Belarus Review by iSANS — April 22, 2024 

Belarus Review by iSANS — April 22, 2024
Photo: Official page of the EU Council


Belarus Review (2024 edition, issue 15)

A weekly update on the ongoing political crisis in the Republic of Belarus was prepared for you by the International Strategic Action Network for Security (iSANS).

The main events of the combat readiness inspection of the Armed Forces of Belarus have been completed. The units manned by reservists returned from the firing ranges to their permanent deployment points. During the week under review, most of the reservists who were called up for military training within the framework of the combat readiness check were discharged. We would like to remind you that more than 5,000 reservists were called up to the 19th Mechanized Brigade and about 1,500 to the 120th Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade. All of them should return home by April 30 inclusive. The combat readiness check was the largest in recent years in terms of the number of reservists who were called up for military training camps.

Units of the Air Defense troops of the Belarusian Armed Forces – the 1146th Anti-Aircraft Missile Regiment and the 147th Anti-Aircraft Missile Regiment (one battery from each regiment) – were transferred to the Yelsky district (Homel region). The purpose of the deployment of air defense units is probably to protect the Mozyr oil refinery from potential drone attacks.
The Belarusian Defense Ministry plans to purchase ten tactical reconnaissance unmanned aerial systems of short-range Berkut-3 produced in Belarus. It is planned to spend about USD2.44 million for the purchase of the drones. An important feature of the Berkut-3 complex is the ability to transmit information to the fire control vehicles of the 1B12-1AB Centurion artillery division. For this reason, the Berkut-3 will enter service with artillery units.

From April 12 to 20, a comprehensive field exercise of maneuver groups was held in all border guard units of Belarus. The servicemen practiced the preparation for the fulfillment of planned tasks, as well as the tactics of special actions in conditions close to real life. The field exercises took place as part of the inspection of border guard bodies by the State Secretariat of the Security Council.
The training of servicemen of the Armed Forces of Belarus in Russia has continued. Thus, the tank battalion of the 11th Mechanized Brigade is being trained at the 333rd Combat Training Center of the Russian Armed Forces. A group of snipers is being trained at the 56th Training Center of the Russian Armed Forces.


On April 15, during the visit of the leader of the democratic forces of Belarus Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya to Ottawa, it was announced that Canada imposed further sanctions against 21 individuals for committing human rights violations in Belarus since the fraudulent 2020 presidential elections. Sanctions target senior government officials, including prosecutors, security officials, and administrators of penal colonies.

On the same day, it was announced that the U.S. imposed sanctions against 10 individuals and 12 legal entities: six Belarusian companies and six individuals landed on the list. The targeted companies are the ones producing parts for military equipment and aiding Russia in its war of aggression against Ukraine. The sanctioned individuals are linked to the sanctioned companies as Peleng and others.

On April 16, the State Security Department of Lithuania announced yet again the proposal that Belarusians holding residence permits in Lithuania would be allowed to return to Belarus only in exceptional cases. However, the Department did not give further details on the nature of such cases. If Belarusian citizens won’t obey the rules, the Department proposes to annul their residence permits. There are also different opinions on the matter among Lithuanian politicians: some state that exceptions should apply, while others think that if a person poses a threat to national security, this person shouldn’t reside in Lithuania at all.

On the following day, it became known that the Parliamentary Committee for National Security at the Seimas adopted a draft law amendment allowing Belarusians holding residence permits in Lithuania to return to Belarus not more often than once every three months. Similar restrictions are valid for Russian citizens.

Last week, the leader of the Belarusian democratic forces and the Head of the United Transitional Cabinet Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya was on a working visit in Canada, where she met with over a hundred people from the Belarusian diaspora in Ottawa; and discussed with the President of the Rada of the Belarusian Democratic Republic Ivonka Survila the situation in Belarus and cooperation between the Rada and the Joint Transitional Cabinet, the problems the Belarusian diaspora is facing in Canada, set priorities for their work such as strengthening Belarusian identity, language and culture and advocating for Belarusians internationally. Moreover, Tsikhanouskaya met with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to discuss increasing pressure on the Lukashenka regime and talked about the regime’s attempts to lift sanctions on potash exports, which are a significant source of income for the official Minsk. Also, during her visit to Canada, she met with the Speakers of the House of Commons and Senate of Canada, where issues such as the current military and security situation in Belarus, the situation with political prisoners, sanctions, support for the repressed and independent media, and others were discussed. Tsikhanouskaya invited Canadian MPs to visit Vilnius and Warsaw to meet with former political prisoners and democratic forces, to join the friendship group “For Democratic Belarus”, and to organize a hearing on Belarus, among other things. As a result of the meetings in Canada, an agreement was reached to launch strategic bilateral consultations between the democratic forces of Belarus and Canada.

Most importantly, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya attended the G7 ministerial meeting on April 18. This year’s G7 ministers’ meeting was the first to have Belarus and its interests represented. Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya drew the attention of world leaders such as Antony Blinken, Annalena Baerbock, David Cameron, Stéphane Séjourné, Mélanie Joly, Josep Borrell, and Antonio Tajani to the humanitarian crisis in Belarus and its creeping occupation by Russia. The leader also called on the participants to find ways to achieve the release of political prisoners and provide rehabilitation. After the event, the Belarusian leader recorded an exclusive video address. In it, she shares the results of the G7 event.


The Belarusian domain of the portal was cancelled. The editorial board of the portal received a letter about this from the Operational Analytical Center under the President on April 15. The decision was explained by the fact that the website was included in the republican “list of extremist materials”. The editorial board called this decision censorship and manipulation by the Operational Analytical Center of Belarus’ international obligations. The portal intends to work on the domain from now on. Activities of the portal in social networks will also be continued. In addition, journalists intend to seek protection from international organizations that manage the Internet.

The authorities continue to seize the property of those convicted for political reasons. Real estate owned by two political prisoners, members of Viasna” Human Rights Center, Valiantsin Stefanovich and Uladzimir Labkovich, who had been previously sentenced to long terms of imprisonment on charges of smuggling and financing group actions grossly violating public order, and later added to the “list of extremists”, are being sold through the BelYrObespechenie electronic auction. The auction will be held on April 23.

On April 16, at night, the security forces came to look for Leanid Sudalenka, human rights activist and former head the Homel branch of “Viasna” Human Rights Center, in his Homel apartment. He wrote about this on his Facebook page and posted a photo of himself in the European Parliament. “With this picture, I tell the major and the others involved in repression where to look for me. I am here to report on torture, to tell in what conditions you are holding Belarusian political prisoners’ hostage, how Nobel Peace Prize winner Ales Bialiatski survives in solitary confinement. Don’t waste your time, I will return to the country together with constitutional legality.” In November 2021, Leanid Sudalenka was sentenced to three years of imprisonment. On July 21, 2023, he was released from the colony after serving his entire term, and left Belarus. A new criminal case against him was opened earlier this year.

On April 17, the House of Representatives of the National Assembly adopted the draft law “On amending laws on issues of the Investigative Committee” in the second reading. The document provides for an opportunity for employees of the Investigative Committee to obtain permanent access to “information resources (systems) containing personal data of citizens” without notifying them. The age limit for admission to the Investigative Committee was increased from 25 to 28 years. Cadets, enrolled in the Academy of the Ministry of Internal Affairs on relevant specializations, are granted the status of an employee of the Investigative Committee from the first day of education. The rank-and-file and junior senior staff of the Investigative Committee are no longer required to submit an annual income and property declaration.

On April 15, an exhibition dedicated to Belarusians deprived of their liberty opened at the Wall Museum in Berlin. One of the organizers was Yauhenia Dougaya, the founder of the initiative to help women political prisoners “Political Prisoner”. Among things she collected there are mittens from the colony, which warmed the hands of a political prisoner while she was cleaning snow; a T-shirt with friends’ hugs and palms embroidered on it, which was sent to the pre-trial detention center for the birthday of the political prisoner. There is a personal diary and photographs that women received in prisons, there are postcards from the young son of a political prisoner, there are shoes with laces made from packages. There are also photos from women’s marches. The exhibition has already started its work, although its official opening is still planned. The first visitors have already arrived. “The Belarusian exposition will work as long as the dictatorship exists,” the museum’s curators state. The exhibition is open at Friedrichstraße 43-45, 10969 Berlin.

On April 15, the United States and Canada expanded the sanctions lists against Belarus. The US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control has listed ten persons and twelve companies suspected of prohibited supplies to defense companies of the Russian Federation and Belarus. 21 Belarusians have been added to Canada’s sanctions list. These citizens are associated with the repressions that began after the presidential elections in Belarus in 2020 and mass protests. They were “involved or participated in arbitrary arrests and detentions, brutality, intimidation and excessive use of force against Belarusians protesting against rigged elections, as well as ill-treatment of them after conviction on false charges, sentencing and imprisonment,” the Canadian government website says.

On April 16, the President of the Republic of Poland, Andrzej Duda, met with representatives of the board of the Union of Poles in Belarus, closed by the Belarusian authorities, Andżelika Borys and Marek Zanevsky. Andżelika Borys talked about her meeting with Andrzej Poczobut, who is imprisoned in the Navapolatsk colony. “The meeting took place with the consent of Aliaksandr Lukashenka,” she noted. When Andżelika Borys visited the colony and saw Andrzej Poczobut, was not specified.

The Belarusian Solidarity Center informed about the transfer of personal data of Belarusians who have additional protection in Poland to the Embassy of the Republic of Belarus. The Polish State authorities transferred the information (it is emphasized that this was done not by the Office for Foreigners). This incident raises serious concerns, as it violates the principles of confidentiality and security of citizens under international protection. According to the law on granting protection to foreigners in the territory of the Republic of Poland, the data of these persons cannot be transferred to the authorities of foreign states that may pose a threat to their security. According to the Director of the Legal Aid Department of the Belarusian Solidarity Center, Volha Dabravolskaya, it is of fundamental importance that Belarusian citizens, who are under international protection in Poland, are already in a vulnerable position due to the political situation in our country. They seek protection and security in other countries, and a transfer of their data to the Embassy of Belarus may entail serious consequences for them and their families. This action also undermines the credibility of the protection system and Poland’s international obligations in this area.

In Poland, the mural dedicated to Ales Bialiatski will be updated. Andrzej Poczobut and Marfa Rabkova will appear on it. Alina Koushyk, a representative for the national revival of the United Transitional Cabinet, spoke about the details of the project. “Presently, there is a mural dedicated only to Nobel laureate Ales Bialiatski. But a lot has changed since its installation. Therefore, a more relevant mural will be created dedicated to three outstanding personalities of the Belarusian democratic movement, including Ales,” she explained. Several events dedicated to the human rights situation in Belarus will be timed to coincide with the creation of the mural. The initial mural with the portrait of Ales Bialiatski was created in Gdansk in 2012 with the participation of Amnesty International.

An information point of the Council of Europe for Belarus has been opened in Vilnius. Aliaksandr Dabravolski, senior adviser to Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, noted in this regard that such info points disseminate information about the activities of the Council of Europe, including conventions signed by member states. These documents later became guidelines for political work in many countries. A similar point previously functioned in Minsk based on the Belarusian State University, but because of the pass system, many couldn’t access it. The focus of the work of the info-point in Vilnius is going to be directed at ordinary persons.

General Rapporteur for political prisoners of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, Thórhildur Sunna Ævarsdóttir, called on the Parliamentary Assembly to condemn the repressions carried out by the Lukashenka regime. In her report “The arbitrary detention of Vladimir Kara-Murza and the systematic persecution of Participants in anti-war protests in the Russian Federation and Belarus”, the speaker expressed confidence that European countries can and should do more to support the Russian and Belarusian anti-war movements. The report also presented a draft resolution, which was unanimously adopted by the Committee on April 16. It distinguishes between the authorities of the Russian Federation and Belarus and the peoples of the two countries and expresses solidarity with citizens opposing to the war in Ukraine. PACE calls on the Russian Federation and Belarus to stop threats, intimidation, and prosecution of people for their anti-war position, ensure that prisoners are not subjected to torture or ill-treatment, cancel measures taken against the media and civil society organizations, repeal laws adopted to suppress anti-war sentiments and implement recommendations and decisions of international organizations.

On April 17, the Council of Europe hosted a discussion on “Youth and the return of democracy to Belarus”. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe Rapporteur on Belarus Kimmo Kiljunen noted the importance of the representation of the Belarusian democratic forces in the Council of Europe: “The office of the Belarusian democratic forces operates under the Council of Europe. This is a completely unprecedented new moment in the work of our organization. For the first time, the Council of Europe has a community that is a state in development and a parliament in development. This was the result of the falsification of the 2020 elections and the fact that we do not recognize the legitimacy of Lukashenka. This allows us to cooperate with representatives of different groups of the Belarusian society, including representatives of Belarus”.

The Human Rights Committee has published its opinion concerning the individual complaint on behalf of Syamyon Berazhnoi and Ihar Gershankou, who were sentenced to death and executed by the Belarusian authorities in 2018. Among other violations, the UN Committee found a violation of the right to a fair trial. It noted that no one can be arbitrarily deprived of life and demanded that the Belarusian authorities pay appropriate compensation to the mothers of those executed. In addition, the Committee wishes to receive information from Belarus within 180 days on the measures taken to implement the Committee’s opinion. Belarus is also invited to publish it and ensure its wide dissemination.

The Polish Prosecutor’s Office is conducting criminal proceedings against Lukashenka and his subordinates on the facts of crimes against humanity, hijacking of a Polish aircraft, human trafficking, violence, and threats against groups and individuals. The investigation is being conducted based on a decision by the Deputy Prosecutor General of Poland on Organized Crime and Corruption. Also, an international joint investigation team has been set up to investigate these crimes: in addition to Poland, it includes Lithuania and Germany. The establishment of specialized bodies to investigate international crimes within the framework of the universal jurisdiction and strengthening inter-state cooperation on cases related to Belarus were key recommendations put forward by iSANS in 2023 within the frame of its report on the in-depth research of the existing challenges to the effective application of the universal jurisdiction principle to cases of international crimes committed by the Lukashenka regime in Belarus. The situation in four European states where lawsuits from victims from Belarus have been submitted, including Lithuania, Germany, Poland, and Czechia was studied. We have identified several major problems and developed 12 concrete recommendations aiming to provide a basis for further discussion and concrete action.

On April 19, in their meeting Communiqué “Steadfast support to Ukraine”, the G7 Foreign Ministers reiterated their condemnation of the Belarusian regime’s complicity in Russia’s war against Ukraine and expressed their continued concern over the regime’s continuing repression of independent media, civil society, and of opposition and citizens that peacefully express their views. Ministers condemned the ill-treatment of political prisoners and asked for their immediate and unconditional release.


On April 16, Minister Counsellor of the Belarusian Embassy in Russia Aliaksandr Shpakouski criticized the plans of the European powers to hold a conference on the settlement of the situation in Ukraine in Switzerland. It should be noted that he repeats the rhetoric of Aliaksandr Lukashenka, Vladimir Putin, and other officials from Russia and Belarus. In his opinion, the event will promote a “senseless anti-Russian ultimatum” – as he called the peace formula proposed by Zelensky; in his view, Western players will “trick” the Global South into negotiating and “work out a mechanism for confiscating” the frozen assets of the Russian Federation.

On the same day, the TG-channel Nevolfovich, which is close to the Belarusian security forces, reported that they allegedly received a document about the Ukrainian military commands initiation of conscription of foreigners from among Russians and Belarusians who have the status of political refugees to serve in special units formed of foreigners. The authors claim that the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine has already developed a corresponding bill, and the migration service is already drawing up lists for sending Russians and Belarusians to the front, which will happen after the adoption of the bill in the Verkhovna Rada and Zelensky’s signature. The channel calls the realization of this plan a matter of time, as Zelensky does not spare Ukrainians and Ukrainian women, not to mention foreigners.

Propagandist Ryhor Azaronak expressed the opinion that the exiled opponents of the regime have realized that they had been defeated, so they are “raising the white flag” and are very much waiting for a signal from our side. He threatens his opponents with death and urges them not to believe them: They havent changed their goal – the overthrow of Aliaksandr Lukashenka, taking Belarus under Western influence. You, bummers, have no idea with what fury we will destroy you here. Any manifestation of you, any odor, any whiff of you we will burn with a scalding iron. And yes, we’re also keeping a close eye on who starts winking at you from here. Treason is now a capital offense.”

On April 16, on the air of Alfa-radio pro-governmental expert Aliaksei Audonin predicted that “the visa-free flow of citizens to Belarus will only grow” and noted that “the EU propaganda against the Belarusian visa-free is ineffective”. According to him, apart from economic motives (i.e. to buy goods and fuel cheaper), in Belarus “one can also breathe the air of freedom.” In its turn, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Belarus addressed its fellow citizens, who moved to Lithuania in connection with the planned restrictions, urging them to return: “…. Belarusians, think! It’s time to go home! Before the doors of “Lithuanian democracy” finally close.”

Deputy Foreign Minister Yauhen Shastakou and his entourage arrived in Pyongyang, North Korea, on April 16. On April 18, the Korean Central Telegraphic Agency (KCNA) reported that the deputy foreign ministers of Belarus and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) held talks in Pyongyang: “…the two sides agreed to further develop the traditional relations of friendship and cooperation between the two countries by strengthening high-level contacts and visits, actively promoting cooperation in the economic and cultural fields, and strengthening mutual support and cooperation in the international arena as required by the changing times.” It is noteworthy that the official website of the Belarusian Foreign Ministry and the main news agency BelTA did not announce this visit and did not publish any information about it. On April 19, the TG-channel Zheltye Slivy. Obrazovanye [Yellow leaks. Education] commented on the news about the meeting as follows: “Poland – our main geopolitical friend – is now buying tanks, airplanes, shells, and self-propelled vehicles from South Korea. Therefore, it is not surprising for specialists that there is an intensification of contacts between Belarus and the DPRK. As one can guess, not only on the humanitarian line, for which ‘thanks to the dear gents’.”

On April 17, pro-governmental and pro-Russian blogger Stanislau Yaskevich tried to refute rumors that Belarus was going to attack Lithuania or Poland, speaking on the air of ONT and calling these rumors a “psychological operation”: “Several small Telegram channels are being created. Unclear authors give out an ephemeral idea that Belarus is going to attack, look, it is getting stronger, it has held exercises with Russia – they are getting ready, and so on. Then a bigger channel takes this information. In the end, it is taken as a basis. With a serious look, they take information from these sources and announce aloud to the audience they have proof that Belarus is going to attack. And it is already going to almost strike with tactical nuclear weapons. This is a classic special psychological operation.”

On April 17, after a meeting between Belarusian Ambassador Aliaksandr Charviakou and Liu Jianchao, Head of the International Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, it became known that China was ready to share its experience of party building with Belarus. The participants of the meeting “expressed mutual interest in establishing contacts between political parties, public associations and Think Tanks of Belarus and China to share experience in party building and familiarize with the ideology of the two states. Against this background, the interlocutors decided to develop cooperation between Lukashenka’s administration and the International Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and agreed on a schedule of upcoming contacts.

On April 17, Leanid Kasinski, Assistant Minister of Defense for Ideological Work in the Armed Forces of Belarus, commenting on the combat readiness inspection, said that the practice of engaging instructors trained in Russia “unambiguously shows its effectiveness”: “Thanks to the fact that we have the opportunity to adopt modern combat experience and implement it at home, we are making a qualitative leap in the level of training of the personnel.”

On April 18, Prime Minister of Belarus Raman Halouchanka reported to Lukashenka that the composition of the participants of the forthcoming All-Belarusian People’s Assembly was fully formed: “A total of 1162 delegates, including 412 ex officio and 750 by-elections.” This news was actively commented on by propagandists and pro-government experts. For example, according to MP Aleh Haidukevich, the main task of the All-Belarusian People’s Assembly is to prevent “traitors from coming to power.”

On April 19, on the air of Minsk Novosti propagandists Kiryl Kazakevich and Alyona Radouskaya in a conversation with MP Maryna Liancheuskaya expressed the idea that “the best democracy is dictatorship”. Liancheuskaya developed this theme: “We must explain to people that dictatorship is not so bad. We need to explain to people that strong and authoritarian power is wonderful. We just need to explain the pros and cons in simple Russian language. You know, everyone understands democracy in their way.”

On April 19, it became known that Polish authorities detained a man suspected of cooperation with the Russian intelligence, the purpose of which was to prepare an assassination attempt on Volodymyr Zelensky on the Polish territory. Dmitry Medvedev, deputy head of the Russian Security Council, suggested that “the drug clown has reason to be alarmed,” as it is likely that “the West has decided to liquidate him.” He is echoed by Ryhor Azaronak, who does not doubt that “Westerners” will kill Zelensky, because “for them to do it is like blowing their nose.”

Also on Friday, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said that a Belarusian citizen who “ordered two Poles to kill Navalny’s associate,” Russian opposition activist Leonid Volkov, had been detained in the country. The next day, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry of Belarus, Anatol Hlaz, explained the situation to RIA Novosti as follows: “We have not received any official notifications from the Polish side on this matter. Formally, apart from some public statements of the Polish leadership, which can be believed or disbelieved, we know nothing about it. This is precisely the completely natural consequence of the pernicious and short-sighted policy of the Polish establishment to unjustifiably destroy long-standing ties between law enforcement agencies, as well as the termination of civilized cooperation in the areas of combating crime and extremism.” It is worth noting that while covering international events during the period under review, the National State TV and Radio Company repeatedly referred to Polish President Andrzej Duda as a “dictator.”

On April 20, the House of Representatives of the U.S. Congress voted to provide additional aid to Ukraine, which caused quite a nervous reaction from both Russian and Belarusian propagandists. Liudmila Hladkaya writes that she had no doubt that American lawmakers would approve aid to “the gang of neo-Nazis”: “It was a vote of the joyous state bastards: a) to continue the civil war of the divided people of our formerly united country; b) to maximize the number of victims of this war. We will win, of course, despite the 61 billion bloody dollars that will mostly go down the throats of their insatiable military-industrial complex. Strength and Truth are behind us. But given this Russophobe decision, I can’t help but sincerely wish the USA to plunge into a new civil war as soon as possible. Which, I hope, will be cardinally different from the war between the North and the South in the XIX century and will be conducted with the use of planes, tanks, artillery, MLRS, all kinds of missiles, and other weapons. And which will finally lead to the ignominious collapse of the vile evil empire of the XXI century – the United States.”

Best regards,
iSANS team

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