- MILITARY DEVELOPMENTS
- POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS
- HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATION AND INTERNATIONAL RESPONSE
Belarus Review (2023 edition, issue 31)
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 November 27 it was reported that recruits called up for compulsory service took the oath on November 25. Based on the available information, it can be stated that there is a growing popularity of contract service instead of compulsory service. It is also worth noting that this year, a record number of enlisted soldiers have been drafted to border guard units over the last 10 years. This is allegedly due to the strengthening of border protection with Ukraine. On November 28, a transport plane IL-76 of the Russian cargo company Abakan Air arrived at the airfield Babrujsk. Later, the aircraft left for Bangui (capital of the Central African Republic, CAR). It is known that the PMC Wagner mercenaries are deployed in CAR. There are many reasons to believe that the arrival of aircraft IL-76 was related to the activities of the PMC Wagner (e.g., for transportation of the mercenaries or their belongings to CAR). This is the second time such a flight was recorded, which could carry mercenaries from Belarus to Africa. The first one was recorded in October. On November 29, negotiations between the Belarusian and the Cuban military took place in Havana. During the discussion, both parties agreed upon a draft Agreement for bilateral military cooperation and a plan of bilateral activities for 2024. On 29 November, a ceremony to hand over new and modernized communications equipment to the troops was held at the 619th base for storage, repair, modernization, and disposal of communications equipment. A total of 25 combined radios and special equipment stations were handed over. At least eight combined radios R-142NMB “Start”, and two radio relay stations R-414MBRP “Sosna-2”, etc. could be seen in the photo. New communications equipment is transferred to the troops twice a year. On November 29, in Moscow, following the meeting of the Council of Ministers of the Union State, the program of modernization of rear facilities of the regional grouping of troops of Belarus and Russia for 2023-2027 was approved. Thus, Russia will continue to invest money in the maintenance and development of Belarus’ military infrastructure. On December 1, a new academic/training year started for the Armed Forces of Belarus. Reportedly, the year will be full of combat training activities. Belarusian Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS) Uragan-M will not be purchased for the Armed Forces of Belarus soon. The military, at least for the time being, opted for a cheaper modernization option, namely, replacing the engine on the chassis of the Uragan MLRS. This measure will alleviate some acute problems such as high operating costs and insufficient mobility. There is a new confirmation of the construction of a new military base in Homel region for Southern Operations Command units.
On November 28, it was reported that Lithuania’s State Security Department issued an assessment of the National Security situation stating that the activities of the Belarusian KGB in Lithuania are as high as ever before. Following the presentation of the assessment, Lithuania’s Minister of the Interior Agne Bilotaite held a meeting with the Chair of the Parliamentary Committee for National Security and Defense Laurynas Kasciunas, and member of the Committee Paulius Saudargas to discuss the latest report and the situation with migration. Bilotaite stated that an increase in labor migration into Lithuania and the related threats suggest that foreign intelligence is likely to stand behind them. Most of the migrants are Ukrainians, followed by Belarusians and Russians. The Lithuanian MoI underlined the need for a migration strategy clearly defining the regulations and priorities of the country. Both parliamentarians voiced the initiative of new legislation that would clearly define the need for proof of proficiency in Lithuanian after five years of stay in the country to obtain a permanent residence permit and the need to unify restrictions for Belarusians and Russians in Lithuania. We would like to remind you that the iSANS reported in last week’s issue of the Belarus Review about over 1,600 decisions related to the legal status of Belarusian citizens in Lithuania as they were recognized as posing a threat to the national security of the country. On November 29, a conference “Path to Freedom” organized by the Kalinouski regiment and uniting representatives of the Belarusian democratic forces took place in Kyiv Ukraine. The conference gathered over 100 Belarusians from the Kalinouski regiment, an international legion of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, the movement “Free Belarus”, Office of Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, National Anti-Crisis Management, Coordination Council, opposition parties Belarusian Christian Democracy, “Narodnaya Hramada” [Social Democrats], “European Belarus”, BELPOL, BYPOL, “Cyberpartisans” and “Supracivu”, among others. The leader of the Belarusian democratic forces Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya greeted the participants with a video statement, the Office was represented by the Representative for Constitutional Reform and Parliamentary Solidarity Anatol Liabedzka. The main takeaways from the conference are the following: Belarus is under a de facto occupation by Russia; the most important action towards the common goal – independence of Belarus – is the unity of all forces, despite any differences and problems in the past; the main power is the Belarusian society, and there will be no change in Belarus without Belarusians; one cannot rely only on a possible window of opportunity, joint strategies are needed, it is necessary to work for the opportunity; even if Lukashenka dies, there might be the case of a “transfer of power” to one of his sons; there is a need to continue political and diplomatic pressure against the regime to further delegitimize it; pressure in the form of sanctions against “Lukashenka’s pockets” and military industry should be increased, just to name a few. As a result of the conference, a Memorandum and an Appeal to “Free Nations of the World” were issued. On December 1, it was reported that the President of Lithuania Gitanas Nauseda, the President of Latvia Edgars Rinkevics, and the President of Poland Andrzej Duda refused to pose for a joint picture at the United Nations Climate Change Conference COP28 in Dubai, because of the presence of the dictator Aliaksandr Lukashenka in the group. Nauseda stated that it would be hypocritical to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with a ruler that allowed the territory of his country to become a staging ground for Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. Last week, the leader of the Belarusian democratic forces and the Head of the United Transitional Cabinet Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya finished her visit to Germany and Latvia, where she discussed the issues of the legalization of Belarusians, the situation at the Belarusian-Latvian border, the situation of political prisoners, and other pressing issues. Tsikhanouskaya thanked the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs for condemning the raids against the representatives of the Belarusian democratic forces and their relatives by Lukashenka’s siloviki and standing firmly with the democratic forces of Belarus. On the same day, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya briefed Ambassadors of 30 countries focusing on support for political prisoners in Belarus, as well as repressed individuals, and issues related to the legalization of stay in the EU and the issuance of alien passports for Belarusians. She welcomed the decision of the United Nations Climate Conference COP28 in Dubai to create a loss and damage fund as it is important for Belarus to preserve marshes as the Lukashenka regime continues to drain them causing damage to the ecosystem. She added that if Belarus is to have a democratic government it also should have access to funding to address losses and damage. Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya also announced her attendance at an unprecedented event – the strategic dialogue between Belarusian democratic forces and the United States on December 6-7 and talked, in preparation for the event, with the Assistant Secretary at the US Department of State for Europe and Eurasia James O’Brien. The topics on the agenda of the strategic dialogue are Belarusian sovereignty, political prisoners, accountability, and private-sector support.
HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATION AND INTERNATIONAL RESPONSE
Over the past three years, at least 1,457 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have been liquidated in Belarus. According to Volga Smalyanka, lawyer and head of Lawtrend, the process of purging of civil society organizations began in July 2021, and since then the intensity of this process has not decreased. About half of all NGOs in Belarus have been liquidated. “Every month, dozens of organizations are closed down,” said Smalyanka. In parallel, the authorities are trying to show the “proper civil society” with the help of so-called GONGOs – organizations that are funded by the state and (or) follow its ideology. Belaya Rus, the Belarusian Union of Women, and the Foundation of the First (an organization in support of Lukashenka) are classic examples of GONGOs. The fact that the authorities have destroyed so many organizations is certainly very bad for the country and for their beneficiaries, stated Volga Smalyanka. But answering the question about what Belarusians in need of help should do, she emphasized that there are still organizations that continue to work, some without registration: these are some social organizations and societies of people with disabilities. Many liquidated organizations continue to work with target groups from abroad. On November 28, an appeal against the verdict against Eduard Babaryka, creator of the crowdfunding platform Uley [Beehive], co-founder of MolaMola, and son of banker and public figure, presidential candidate in 2020 Viktor Babaryka, who had been sentenced to 14 years in prison, was considered by the Supreme Court. Eduard Babaryka was accused of “inciting social hostility”, “assisting in organizing actions that grossly violate public order” and “tax evasion”. The sentence of eight years in a high–security colony was upheld. The term will not include the time Eduard Babaryka spent in the KGB detention center until December 14, 2021. On November 28, in the morning, Belarusian security forces started an operation of breaking into and searching the apartments of people associated with the Coordination Council of the Opposition, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya’s Office and the People’s Anti-Crisis Management (NAU). The searches were conducted simultaneously across the country, massively, targeted representatives of the democratic forces of Belarus, and continued in the next days. The list of people targeted includes the chair of the NAU and deputy head of the United Transitional Cabinet of Belarus Pavel Latushka and several other members of the NAU team, chair of the movement For Freedom Yury Hubarevich, economist and analyst Sergei Chaly, member of the Coordination Council Mikhail Taube, the former leader of the Young Front Artur Finkevich, the press secretary of Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya Hanna Krasulina, member of the Coordination Council Roza Turarbekava and her husband Pavel Terashkovich, also a member of the Council, and many others living in exile. In many cases, documents and equipment have been confiscated. Some relatives of the targeted people were detained, interrogated, and later released. Many of the relatives and associates of the persecuted opposition figures have chosen not to disclose the facts of the searches for security reasons. The searches were organized within the framework of the “case of the Coordination Council”, in which over a hundred persons are indicated as suspects. The search orders contained six charges: high treason (provides for punishment up to the death penalty), conspiracy or other actions aimed at seizing state power, calls for sanctions aimed at harming the national security of the Republic of Belarus, creation of an extremist formation, and financing and facilitating extremist activity. According to statements by the authorities, the list of suspects in the case was provided to the investigation by a former member of the Coordination Council. This person, who returned to Belarus thanks to the so-called “Return Commission”, allegedly “repented of the crimes committed” and revealed the names of those associated with the Coordination Council. According to a Telegram channel associated with Belarusian law enforcement bodies, about 200 searches have been conducted in Minsk and other regions of the country, as not only persons associated with the Coordination Council have been targeted, but also all their connections, including relatives and friends. The Investigative Committee also announced plans to seize the suspects’ property, including real estate in Belarus. The speaker of the Coordination Council Andrei Yahorau made a statement in connection with the mass searches of people associated with the Council. Yahorau said that the searches violate human rights, called on the international community to increase pressure on the Lukashenka regime, and stated that Lukashenka is afraid of the existence of alternative institutions of power. He urged Belarusians to prioritize their safety but to look for an opportunity to participate in the elections to the new composition of the Coordinating Council. “Lukashenka is afraid of fair elections, afraid of building alternative institutions of power. The regime’s actions demonstrate the importance of the upcoming elections to the Coordinating Council for Belarusians and the future of our country. The reaction of the illegitimate authorities shows that the democratic forces are moving in the right direction. By contrasting himself with democracy, Lukashenka shows in advance that his so-called elections are only a staging where there is no place for justice, legality, and real expression of will,” said Yahorau. Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya also commented on the situation: “This is one of the largest and most barbaric attacks of the regime since 2021. The regime is conducting a real hunt for Belarusians who work every day for changes in the country and intimidates their relatives. But then, according to the logic of the regime, every third person in Belarus is a terrorist and a criminal. However, the real criminals are not activists in exile, but those who continue to turn Belarus into a prison. Those who destroy any dissent.” On November 29, the Ministry of Internal Affairs recognized “a group of citizens united under the name ‘dissidentby’” as an “extremist formation”. Dissidentby is a civic initiative engaged in helping Belarusian political prisoners. On November 29, a criminal case was opened against the 60-year-old founder of the Union of Mothers of Belarus and her husband. According to the case file, she created and led an “extremist formation” and posted a video, “which contained slander against Lukashenka, including accusations of committing a serious crime.” As for her husband, he gave an interview to an “extremist formation” on March 6 and 8, 2023, and posted “insults against Lukashenka on social networks”. The couple presently lives abroad. The Union of Mothers of Belarus was created after the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Its website says: “We don’t want war, we want peace and prosperity for our countries, our families, our children. We don’t want mothers to send other mothers’ children to be killed. We are for peace! Here we help mothers to take an anti-war stance, and find like-minded people and important information to save their children’s lives!” On September 29, the Union of Mothers of Belarus was recognized as an “extremist organization.” The KGB also named those who are allegedly related to it: Sviatlana Antzileuskaya, Volga Zdanovich, Taisiya Yakavenka, Natallia Alesinskaya, and Tatzyana Tarpanava. On November 30, it became known about the detention of the mother of Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya’s adviser on youth policy and students, the head of the RADA youth organization, member of the group representing Belarus in the Council of Europe and of the advisory group at the EU, Margaryta Vorykhava. Inessa Vorykhava was detained by riot police right at her workplace. Later, a telegram channel close to the security forces reported that she “received 15 days of administrative arrest as a warning for distribution of materials by e-mail and reposts.” She is threatened that “if she does not understand”, a criminal case will be opened against her. On the same day, the father of political activist Aliaksey Trubkin, 69-year-old Anatol Trubkin, was detained. It is not known what he is accused of. The security forces also took a computer and books from his apartment. A show trial of Aliaksandr Lukashenka’s opponent was performed by the authorities in the presence of children. The court session took place at the Baranovichi State College of Light Industry, and the local state TV channel prepared a propaganda report with comments from the accused, the prosecutor, and the students. The senior assistant of the Baranovichi inter-district prosecutor explained on camera that the accused had posted publications insulting the honor and dignity of the President of the Republic of Belarus. The accused asked the court for leniency, but the judge decided that the comments posted on the Internet regarding Lukashenka did not deserve leniency and sent him to a correctional colony for a year. After the verdict was announced, the convict left the courtroom in handcuffs, which were demonstratively put on in front of the children. “The young people who witnessed the trial demonstrated absence of the anonymity on the Internet, which means that punishment will inevitably follow,” the author of the propaganda story summarized. The BYSOL Charitable Foundation has raised more than 20 thousand euros for Christmas gifts for the children of political prisoners. The collection of money is still going on. It was planned to allocate 100 Euros for a gift for each child. BYSOL does not buy gifts, the co-founder of the foundation stressed, “We believe that the family knows better what the child needs more: winter boots, vitamins, or a surprise under the Christmas tree.” The traditional fundraising is taking place for the third time, starting in 2021. On December 2, the Minsk Regional Court sentenced Aliaksandr Gancharau to five years in a high-security colony for transferring money to the Kastus Kalinouski regiment. He was accused of “financing the recruitment, training, and use of citizens of Belarus to participate in the armed formation of one of the warring parties on the territory of a foreign state, in armed conflicts and military operations in the absence of signs of mercenary activity.” It is not the first time that people have been tried in Belarus for transferring money or for attempting to transfer money to the Kalinouski regiment – in August 2023, the court sentenced Anastasia Petrachenka to three years in the colony for trying to donate in the amount of USD 16 to the Kalinowski regiment, though the transaction failed. The website and social networks of the regiment and its “structural units” were recognized as an “extremist formation” in the fall of 2022. On November 29, the OSCE Parallel Civil Society Conference was held in Skopje, North Macedonia, ahead of the annual meeting of the organization’s Ministerial Council. The Parallel Conference adopted the Skopje Declaration which includes a chapter “Ending impunity for crimes against humanity in Belarus”. Recommendations on the application of international justice mechanisms to ensure accountability for international crimes committed by the Lukashenka regime, including crimes against humanity in Belarus, the regime’s complicity in the Russian aggression against Ukraine, and crimes against humanity against Ukrainians, were presented at the conference. The Skopje Declaration was handed over to OSCE leadership at the concluding session of the conference. On December 1, the Council of Europe’s Contact Group for Cooperation with Representatives of the Belarusian Democratic Forces and Civil Society drew up a draft of its action plan for 2024-2025, following a meeting in Strasbourg. This was announced by Margaryta Vorykhava, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya’s adviser on youth policy and student affairs. Alexander Shlyk, Special Representative of Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya on elections and former head of the Election Department of the OSCE ODIHR, also took part in the meeting. Margaryta Vorykhava said that the planned events “cover various areas and collectively, they aim to empower Belarusian civil society, lawyers, journalists, and youth by providing knowledge, skills, and support in promoting human rights, democratic values, and governance reforms in Belarus.” In total, according to her, the plan includes five sections and 11 points. The approval of the plan is expected no later than January 24. Lithuanian Minister of Internal Affairs, Agnė Bilotaitė, called for the restriction of the rights of Belarus and Russia in the Interpol. She conveyed Lithuania’s position at the 91st General Assembly of Interpol, as well as during a meeting with Jurgen Stock, its Secretary General. “Interpol must do everything to prevent undemocratic states such as Russia or Belarus from using their membership to achieve their political goals. The international community cannot tolerate the abuse of the Interpol channel, the persecution of their citizens and citizens of other countries for political purposes,” Agnė Bilotaitė said. The European Union condemns the attack by Belarusian security forces against the Coordination Council. This was underlined in a statement by the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell. The searches that took place on November 28 were called a new wave of persecution of democratic forces. “The attacks are aimed at intimidating and eliminating potential political opponents, especially in the run-up to the parliamentary elections next February. The EU condemns the attacks on representatives of the Belarusian democratic forces and their family members, which are another deplorable example of the ongoing repression and abuse of power by Lukashenka and his regime,” Borrell said, “We call on the regime to refrain from any further repression and violence directed against the Belarusian people and immediately and unconditionally release all political prisoners. Belarusian citizens deserve the right to be represented by those they freely choose through transparent, free, and fair elections.” The EU continues to support all those who stand for an independent and democratic Belarus and is ready to “take further action in response to ongoing serious human rights violations”, he noted. The Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs also commented on the searches. “The latest wave of mass searches, seizures of property, interrogations, and detentions is directed against the emigrant political elites and the institutions they have created. The regime’s illegal actions against opposition politicians, as well as against people close to them, confirm its ruthless nature. These actions represent another act of a strategy to completely suppress democracy in Belarus,” the statement reads. “We continue to call on the Minsk authorities to release all political prisoners and stop repression against their society. Only such actions can lead to a change in the policy of the Republic of Poland and the family of democratic states towards Belarus.” Deputies of the Moldovan parliament came to the Belarusian Embassy in Chisinau. The picket was organized by members of the parliamentary group in support of democratic Belarus. With their posters in Romanian, English, and Russian, the deputies recalled the political prisoners. They dedicated one of the messages to human rights activist and Nobel Prize winner Ales Bialiatski, and another poster to public figure Witold Ashurak and artist Ales Pushkin, who died in prison. The membership of the Belarusian Red Cross Society (BROC) in the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has been suspended since December 1. The reason for the suspension of the BROC membership was its refusal to dismiss its head Dzmitry Shautsov, following his statements, including on nuclear weapons the relocation of Ukrainian children to Belarus, and his visit to occupied Luhansk and Donetsk. Earlier, the IFRC board called on the BROC to dismiss Shautsov from office by November 30, but since this was not done, the organization decided to suspend the membership of the Belarusian society. The BROC is from now on losing its rights as a member of the IFRC. Any new funding for the BROC will be suspended and it will not be able to participate in the General Assembly of the organization, as well as vote or be elected at any statutory meetings. At the same time, as was noted, the BROC can be restored to its rights after it fulfills the decision of the board – removing Shautsov from the post of General Secretary of the national society.
On November 23, the Belarusian Investment Forum was held in Moscow. In an article on this Forum in the state media outlet Rubaltic.ru, Russian propagandist and senior researcher at the Center for Belarusian Studies at the Institute of Europe of the Russian Academy of Sciences Vsevolod Shimov wrote that “sanction’s pressure from the West is further pushing Belarus and Russia towards rapprochement”: “In the new multipolar world order that, small states like Belarus have to decide on the prevailing foreign policy and foreign economic vector. The choice for Minsk in this situation is obvious – only Russia, as a long-standing and proven partner and reliable ally.”
On November 26, Belarusian propagandist Pyotr Petrovsky spoke about the existence of an “Empire Belarus”: “Yes, historically, territorially, and politically this is not true. But take a walk along Independence Avenue [in Minsk]. Look at the greatness, the scale, the gigantic strength of giant people [who had built the buildings]. Taking our history, our spirit, the depth of our people, our President, we are, of course, an Empire,” said Petrovsky.
On November 27, Secretary of State of the Security Council of Belarus Alexander Volfovich, in an interview with the state TV channel ONT, said that Poland and the Baltic countries do not intend to attack Belarus. “I think they perfectly understand that unleashing military action against the Republic of Belarus, which is a strategic partner of Russia, is probably simply unreasonable and inappropriate.” At the same time, “Minsk observes the situation that is developing on its western borders, as well as the forces and means that Poland and the Baltic countries have in their arsenal today,” Volfovich said. According to him, the buildup of their armed forces does not indicate the “peaceful nature of these countries”.
On November 27, ONT posted a comment on its Telegram channel about the upcoming elections. ONT called for state censorship and restriction of the non-pro-government candidates. “In 2020, we won, we blocked the mutiny [meaning the suppression of peaceful protests in 2020] and now we must and will impose our information policy. We have a new political line: only supporters of the state line should enter the Parliament. Only those for whom the words Belarus, Unity, Sovereignty, Family and Peace have a decisive meaning.”
On November 28, Belarusian propagandist, Minister Counselor of the Embassy of Belarus to Moscow Alexander Shpakovsky said that Belarus will continue to bring Ukrainian children for “rehabilitation” despite international sanctions and condemnation: “We simply do not listen to these squeals from abroad and will not take them into account… We give these children medicine, shelter, food, a good time, and friendship. And they [Europe] give them bombs, bullets, and military planes.”
The campaign of intimidation against Belarusian democratic forces continues. On November 29, the notorious Belarusian propagandist Piotr Petrovsky, in an online stream with another propagandist Grigory Azarenok, called for depriving opposition members of the right to inherit property in Belarus. “They are traitors to the country, traitors to the state, which means they should not have such a right to inherit in Belarus,” said Petrovsky. Azarenok said in the same stream that opposition representatives “have no right to anything other than to prison.” Later, on November 30, Grigory Azarenok called for “destroying as a phenomenon” representatives of the Belarusian democratic forces who left the country. “They are the scum of all walks of life and all worldviews, they know only their hatred and their lust, they must be destroyed as a phenomenon,” said Azarenok.
On November 29, it became known that a state award for propagandists could be established in Belarus. The House of Representatives of Belarus adopted in the second reading a bill on the new honorary title “Honored Worker of the Mass Media”. They plan to grant the honorary title to those who have worked in the media sector for more than 15 years. In addition, the title can be obtained if there are “significant merits in the development of state information policy, the media, increasing political culture and social responsibility of citizens.”
On November 30, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belarus Yuri Ambrazevich, while speaking at a meeting of the Council of Ministers of Foreign Countries of the OSCE in Skopje (North Macedonia), demanded to provide the names of children who allegedly were illegally transferred from Ukraine to Belarus. “Concerning the accusations or assumptions made about the forcible transfer or deportation of children from Ukraine. The answer is very short. Nobody gave us a single name. We are waiting,” Ambrazevich said.
On November 30, Russian propagandist Sergei Mikheyev said in an interview with the Belarusian state TV channel ONT that in the war in Ukraine, the West forced the Slavic peoples to kill each other. “The collective West forced us, Slavs, to kill each other for its benefit.” “We allowed our enemies not only to dismember us but also to force us to fight with each other. Unfortunately, many people rub their hands behind these lines. <…> We did not have enough inner wisdom and respect for our civilization to avoid this.” In the same interview, Mikheev said that the union of Belarus and Russia is a “sovereign unique civilization.”
On December 1, Belarusian propaganda actively covered the participation of Lukashenka at the 2023 UN Climate Change Conference (COP28) in Dubai. State channels tried to emphasize that Lukashenka is not an international outcast and is still in demand. Here, examples of headlines from the Telegram channel Pul Pervogo [Pool of the First, meaning the journalist pool of Lukashenka] which is close to the Presidential Administration, are cited: “Next in line to Lukashenka is the President of Botswana”, “The Belarusian leader was welcomed by the President of the UAE Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan and UN Secretary-General António Guterres”, “Negotiations on the sidelines are turning into an intercontinental meeting!”, “Conversation with the President of Equatorial Guinea”, “Europe, Asia, Africa — Presidents of Belarus, Azerbaijan, Congo”, “The First [meaning Lukashenka] has a place in the front row!” [about the group photo of the meeting participants], “‘I’ll take the contacts from my brother’. How African leaders share Lukashenka’s contacts”.
In his speech at COP28, Lukashenka accused Western leaders of imposing unfair sanctions and unleashing wars: “Belarus fully accomplishes its obligations under the Paris Agreement and even exceeds them. We are developing green and nuclear energy, minimizing the risks of climate change. It’s paradoxical, but in response, we receive new economic sanctions… Why is there no peace in this part of the planet today? Because those speakers who spoke here today, talk about peace, about keeping the planet clean, and taking care of their grandchildren, and at the same time they have unleashed and are waging the most terrible war on the planet [meaning the war in Ukraine].”
On December 2, the independent media outlet Nasha Niva (NN) reported about the start of a “seizure of popular small local media” by large state media actors in Belarus. NN reports at least three such cases: the re-formatting of the Telegram channel of the town of Lagoisk, the seizure of the Stolbtsy City Instagram channel, and the replacement of owners of the kraj.by independent media outlets. According to NN, in October 2023, the independent channel Lagoisk (ne) ofitsialno [Eng: Lagoisk (not) officially] was renamed in Nash Rodny Krai Lagoisk [Our Native Land Lagoisk]. Later, the renamed channel published news that “extremist materials” were found on the original channel, so a “new channel” was created on its basis. All publications on the old channel have been deleted. The new channel now quotes official news and articles from the state propagandist, anti-Semitic, and “yellow” newspaper Minskaya Pravda. Later, similar changes occurred in the Stolbtsy City Instagram page with more than 10 thousand subscribers. It is reported that this page is now also run by Minskaya Pravda. Also, in the summer of 2023, the imprint details of the popular non-political outlet kraj.by were replaced with those of Minskaya Pravda. There were no reports about this at the time. NN concludes that the pro-government Minskaya Pravda tries to get control over all – state and non-state – media in the region.
iSANS teamBest regards,