- MILITARY DEVELOPMENTS
- POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS
- HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATION AND INTERNATIONAL RESPONSE
Belarus Review (2024 edition, issue 02)
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 January 8, the 202nd separate mechanized battalion of the 6th Mechanized Brigade left for a joint training with mercenaries of the PMC Wagner. Training sessions with mercenaries are being held at the Obuz-Lesnovsky training ground. On January 11, tactical and special training was held with the battalion. From January 9 to 11, the troops of the Western Operational Command held a training camp for battalion (division) commanders and their deputies. The purpose of the training camp was to improve the effectiveness of combat training in the units, considering the experience of the war in Ukraine. The training camp focused on training for combat operations in winter conditions. The participants were shown how to conduct a new form of training for artillerymen – a two-sided battery tactical training course. On December 11-12, a combat readiness check was carried out at the 11th mechanized and 111th artillery brigades. On January 11, servicemen of the electronic warfare units of the Western Operational Command left for Russia for training on the Krasukha-S4 electronic warfare system. It was noted that the complex will be delivered to the troops in the second half of 2024. Most likely, the Krasukha-S4 will enter service with the 48th separate battalion of electronic warfare (military base 97061), which is stationed in Brest. On January 11, the 30th Railroad Brigade underwent an unannounced inspection. The Transportation Support Department tested the deployment skills of the personnel reception point and equipment reception point, as well as the military railroaders’ practice of receiving them directly. On January 12, units of the 6th division of the 15th Air Defense Missile Brigade marched to the designated area by the plan of the commander of the Air Force and Air Defense Forces to check the forces on duty, took up a position, and began to carry out combat missions. The division is armed with the S-400 SAM system. On January 12, the 2nd Brigade of the Internal Troops of the Ministry of the Interior (military base 3310) summarized the results of the combat training of the Tornado special-purpose unit. The event was attended by mercenaries of PMC Wagner. The formation of a maneuvering group was completed in the Mazyr border detachment. The unit is the main reserve of the border detachment, which is deployed at the border sections in case of aggravation of the situation. Volat V1 armored vehicles were delivered to the maneuvering group. The creation of maneuver groups was first announced in 2018. Earlier it was reported that the maneuvering group of 300 people in the Mazyr border detachment was formed back in 2022. The group consists of three outposts, it has armored vehicles and mortar groups. Decree No. 23 of the Ministry of Defense of December 11, 2023, approved the Instruction on the procedure for issuing weapons and ammunition to the people’s militia units and keeping their records. According to the norms of the instruction, executive committees through military enlistment offices must inform the Ministry of Defense about the required number of weapons and ammunition to provide the people’s militia units. The media, citing The Wall Street Journal, spread information that Russian tactical nuclear weapons (TNWs) could be deployed at the Lida airfield. At the same time, the material of the publication does not provide any new information about the alleged deployment of TNWs in Belarus. The media also disseminated information that there are allegedly more than 60 Russian combat airplanes and helicopters in Belarus. The said number included airplanes and helicopters of the Belarusian Air Force. Only three aircraft of the Russian Air Force are deployed in Belarus.
On January 8, the European Commission’s Vice President Věra Jourová, who is responsible for the policy of preserving European values and transparency, issued a statement calling on tech giants Google and Meta not to promote Russian and Belarusian propaganda and to help independent media in Belarus and Russia promote their materials in news aggregators. The statement comes after complaints from Belarusian journalists, who were forced to leave the country due to persecution of the regime, that the content critical to Lukashenka did not reach the target audience because of algorithms used by Google, Meta, and other companies. On January 8-10, the leader of the Belarusian democratic forces and the Head of the United Transitional Cabinet Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya was on a working visit to Poland where she held many meetings with Polish officials. Together with her colleagues from the United Transitional Cabinet Valery Kavaleuski and Pavel Latushka, she held talks with the Polish Minister for European Affairs Adam Szlapka. The topics of the meeting included opportunities for cooperation as Poland takes over the EU Council presidency in 2025, support for the European perspective for Belarus, and making Belarus one of the priorities during the EU Council presidency next year. Tsikhanouskaya called for abandoning the so-called “empty seat” practice, where Belarus is not represented at all at international events, and encouraged European politicians to invite representatives of the Belarusian democratic forces to European bodies and their events. During her visit, Tsikhanouskaya met with the Mayor of Warsaw Rafal Trzaskowski, and proposed to carry out a joint information campaign in support of Andrzej Poczobut and Belarusian political prisoners to attract international attention to the issue. Moreover, she asked the Mayor to keep supporting Belarusians in Warsaw by extending the program of housing and to allocate premises for Belarusian organizations to allow them to continue to expand their activities. The meeting with the new Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs Radoslaw Sikorski also took place during the visit. The Belarusian leader stressed the need to develop a new strategy vis-a-vis Belarus at the EU level and invited Poland to take leadership in this initiative. The politicians also discussed possible steps to achieve the release of political prisoners and increase pressure on the Lukashenka regime. In addition to this, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya and representatives of the Cabinet proposed that Poland, together with Lithuania, request the International Criminal Court to open an investigation regarding the forced deportation of Belarusians as more than 130,000 people have fled the country due to repression. The Belarusian side also emphasized the importance of holding the regime accountable for its involvement in the deportation of Ukrainian children from the occupied territories. Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya also held meetings in the Polish Sejm and Senate, with the Polish Minister of Sport and Tourism Slawomir Nitras, and Minister of Education Barbara Nowacka. At the meeting with the President of Poland Andrzej Duda, they discussed joint events and coordinated actions at international organizations, including the UN. Tsikhanouskaya called on the Polish President to invite Belarus to the events within the framework of the Lublin Triangle, which includes Poland, Lithuania, and Ukraine, urged to continue exerting pressure on the regime to release political prisoners and to support mechanisms to hold the regime accountable for repression against Belarusians and complicity in Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine. On January 10, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya met with the representatives of the Belarusian civil society in Poland at the Centre for Belarusian Solidarity. Participants included the Worker’s Movement, Press Club, Viasna Human Rights Centre, Association of Political Prisoners, Reform.by, Belarusian Youth Hub, Euroradio, Belarus Free Theatre, iSANS, Association of Belarusian Veterans, Free Belarus Centre, and many others. On the same day, a briefing for Ambassadors from 30 countries was held, including Spain, the Netherlands, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Sweden, the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Ukraine, and Lithuania, as well as diplomats from Poland. The topics of political prisoners, especially those held incommunicado, the need to keep Belarus on the international agenda, support for Belarusian media, human rights defenders, and civil society, ensuring security in the region, and the situation with Russian TNW on the territory of Belarus was raised. On January 9, after the Lukashenka regime announced the intention to recognize the European Humanities University (EHU), based in Vilnius, as extremist, the rector of the University Krzysztof Rybinski gave an interview to Belarusian independent media outlets. On the following day, an official statement by the EHU governing bodies to the EHU community was issued. The statement reads that the EHU is an educational institution operating following the Lithuanian law and the European Union standards for higher education. The Governing Bodies of the EHU refuted any accusations by the Lukashenka regime of being bankrupt and engaging with partisan political organizations for financial reasons. According to the statement, the regime has “harassed the EHU for 30 years and, once again, is targeting the university”. The Governing Bodies of the EHU underlined that the university’s financial position is secure, with financial commitments amounting to about two years of operating expenses. They stated further that the EHU had not decided, nor will ever decide, to become directly involved in partisan politics, and that if the university’s interaction with a particular group will cause unforeseen problems or concerns, the university will adapt accordingly, and the proper role of the university, as is the case with any university, is to engage all sectors of society and build connections that enhance the educations of its students and the sustainability of the institution. On January 11-12, a two-day conference the “Helsinki Dialogue – A Democratic Future for Belarus” took place in Helsinki, Finland. The conference was organized by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in cooperation with the Parliament of Finland. It brought together 130 participants, including representatives of Belarusian democratic forces, civil society, experts, diplomats, as well as international experts, and Finnish politicians. The event was opened by Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya stating that Belarusians “want a transition to democracy that is not only peaceful but also sustainable”. The conference focused on issues of defending Belarus’ independence, the security landscape, and the role of the international community, achieving the release of political prisoners, preserving national identity, and holding elections to the Coordination Council. The leader of the Belarusian democratic forces met with the Prime Minister of Finland Petteri Orpo to discuss migration issues, among other topics, as well as, together with the Representative for Interparliamentary Cooperation and Constitutional Reform Anatol Liabedzka, met with the Speaker of the Finnish Parliament Jussi Halla-aho to discuss the establishment of the friendship group with democratic Belarus, invited the Speaker of the Parliament to the Kalinowski Conference on March 15, 2024; and met with the Foreign Minister of Finland Elina Valtonen on the sidelines of the conference. Last week, the issue of tightening the restrictions for Belarusians in Lithuania was again raised. The Member of the Lithuanian Seimas and Chair of the Parliamentary Committee for National Security and Defense Laurynas Kasčiūnas said in an interview with the private Lithuanian TV Channel TV3 that there is a lack of support for the initiated law amendment for imposing greater restrictions on Belarusians for obtaining residence permits in Lithuania. He said that he does not see that the Parliament would vote in favor of these amendments and subsequently reminded that over 38 thousand Belarusian citizens have Lithuanian residence permits and travel back and forth to Belarus, which according to him and the Lithuanian Department for National Security poses a threat to national security of the country as they might be recruited by the Belarusian special services. Lithuania’s Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said on the same topic that Lithuanian intelligence was given a disproportionate task to check each of the thousands of Belarusians entering Lithuania and settling here to tackle the possible threats to national security. According to him, a more suitable solution for solving the issue must be found in the country and it will be addressed by the respective institutions.
HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATION AND INTERNATIONAL RESPONSE
The Cherykauski District Court considered the case of Raman Razhdzestvenski, a member of the liquidated Belarusian Social Democratic Party (BSDP), and pastor of the Protestant church. He was tried for distributing extremist materials and sentenced to 14 days of arrest. In 2022, he was already fined for a repost from an “extremist” channel and likes under the 2020 Facebook post.
The political prisoner, former presidential candidate, and 2020 Sakharov Prize laureate, Mikаlaj Statkevich, who is serving his sentence in correctional colony No. 13, was placed in a cell-type room. Last year, he was repeatedly subjected to disciplinary penalties, and materials were collected against him to initiate criminal proceedings for malicious disobedience to the requirements of the administration of the correctional institution. On January 9, the politician’s wife Maryna Adamovich wrote on her Facebook page that she had not received any information about Mikаlaj for 11 months.
On January 8, the court of the Leninski district of Mahilou considered an administrative case for distributing “extremist” materials against detained members of the Nizkiz music band. The results of the trial are unknown, but there is reason to believe that the lead singer Aliaksandr Ilyin, bass guitarist Siarhei Kulsha, and drummer Dzmitry Khalyaukin were sentenced to administrative arrest. They were, probably, tried remotely. This is evidenced by the fact that the judge was not given much time to consider three administrative cases (Siarhei Kulsha was tried first at 14.45, Aliaksandr Ilyin was the last at 15:45).
Vadzim Khrasko, a 50-year-old political prisoner, died in Viciebsk colony No. 3. On August 4, 2023, the Minsk City Court sentenced him to three years in the colony for financing extremist activities. His appeal was not granted. Vadzim Khrasko was sentenced to imprisonment, despite a serious illness. He died on the night of January 8-9 from pneumonia. He was taken to the hospital in a condition where it was already impossible to save him. He was buried in Minsk on January 12. The death has not yet been officially reported. This is the fourth death of a political prisoner behind bars. Earlier, Vytold Ashurak, Mikalai Klimovich, and Ales Pushkin died in custody. “For the criminals who committed this, human life has no value. Prisoners are intentionally not provided with medical care and medicines are not passed to them. They’re just left to die. And because of the incommunicado regime, it is even impossible to find out about their real condition – some have not been allowed to meet with a lawyer and to send and receive letters for many months. The system consistently and purposefully destroys Belarusians. We will do everything possible to bring perpetrators to justice. There is nothing more important than human life. And it is impossible to justify the murders,” commented Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya.
On January 10, Tatsiana Sevyarynets, mother of Paval Sevyarynets, one of the founders and former leader of the youth organization of the Belarusian People’s Front Party— Young Front, one of the leaders of the Belarusian Christian Democracy Party, was sentenced to seven years in a penal colony, was hospitalized after being detained by security officers for “extremist subscriptions”. On January 12, it became known that she was released home before the trial.
On January 13, Halina Krasnianskaya was sentenced to five years of imprisonment by the Minsk City Court. The 67-year-old Belarusian woman lived permanently in Sweden but returned to Belarus from time to time. She was detained on one of her trips; the exact date of her detention is not known. Halina Krasnianskaya is accused under Part 2 of Article 361-3 of the Criminal Code, “participation in an armed formation or armed conflict on the territory of a foreign state, military operations, recruitment or training of persons for such participation”. This usually means donating to Belarusian volunteers or helping Ukraine.
There are 169 “extremist formations” in Belarus today, 62 of them received this status in 2023. At least 130 people have been convicted of “creating or participating in an extremist formation” since 2021. Eleven media outlets and five bloggers, the Tor Band music band, “Viasna” Human Rights Center, the Belarusian Association of Journalists, the Association of Belarusian Students, the Union of Mothers of Belarus, and several other public associations and partnerships were included in the list of “extremists” in 2023. On January 5, the Zheleznadarozhny district court of Viciebsk recognized the website and social networks of the TV channel Current Time and several more telegram channels and chat rooms as “extremist”. On January 11, Belarusian propaganda announced the planned recognition of the European Humanities University as an extremist organization. Such status can seriously affect the activities of the university. The safety of thousands of Belarusian students who continue to travel to Belarus, as well as its graduates living in Belarus, will be affected.
According to “Viasna” Human Rights Center findings, presented on January 11, at least 207 people were detained in 2023 after border checks. It is noted that this figure may be much higher due to the lack of complete data. Besides Belarusians, citizens of Ukraine, Lithuania, and Russia were detained. Almost all the detainees were sentenced to arrest and fines for reposting news from independent media, “petty hooliganism” or for “picketing” with national symbols. At least 18 of them were sentenced under criminal charges, 12 of which – to imprisonment terms. The reason for the persecution may be photos from protests in 2020, donations, comments on social networks, reposts of “extremist” materials, photos with white-red-white symbols, and even photos from solidarity actions abroad. Security forces find them on social networks when checking phones at the border.
According to a study by “Viasna” Human Rights Center, in 2023 at least 6,386 people faced various types of repression in Belarus, of which almost 4,500 were convicted under administrative charges. Of these, 1,776 are women, 4,566 – men. It is noted that all figures may be higher due to incomplete data on repression. At least 2,000 people “went through arrests and inhumane conditions in temporary detention facilities.” At least 4,466 trials on “political” charges took place across the country. “Special” conditions have been created in temporary detention cells for political prisoners. Detainees are not given hygiene products, change of clothes, or bed linen. They are not taken to the shower or to the fresh air. In such conditions, some detainees may be held for several months in a row. The “political” cells are constantly overcrowded. People are forced to sleep on the floor, under beds, or on a bench. Homeless people are put in cells to increase the pressure. The lights are on continuously throughout the night and during the day. Parcels are not accepted for detainees, and they sometimes must beg for soap and toilet paper from the administration for several days. There is usually no warm water in the cells, and the one that comes from the tap is highly recommended to drink. Prisoners cannot rely on medical care within the institution, while medicines from the outside are also not allowed for them.
At least seven Belarusian political prisoners with cancer are behind bars. These are: 66-year-old Ryhor Kastusiou, sentenced to 10 years of imprisonment; 62-year-old Halina Dzerbysh, sentenced to 20 years; 39-year-old Ksenia Lutskina, sentenced to 8 years; 29-year-old Pavel Kuchynski, sentenced to 4.9 years; 56-year-old Uladzimir Malakhouski, sentenced to 3.5 years; 40-year-old Ruslan Slutski, sentenced to 11 years; 62-year-old Ala Zueva, sentenced to 2.5 years. 73-year-old Vasil Berasneu may also have cancer, but he has not been sent for examination. Instead, painkillers were constantly put on IVs for him, Viasna Human Rights Center reports.
Belarus will not invite observers from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (the OSCE) to a Single Voting Day, which the authorities will organize on February 25. This was announced by the Permanent Representative of Belarus to the international organizations in Vienna and to the OSCE Andrei Dapkiunas. He commented that the relevant notification has already been sent to the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. “We will be ready to reconsider our approaches if the West abandons its illegal sanctions policy and attempts to interfere in the internal affairs of Belarus,” he added. The Single Voting Day will be monitored by the representatives of the member states of the Commonwealth of Independent States, as well as The Parliamentary Assembly of the Collective Security Treaty Organization.
The Belarusian authorities have unleashed a flurry of repression on language schools with teaching in Polish. The security forces are looking for holders of Polish cards there. Now, about 10 private institutions teaching Polish have already been closed. Their leaders were detained and lists of teachers and students were demanded. Propaganda threatens reprisals to more than 160 thousand people who possess Polish cards.
Human Rights Watch published a report on the human rights situation in Belarus in 2023 as part of its annual world report. The report highlights such topics as the arrest and detention of alleged opponents; repression against human rights defenders and lawyers; repression against journalists and pressure on schoolchildren; torture and ill-treatment of political prisoners; politically motivated repression against immigrants; and the death penalty. It is noted that mass repression against critics of the government continued in the country in 2023 and that the Belarus authorities allowed Russian forces to use the country’s territory in the context of a full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine.
On January 9, at a meeting with Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya and representatives of the Belarusian public, President of Poland Andrzej Duda stated that he supports the people of Belarus and noted that there is practically no justice system in Belarus today. “There are only armed, iron hands of Lukashenka, which send Belarusians to colonies. We are looking for news about Andrzej Poczobut with great concern, we hear with great concern that new arrests are taking place in Belarus every day, and people are being sent to colonies and prisons,” he said, — “I want to assure you that the time will come when we will all enjoy freedom, full independence, and full sovereignty together when we will be able to meet freely both in Belarus and Poland, cross our common border at any time without fear of going to prison, being detained or being persecuted.”
Article 19 demands the release of media manager Andrei Aliaksandrau and his wife Iryna Zlobina. They were detained in January 2021. For paying fines and lawyers’ fees for those detained at the protests, Andrei Aliaksandrau was accused of creating an extremist formation, high treason, non–payment of taxes on a large scale, and preparing citizens to participate in riots. Iryna Zlobina was accused of treason and preparing citizens to participate in riots. In early October 2022, Aliaksandrau was sentenced to 14 years in prison, and Zlobina to nine years. “Andrei is a devoted supporter of freedom of the press, he previously worked with organizations dealing with freedom of expression, as well as in journalism, and was our colleague at Article 19. We tried to send him letters, but Andrei’s last reply is dated 2021; we suspect that he did not receive our letters. Many political prisoners in Belarus face the same situation. Nevertheless, our thoughts are still with Andrei and Iryna, and we will continue to work on their release,” said Joanna Szymańska, Senior Program Officer for Europe and Central Asia in Article 19.
In the period from January 8 to 10, the president-elect of Belarus Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya was on a working visit to Poland, where she met the Polish political leadership (Andrzej Duda, Radoslaw Sikorski, Szymon Golowna, Malgorzata Kydava-Blonska, and others). Lukashenka controlled mass media outlets either ignored the event completely or reported about it sporadically by shifting the focus and making Tsikhanouskaya look negative. For instance, the pro-state TV channel ONT called her a “Troyan horse” on its Telegram channel: “The police came for two politicians when Duda was with the leader of the Belarusian opposition at the Belvedere palace. And here is the question, wasn’t Tsikhanouskaya the reason for dragging Duda out of the presidential palace? No one from the “escapees” supported the defeated party “Law and Justice”, which, supported and fed them”. The propaganda continues to thoroughly cover the political life in Poland by intentionally underlining the alleged lack of independence of the Polish government and claiming that, in reality, the clash in Poland is between… the USA and Germany. On January 12, SB. Belarus Segodnya published an article by the pro-state expert for national security Aliaksandr Tyshchenko: “…and, in the streets of Warsaw, Sharp’s methodology and the manifesto “Mein Kampf” are now clashing. Yes, it is the American Sixes who are now trying to take post-election revenge on the German ones. It is not the Polish parties that are fighting there, but the interests of Washington and Berlin. But how eloquently and demonstratively the pages of 2020 in Belarus are now being flipped through, only in the Polish version, from which one can unambiguously conclude that the last dictatorship of Europe is now based in Warsaw! And everything that is not in line with Washington is automatically declared a dictatorship”. The author believes that the most important condition for improving the situation in the country is for the new government to resume dialogue with its “neighbors” (i.e., Russia and Belarus): “The only thing that will save Poland from a destructive internal conflict is Scholz’s political miscarriage and Tusk’s political will. True, without normalization of relations with neighbors in the eastern direction, this will not improve the situation but only suspend the state metastasis. After all, Poland was able to breathe more freely when it was doing business and its goods reached from one “maybe” to another with the expectation of getting profit and prosperity in return”. On January 9, Chairperson of the Council of the Republic Natallia Kochanova gathered Minsk officials to remind them of the tasks for the “Year of Quality” and stated that Belarusians had no grounds for dissatisfaction: “This year is special, just like the next one. The election campaign is when everything is somewhat aggravated. First, people more often address [officials] with proposals. Secondly, those who are set against Belarus on the external circuit will try to discredit the authorities. But they won’t succeed, because we have no grounds in the country for anyone to be dissatisfied with anything. It’s all about us.” In parallel, the authorities published the first issue of the new year of monthly methodological recommendations for ideologists on the work with the population and labor collectives, which is dedicated to the Year of Quality. The authors do not explain what they mean by “quality,” but state that its achievement has been chosen as “the most important task of state policy” since the mid-1990s and emphasize that the level of well-being of the country and the entire population depends on the quality of each citizen’s labor. “We must understandably explain new rules to each worker, under what circumstances it will be not profitable for him to work poorly”, — the methodology states. The authors call Western sanctions “running challenges for the economy”, which can be seen as an incentive to improve domestic production and propose to return and disseminate the methodology throughout the country, which was valid in the USSR. On January 9, the state channel Belarus-4 reported that the authorities of Belarus sent a group of children, who had earlier arrived in Mahilou from the city of Anthracite (occupied territories in the east of Ukraine), on a tour and training to the Belarusian law enforcers. According to their information, in the Mahilou Regional Security Center of the Ministry of Emergency Situations, the children were taught the basics of life safety and behavior in extreme situations. The stay of this group in Belarus was described by the propagandist Grigory Azarenok as follows: “How beautiful life is… Children from the Luhansk region say goodbye to Belarus. They are returning home. In the Mahilou region, they got healthy, visited Batka’s Motherland, ate, played, and rejoiced. Someone was bought a corset, someone a hearing aid. Damn you, Banderites – baby killers”. On January 10, the ONT propagandist Igor Tur in his program “To be supplemented” tried to contribute to the split of the Belarusian opposition abroad, accusing politicians Andrei Yahorau, Valery Sakhashchyk, and Vadzim Prakopieu of attempting to organize “an opposition coup d’état in the destructive diasporas of Vilnius and Warsaw”. According to him, the “conspirators” counted on the redistribution of power, so that the “situational idol” Tsikhanouskaya would remain the nominal leader but would come under the control of the Coordination Council. At the same time, he claims that the opponents are not even trying to fight Lukashenka anymore, and Tsikhanouskaya’s office is even ready to go into dialogue with him: “Because if Alexander Grigorievich and the collective West agree, Tsikhanouskaya, Viacorka and their entourage will keep their runaway dictatorship until 2030, because no one in the West is betting on the upcoming presidential elections in Belarus. And this will mean 6 years of stable grants and a trouble-free existence for them”. On January 10, Aliaksandr Volfovich, State Secretary of the Security Council of the Republic of Belarus, visited the Mazyr border guard detachment. He once again noted that the situation on the Belarus-Ukraine border “is alarming”. “Today we count over 500,000 anti-personnel and anti-tank mines, which are installed on the Ukrainian-Belarusian border, almost all bridges are destroyed, checkpoints are closed. Ukrainian border guards themselves are often drunk, point their weapons towards the territory of Belarus, allow visits to our border territory and violation of airspace by quadcopters,” he said. At the same time, he noted that Belarusians and Ukrainians were and remained “brotherly peoples”, but Ukraine had become “a bargaining chip of the collective West”. On January 10, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky started a previously unannounced visit to the Baltic States. On the same day in Vilnius, he mentioned Belarus in his speech: “[But] this day after Ukraine will not come. There will be a day after war, there will be a day after Putin. This will be a day of the new chance for Belarus – a new chance that it deserves.” Propagandists did not comment on this remark but continued to predict that the people and army of Ukraine would be further mired in problems if Zelensky and his team continued to refuse to come to the negotiating table with the Kremlin. Some state media actively disseminated the opinion of Donald Trump Jr., the son of the former U.S. president, on ways to end the war between Russia and Ukraine, which was published on his profile on Network X on January 12. State channel ONT: “Trump’s son named the only way to bring Kyiv to the negotiating table which is to stop giving money. According to Trump Jr. if the U.S. cuts funding to Ukraine, Zelensky “will not have a chance.” At the same time, he called all the talk about the alleged successes of the Ukrainian armed forces on the front a lie, since in practice it turned out that Ukraine was not winning anywhere and probably was not even supposed to win. The only thing that American funding leads to is the death of hundreds of thousands of people, believes the son of the former president.” On January 11, the National Legal Internet Portal published Law No. 353-3 “On Amending Laws on Advertising”, which will significantly limit the possibility of advertising about employment and studies outside of Belarus. In the same week, there was a media attack on the European Humanities University (most of the students at this university, which is in Vilnius, are citizens of Belarus). On the air of ONT Igor Tur said that the recognition of the EHU as an extremist organization is “a matter of time”. In his opinion, EHU “ceased to be a higher education institution long ago but became just a destructive NGO”. At the same time, BT-ATN propagandists started to promote the topic of how bad it is to study in the West and how “overrated” the education there is, telling, for example, about “fake scientific research and political repression in US universities”. Belarusian propaganda reacted to the return to the finalization of the bill on mobilization in Ukraine. On January 12, pro-government expert Piotr Petrovsky wrote in SB that “the Kyiv regime” can no longer count on “such a huge financial aid as in 2022-2023,” so Ukraine will have a “budget shortfall,” which will be closed by “meat assaults,” i.e., “plugging holes at the front with cannon fodder,” which, in his opinion, will necessarily lead to an increase in desertions and voluntary surrenders. On January 12, Aliaksandr Lukashenka urged propagandists “not to overdo it”. Despite the previous statements about information warfare, he said that there is still no such war in Belarus, and “everything should be done to avoid it,” but noted that “there is a brutal confrontation,” which “everywhere and always begins with internal confusion, and it is accompanied by information confrontation, and then by information warfare,” and such processes should be suppressed. “Therefore, I appeal to our journalists. Be cautious. Remember: we are walking on thin ice. The word today is very important, and it must hit the target, directed in a certain direction, but it must be very careful and cautious. And it cannot be overdone. The word and facts are our main weapons in the fight for spirituality, traditional values, and true meanings”. Best regards,iSANS team