‘The only way to stop violence’: why protesters are unmasking Belarus police


Since the beginning of the protests, which followed rigged elections on 9 August, the majority of police, security officers from the feared KGB, and other officers targeting protesters have hidden behind masks or balaclavas. Footage from rallies in recent days showed that when large groups of protesters swarmed around police officers and grabbed at their masks or balaclavas, their response was to hide their faces in their hands or run.

“The only way to stop violence is to pull off the masks, in both the literal and metaphorical sense. An officer who is no longer anonymous will think twice before he grabs, beats or kidnaps someone,” said the founder of Black Book of Belarus, a channel on the app Telegram devoted to “de-anonymising” police officers, with more than 100,000 subscribers. The group’s founder spoke to the Guardian on condition of anonymity via a Telegram chat.

The group would receive photos or videos of particular officers and begin a search using face-match technology, its founder said. If this didn’t work, they put out a call asking the public for identification. Often, people recognised their acquaintances in photographs, and there was even one case when someone helping run the Telegram channel spotted an old acquaintance. Once the team had a name, they could search for information in open-source databases.