being worked on in Minsk, at the highest level [at the KGB HQ – Belsat]. Regional offices are not allowed to make their own decisions in the field. It was Belsat TV and its local correspondents who were attacked by gomelbest.com most. I remember my curator’s giving an old camera for personal use. It was confiscated from Belsat TV contributors.
I am granting the interview not for receiving asylum. I am of Polish origin, I hope I will be admitted to Polish citizenship next year. Two years before the departure, I started to film our conversations with the curator in the car. I was taking risks because the camera could beep at any time. Knowing that I had no documentary evidence in addition to these videos, I asked curator Syarhei Volkau to transfer money for maintaining the website via WesternUnion. After receiving the money, I immediately shut off the site.
Katsyaryna Andreyeva, belsat.eu
The interview was abridged for the English version of belsat.eu