Belarus Review by iSANS — April 29, 2024 

Belarus Review by iSANS — April 29, 2024
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Belarus Review (2024 edition, issue 16)

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).

On April 22, an Iranian military delegation headed by the Deputy Minister of Defense and Support of the Armed Forces of Iran paid a visit to Belarus. The delegation visited the Research Institute of the Armed Forces of Belarus and the Military Academy, held meetings with the leadership of the institutions, and familiarized themselves with the training facilities. During the visit, the sides discussed areas of further joint work in the sphere of military science and education.

On April 23, recruits called up for compulsory military service began to be sent to the troops. A total of about 10,000 people are to be called up for service in April-May 2024. The number of those called up for compulsory military service has not changed for the last 10 years. At the same time, the number of conscripts who do contract service instead of compulsory service has been growing since 2021.

On April 23, a Su-30SM fighter aircraft of the Russian Armed Forces flew to the Baranovichi airfield from Russia. With its arrival, two Su-24MR reconnaissance planes and two Su-30SM fighters of the Russian Air Force are now permanently stationed at the Baranovichi airfield. The flights of the above-mentioned aircraft are regularly recorded in Belarusian airspace.

From April 22 to 26, command and staff exercises were conducted with military command and control bodies and military-technical support units. During the exercises, issues related to the management of the technical support of troops, the restoration of military equipment, and the protection and defense of military-technical support units were worked out. The exercise involved 800 personnel (including 240 reservists) and about 100 pieces of equipment. The 25th Missile and Artillery Arsenal and other units took part in the exercise.

On April 23-26, an Egyptian military delegation headed by the head of the General Directorate of Combat Training and Military Education of the Egyptian Armed Forces paid an official visit to Belarus. During the visit, the delegation met with the head of the Main Department of Combat Training of the Armed Forces of Belarus, Alyaksandr Basam. The representatives of the Egyptian delegation also visited the military educational institutions of Belarus. The parties outlined prospects for further cooperation in the field of military training.

The first session of the newly created All-Belarusian People’s Assembly was held on April 24-25. The delegates of the assembly approved the new National Security Concept and the Military Doctrine. In particular, the updated Military Doctrine stipulates that Belarus considers the deployment of Russian nuclear weapons on its territory as a tool to “deter potential adversaries from unleashing armed aggression”. The doctrine also stipulates that Belarus considers any actions with the use of force directed against the member states of the Union State (Russia and Belarus) as an encroachment on the Union State as a whole and will take “appropriate retaliatory measures”. The above provisions were not contained in the previous 2016 version of the doctrine.

On April 25, speaking at the All-Belarusian People’s Assembly, Aliaksandr Lukashenka said that several dozens of nuclear warheads – aircraft bombs and warheads for missiles – were placed in Belarus. So far, apart from statements, there is no evidence confirming the deployment of nuclear weapons in Belarus as of today.

The meeting of defense ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization member states was held in Astana on April 26. Belarusian Defense Minister Viktar Khrenin made a report at the meeting. Among other things, he said that “we stand for the peaceful resolution of any disputes and conflicts” and “Belarus has made a decision to join the SCO and has now completed all the necessary procedures for joining the organization”. On the margins of the meeting, Khrenin held bilateral meetings with the Chinese Defense Minister and the Minister of Defense and Support of the Iranian Armed Forces.

The training of the 105th Independent Mechanized Battalion of the 11th Mechanized Brigade under the guidance of PMC “Wagner” mercenaries was completed at the Obuz-Lesnovsky training ground. It culminated in battalion tactical exercises.

The 5th Militia Brigade of the Internal Troops (military unit 6713) was used as the basis for the creation of the Grom special-purpose detachment. The detachment became the twelfth such unit formed in 2022. The detachment’s tasks are to search for and eliminate illegal armed formations and sabotage and reconnaissance groups, to assist in protecting the state border, etc. The detachment has more than 60 members. The unit is armed with armored vehicles, mortars, anti-tank missile systems, automatic grenade launchers, drones of various types, etc.

Construction of a new border outpost begins in Komarin (Bragin district) on the border with Ukraine. The outpost will be the seventh to be built in the Homel region starting from 2022.

Last week it was reported that the Belarusian military is developing laser weapons.

The state media reported that in the spring this year, the 377th Anti-Aircraft Missile Regiment of the Belarusian Armed Forces had been armed with S-400 air defense systems. Officially, the Belarusian MoD did not comment on the transfer of S-400 systems to the regiment. In 2022-2023, Russia transferred a regimental set (two divisions) of S-400 SAM systems to Belarus. One of them had been earlier received by the 15th Anti-aircraft Missile Regiment. The 377th Anti-aircraft Missile Regiment has likely been now armed with the second division of these Russian S-400 SAM systems.

One of the units of the 740th Anti-Aircraft Missile Regiment of the Armed Forces of Belarus was transferred to the Klimovichi district (Mahilou region). The military was deployed near the border with Russia. The purpose of the military’s deployment to the region close to the Russian border is unknown.

The units of the 19th Mechanized Brigade stationed in the region close to the border with Lithuania have not been withdrawn to the point of permanent deployment. Earlier, in mid-March, the brigade’s tank and mechanized battalions were moved close to the Lithuanian border (Ashmiany and Pastavy districts) as part of a combat readiness check. Speaking at the All-Belarusian People’s Assembly on April 25, Aliaksandr Lukashenka confirmed the presence of the Belarusian military near the Lithuanian border – “we are now standing head-on with NATO”. The presence of the military in the border area can be considered as a “response” to the military exercises going on in Lithuania.


On April 22, the Polish media outlets reported about the visit of Polish President Andrzej Duda to the United States. The visit was made, among other things, to negotiate bilateral relations with the U.S., but most importantly to discuss the possibility of the U.S. nuclear weapons deployment in Poland to create a shield of deterrence in Europe against the background of high militarization of Russia’s Kaliningrad Region and the alleged deployment of Russia’s TNW in Belarus.

Last week it became known about the April 19 press release of the U.S. Department of Justice stating that a Belarusian national Sergei Karpushkin, who resided in Miami, was sentenced to 21 months of imprisonment for his role in the scheme of circumventing sanctions imposed against a pro-Russian Ukrainian Oligarch Sergey Kurchenko, a business associate of the president of Orlando (Florida)-based steel trading firm Metalhouse LLC, John Can Unsalan.

On April 23, it was reported that the Lithuanian Parliament (Seimas) declined the proposal made by its Parliamentary Committee for National Security and Defense to limit the number of returns to their homeland to three times during a year for Belarusians holding residence permits in Lithuania.  The Seimas also decided not to prohibit Belarusian citizens from purchasing real estate in Lithuania. However, the Parliament prolonged restrictions imposed on Belarusian and Russian citizens in Lithuania, such as restrictions in obtaining visa and residence permits, and entry ban for holders of short-term Schengen visas, for another year.

On April 24, the U.S. Department of State designated four entities that supply Pakistan’s ballistic missile program, including Belarus-based “Minsk Wheel Tractor Plant”, which allegedly supplied vehicle chassis to Pakistan’s long-range ballistic missile program. Such chassis are used as launch support equipment for ballistic missiles by Pakistan’s National Development Complex, which is responsible for the development of Missile Technology Control Regime Category I ballistic missiles.

According to the German newspaper Bild Zeitung, the German Bundestag is set to consider imposing sanctions against grain and agricultural sector goods from Belarus and Russia. The proposal came from a CDU/CSU parliamentary group at the German Bundestag. Albert Stegemann, one of the initiators of the imposition of sanctions against Russia and Belarus in the agricultural sector, considers these very necessary to stop the money flow to the Russian military budget.

On April 26, it was reported that a network of people aiding illegal migration from Belarus and Russia to the European Union was uncovered. A total of 21 people were arrested in Poland, Lithuania, Finland, and Germany. The network involved citizens of Egypt, Iraq, and Syria. Migrants were transported in cargo vans from Russia to Belarus, and their target countries were Germany and the United Kingdom. Such a trip cost from 3,000 to 5,000 Euro to the trafficked persons. It is reported that part of the income from illegal migration was devoted to financing terrorism. The European police agencies carried out the investigation and arrest operation.

Last week, the leader of the Belarusian democratic forces and the Head of the United Transitional Cabinet Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya attended the Conference of Speakers of EU Parliaments in Mallorca, Spain, where she delivered a speech, held bilateral conversations with the Speakers of the Finnish, Polish, Hungarian, Estonian, Italian, German, Spanish, and Slovenian Parliaments.


Almost a thousand persons were detained in Belarus during the first three months of 2024. According to Viasna” Human Rights Center, from January 1 to March 31, 987 detentions were reported in Belarus, of which one-third were women. Most detentions (406) occurred in January. It was then that the KGB realized a massive raid for food aid to relatives of political prisoners via the INeedHelpBY initiative. Human rights defenders are aware of at least 1,602 administrative trials conducted during the January-March period. In February alone, Belarusian courts considered at least 671 cases. That month, trials for “using foreign aid to carry out extremist activities” began. This charge had not been used in Belarus previously. All figures indicated may be significantly higher because human rights defenders do not possess all the information about repressions, “Viasna” notes.

The Minsk City Court sentenced Anastasia Matsyash to two years of imprisonment for participation in an extremist formation due to cooperation with the Belsat TV channel. In addition to imprisonment, the court collected 102.4 thousand Belarusian rubles (USD 31,267) of compensation from her “as income obtained by criminal means” and imposed a fine of 20 thousand Belarusian rubles (USD 6,100).

A new trial on the “Siarhei Tsikhanousky case” has begun in the Homel Regional Court on April 25. The wording of the court’s announcement refers to “other issues related to the enforcement of the sentence”. The hearing concerned former presidential candidate Siarhei Tsikhanouski, leader of the Narodnaya Gramada party and 2020 Sakharov Prize laureate Mikаlai Statkevich, moderator of the social networks of the Country for Life foundation Dzmitry Papou, journalist and blogger Ihar Losik, author of the MozgON YouTube channel Uladzimir Tsyganovich, and member of the initiative group of Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya during the presidential campaign of 2020 Artsiom Sakau. The results of the hearing are not yet known. “They seek to crush our spirit and determination. But they will never succeed,” Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya commented.

On April 25, at the session of the All-Belarusian People’s Assembly, Aliaksandr Lukashenka threatened his opponents with repression against their relatives. He warned those who are “going to attack Belarus” that they “greatly harm their relatives.” “You have some kind of property here. I advise you to forget about this property but do not put your relatives at risk. I won’t go on any further. You know what this can lead to,” he said, thus escalating the ongoing wave of transborder repression targeting his critics in exile. The security forces have already resorted to such measures. For example, Pavel Latushka’s cousin is behind bars, Ryhor Kastusiou’s daughter was recently detained, relatives of volunteers from Kalinousky’s Regiment were persecuted, etc.

Serhiy Melyanets, a Christian preacher, poet, and singer well-known in Minsk, who served two administrative terms for a total of 25 days in Akrestsina detention center, told how he was bullied by the Main Directorate for Combating Organized Crime and Corruption servicemen, who beat him up and threatened his family. Melyanets was arrested on March 19 at the Minsk City Court, where he came to support journalist Ihar Karney. Already during the arrest, the staff mocked him and forced him to squat naked, which caused his legs to swell badly. When Melyanets refused to sign the protocol at the trial, a serviceman took him into the office and beat him up. Later, another serviceman tried to force Melyanets to sign a confession that he had participated in the 2020 protests. He threatened to arrest Melyanets’ wife and take away his children. Despite the pressure, Melyanets did not sign anything and was released after 25 days. The very next day he left Belarus together with his family.

On April 26, the Ministry of Internal Affairs updated the list of Belarusian citizens, foreign citizens, and stateless persons involved in extremist activities. 14 people have been added to it. The total number of persons included in the list exceeded 4,000 persons – there are 4011 names in the list now. Persons convicted under so-called “extremist” articles of the Criminal Code are added to the list. Several restrictive measures are applied against them.

On April 26, the Frunzensky district court of Minsk sentenced Catholic journalist Aksana Yuchkavich to three years of restriction of freedom with referral to an open-type correctional institution (so-called “home chemistry”). Yuchkavich was accused of organizing and preparing actions that grossly violate public order, or actively participating in them. She is known among the Catholics of Minsk, where she organized many events and sang in the Gloria Choir in the Minsk Cathedral. Aksana Yuchkavich worked in Catholic journalism – first in the publishing house “Pro Christo”, then on the official national Catholic portal and at the Christian Social Center of the Good Samaritan Charitable Mission in Minsk.

The founder of, Pavel Belavus, who was earlier sentenced to 13 years of imprisonment, will be tried again. The charges against him are still unknown. The trial will begin on April 29 in the Minsk city court and will be conducted behind closed doors. This follows from the schedule of court hearings on the website of the Supreme Court. It says that the hearing will consider “other issues related to the enforcement of the sentence”. The same wording appeared concerning the “Tsikhanousky case”. The case will be handled by the same judge who sentenced Belavus in May 2023. At that time, the trial was also conducted behind closed doors, but it became known that Belavus was charged then with high treason, calls for actions aimed at harming national security, active participation in actions that violate public order, and leadership of an extremist formation. According to the prosecution, Pavel “spread the ideas of Belarusian nationalism,” conducted “anti-state activities,” and “stimulated the hostility of fellow citizens towards the Motherland.”

On April 26, security forces raided the Lida locomotive depot and detained several persons. The detentions were carried out jointly with the servicemen of the Typhoon special forces department. The authors of the telegram channel associated with the security forces claim that the detentions were related to “extremism”. Judging by the posted video, people were detained at their workplaces and knocked down right on the street.

The US State Department has published an annual report on the human rights situation in the world. It includes country reports for various states, including Belarus. It notes that in 2023, there were no significant changes in the human rights situation in Belarus. Significant human rights issues included credible reports of torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by security forces; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest or detention; serious problems with the independence of the judiciary; political prisoners or detainees; transnational repression against individuals residing in another country; arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy; punishment of family members for alleged offenses by a relative; serious abuses in a conflict related to Belarus’ complicity in Russia’s war against Ukraine; serious restrictions on freedom of expression and media freedom, including violence or threats of violence against journalists, unjustified arrests or prosecutions of journalists, censorship, and the enforcement of criminal libel laws to limit expression; serious restrictions on internet freedom; substantial interference with the freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association, including overly restrictive laws on the organization, funding, or operation of nongovernmental and civil society organizations; restrictions on freedom of movement and residence within the territory of a state and on the right to leave the country; inability of citizens to change their government peacefully through free and fair elections; serious and unreasonable restrictions on political participation; serious government corruption; serious government restrictions on and harassment of domestic and international human rights organizations; extensive gender-based violence, including domestic or intimate partner violence; trafficking in persons, including forced labor; crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersex persons; and prohibiting independent trade unions and systematic restrictions on workers’ freedom of association. The government of Belarus did not take credible steps to identify and punish officials who may have committed human rights abuses, and authorities at all levels generally operated with impunity as directed by authoritarian leader Aliaksandr Lukashenka.


On April 23, Deputy Foreign Minister of Belarus Yury Ambrazevich told journalists about the danger of nuclear power plants. However, he emphasized not the Belarusian NPP in Astravets, but the Lithuanian NPP in Ignalina, which has been out of operation for 15 years. According to his information, the Ignalina NPP, built in the times of the USSR, is similar to the Chernobyl NPP, and therefore such a neighborhood “causes legitimate concern”, as the Belarusian authorities “do not have the proper level of communication with the Lithuanian government on the safety of the Ignalina NPP”. He emphasized that any nuclear power plant is a very complex technological object, which, “like a fire, cannot be covered with turf,” because “even after it is decommissioned, a long and serious work on conservation is necessary.” The diplomat said that the Belarusian authorities “are not sure at the moment that everything is going properly.”

The topic of the Ignalina NPP was continued by Uladzimir Piartsou, deputy head of Lukashenka’s administration. At the ceremony dedicated to the 38th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster, he stated that the Astravets NPP “was built according to the most modern canons and safety standards,” while the Ignalina NPP “is an exact copy of the Chernobyl NPP”. He also made claims against the neighboring country without citing evidence: “And due to Lithuania’s rather subsidized economy, we do not have absolute confidence that all liquidation measures have been carried out at this NPP, which has ceased its operation, and all safety measures have been observed, so that this peaceful atom and the energy elements that remained there and are still there, were safe, first of all, for our people living in the border zone and in general for all people living in Europe.”

On April 24, the first-ever session of the All-Belarusian People’s Assembly as a “constitutional body” was held. Aliaksandr Lukashenka made a speech in which he spoke about the role and place of the All-Belarusian People’s Assembly in the renewed political system of the state, as well as the situation in the world. He emphasized that all the decisions of the All-Belarusian People’s Assembly in the hierarchy of legal acts of the country “will take the highest position, will become generally binding, and will have to be implemented by all citizens, all bodies and institutions of power,” and reminded that the All-Belarusian People’s Assembly had received exclusive powers to suspend the decisions of any institution or official, so it “will become a protective buffer against possible dangerous processes that go against the interests of society and the state”. In his speech, Lukashenka speculated about a possible resignation from his post, but noted that it would happen only when “there will be a person who will not betray, who will go to the barricades without fear”. He noted that “Western curators” had allocated millions of dollars to organize a media campaign against him; this was probably his reaction to journalists’ reports and investigations about his family’s luxurious life: “Remember: any talk about me or my children enjoying something (benefits from the state, from the state budget) or I’m roofing someone and helping someone, and they give me something somewhere or are ready to give me something, or my money is in Arab countries or somewhere else – is nonsense.”

On 25 April, on the second day of the All-Belarusian People’s Assembly, Foreign Minister Siarhei Aleinik said that Belarus had not received an invitation to the peace conference in Switzerland. In his opinion, “the absence of an invitation does not reflect the reality that is developing in the European region and the contribution that Belarus has made and continues to make to the peaceful settlement of the Ukrainian crisis.” Aleinik believes that “any events, any conferences that concern European security, without the participation of Belarus and Russia have no prospects, no sense.”

On April 25, the All-Belarusian People’s Assembly continued its work. Speaking about the military and political situation in the region, Lukashenka said that “Washington is doing everything to drag Belarus into the conflict, “load” the EU with the war in Ukraine to weaken both Russia and Europe and then deal one-on-one with China”. He noted that the Russian army in Ukraine is advancing, but slowly: “A kind of zugzwang has formed – neither they, the Ukrainians, nor the Russians.” The politician once again called the parties to enter negotiations and offered himself as a participant or mediator, but Zelensky’s “peace formula” does not suit him: “We should not put forward radical solutions like Volodya Zelensky’s formula. It seems patriotic and so on, but it is not realistic. Russians today will not leave Crimea or the eastern regions. Therefore, if unacceptable proposals are put forward before the negotiations, it means that the party that puts them forward is not ready to negotiate”. Lukashenka criticized Poland for its alleged “intensified militarization” and once again declared that he does not need a war with the Poles: “We are not going to go to war with them. They should not expect any active, aggressive actions against the Polish state and people from the territory of Belarus”. He stated that “in the current realities”, the system of ensuring the national security of Belarus objectively cannot remain unchanged, so “a new topic will appear in it: nuclear deterrence”, because “several neighboring countries are armed to the teeth”, and “the number of troops near the borders of Belarus is exorbitant”. According to him, Belarus has the necessary arsenal for deterrence: “And since we have also been listed as co-aggressors (Putin and I are “the world’s main enemies and aggressors”), the Russian leadership, considering all the facts, made a decision (I emphasize again, at my insistence, not because they wanted to create a nuclear weapons base here), returned an “X” amount of nuclear weapons to us. I will not give the numbers; I have already told you – several dozens of the most modern nuclear warheads.”

Lukashenka also asked the citizens of Belarus to “look around you and inform us on any occasion”. According to him, counterintelligence and police manage to “detect and neutralize saboteurs in time”. He warned that attempts to destabilize the situation in Belarus would continue, as “fugitives abroad are purposefully pushed to do so”. He claims that special services of foreign countries sponsor his opponents to “train, infiltrate Belarus and Russia” and organize explosions and sabotage there. He said that “Western customers” do not want to organize an intervention themselves, so they will order “traitors and bandits” to attack some settlement in Belarus (in particular, he mentioned Kobryn district), while “NATO troops will come in the second row”.

Head of the KGB Ivan Tsertsel said during a speech at the All-Belarusian People’s Assembly on April 25 that the Belarusian State Security Committee, in cooperation with colleagues from other security agencies, “carried out a series of sharp Chekist (a reference to CheKa, Soviet-time security forces) measures, which made it possible to prevent strikes by military drones from the territory of Lithuania against objects in Minsk and its suburbs.” In response to this statement, a representative of the Lithuanian army’s strategic communications department, Gintautas Ciunis, called the message “disinformation and nonsense”. In his speech, Tsertsel also warned that tough measures would be taken against “terrorists in Ukraine”, who, according to his information, are hiding in medical institutions: “All these people and their plans are known to us. In the fight against terrorism, we act according to the laws of wartime, without hesitation. Among the terrorists and their accomplices, there are killed and wounded, no doubt they will be punished, even though they have chosen Kyiv hospitals at 30 and 32 Bogatyrska St. as their lair, where they hid behind the backs of sick children.” On the next day, the Kyiv city administration reported the beginning of the evacuation of two hospitals against the background of information about the enemy’s retaliatory strike against them.

On April 27, on the margins of the SCO defense ministers’ conference in Astana, Belarusian Minister Viktar Khrenin spoke with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Reza Ashtiani. Tasnim News Agency, close to the IRGC, reports that Khrenin “condemned the Israeli regime’s April 1 airstrike on Iran’s diplomatic mission in Damascus as a violation of international law and called Iran’s retaliatory operation ‘wise and prudent’.” Interestingly, the main news agency of Belarus BelTA did not report the details of their meeting.

On April 27, the head of the State Border Committee of Belarus Kanstantsin Molastau said in an interview with the state agency Belta that the special services of Lithuania and Latvia were trying to recruit citizens of Belarus and Russia at checkpoints, while their checks at the border were tightened. The next day, the ONT TV channel announced the showing of an “investigation movie” about how Ukrainian special services “do not shy away from using absolutely low and despicable methods of dirty work” to recruit Belarusian teenagers. The announcement showed photos of children and gave their names and surnames. ONT propagandists promise to tell “who raised the pests and what parents were doing when their children were selling the country”, who are the “black nightingales” and how a group of teenagers “were preparing to blow up Belarus”.

Best regards,
iSANS team

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