- MILITARY DEVELOPMENTS
- POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS
- HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATION AND INTERNATIONAL RESPONSE
Belarus Review (2024 edition, issue 01)
A weekly update on the ongoing political crisis in the Republic of Belarus, including the main events of the last two weeks of 2023, was prepared for you by the International Strategic Action Network for Security (iSANS).
From 19 to 21 December, a Belarusian military delegation visited Vietnam. During the visit, a meeting was held with the Head of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations of the Ministry of Defense of Vietnam. The parties discussed the algorithm for building cooperation in the sphere of peacekeeping activities. It was also reported that a bilateral meeting was held with the Head of the Department of External Relations of the Ministry of Defense of Vietnam. According to the satellite imagery, a decrease in the PMC “Wagner” vehicles was recorded in November in the northern part of the field camp. A significant decrease of the military equipment was also recorded from 13 to 18 December. In total, about a 30% decrease in military equipment could have taken place in November-December. The equipment could have been taken to Russia and transferred to the Russian Armed Forces. On December 26-27, representatives of the Russian Federal Guard visited Belarus. During the visit, the facilities of the internal troops and activities of the special-purpose units were presented to the delegation. The restriction zone for flights of all types of civil aircraft (including UAVs) in southern Belarus was extended according to NOTAMN O0839/23 until March 31, 2024. The ban on flights over the southern part of Belarus was introduced on February 24, 2022, with the beginning of the Russian large-scale invasion of Ukraine. This means that the theoretical threat of missile strikes from the territory of Belarus remains. According to the updated information, the airfield “Mazyr” (“Bokov”) hosts units of the 1530th anti-aircraft missile regiment of the Eastern Military District of the Russian Armed Forces (military unit 31458). The regiment’s units have been based in Belarus since February 2022. Combat training exercises continued in the 336th Rocket Artillery Brigade. The focus was on missile strike control. In November 2023, a divisional set of the B-300 Polonez-M missile system was transferred to the brigade. The 51st Artillery Brigade held a training camp for UAV operators. During the training, servicemen perfected FPV drone piloting techniques on a simulator, as well as ammunition drops using UAVs. On January 3, Major General Viktor Lisovsky was dismissed from his post as deputy chief of the CSTO Joint Staff. Lisovsky has held the post since July 2021. The reason for the dismissal was not specified. Most likely, Lisovsky was dismissed due to reaching the age limit for military service. On January 4, Igor Zolotar was appointed head of the logistics department of the CSTO Joint Staff. Previously, he held the position of the head of the armament department of the Special Operations Forces Command. On January 5, one of the mechanized units of the 6th Mechanized Brigade held a readiness review before leaving for joint training with PMC “Wagner” mercenaries. Before this, single specialty training was completed with the servicemen.
On December 26, Taiwan’s Ministry of Economy expanded its list of sanctioned goods for Russia and its ally Belarus in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to prevent Taiwanese high-tech goods from being used for military purposes. The sanctions list includes equipment for making semiconductors as well as certain chemicals and medicines. The new sanctions are consistent with those already imposed by the European Union, the United States, and other countries. On December 27, the US ally South Korea expanded its export restrictions against Russia and Belarus. Nearly 700 items have been added to a list of products that are banned for export to Russia and Belarus, according to the South Korean Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy. The list, which will take effect in early 2024, includes now 1,159 items in total. Newly banned exports include excavators, rechargeable batteries, aircraft components, certain machine tools, and passenger cars with engine displacements exceeding 2,000 cubic centimeters. Even though these items are not considered “strategic”, they are banned from export to Russia and Belarus because of their potential use for military purposes. After Taiwan’s and South Korea’s announcement of imposing additional restrictions against Belarus and Russia, Lukashenka’s government extended the embargo on imports of agricultural products and food from Western countries. According to the resolution published by the official Minsk, the restrictions are extended until December 31, 2024. At first, the broad embargo of Western products was imposed on January 1, 2022, for a six-month period, which has been continuously prolonged. The resolution’s update includes a ban on two dozen products, among them beef, pork, milk and dairy products, fruit, nuts, sausages, confectionary products, and vegetables. The list of “unfriendly” countries in Belarus includes EU member states, the U.S., Canada, Albania, the UK, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, North Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro, and Switzerland. On New Year’s Eve, the leader of the democratic forces of Belarus and the Head of the United Transitional Cabinet Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya delivered her New Year’s speech on YouTube. The stream was viewed by over 40 thousand people at a time. Tsikhanouskaya’s video was not made as a classical appeal to the country and citizens as the presidents of many countries do, but rather as a dialogue with people around her, with Belarusians, who are still in the country or abroad, her being the one, who hears complaints and opinions and feels the pain of the people. She encouraged Belarusians not to give up, and not to think that “you are doing nothing” as actions for a change can be also small steps. She stated that each morning, she gets the energy to continue and not to give up from thoughts that someone is in a much worse situation, and she turns these negative feelings into positive ones and continues her work. Just when the video stream was to be shown, the Lukashenka regime blocked YouTube in Belarus, which showed that the regime is afraid of a “democratically oriented group of viewers”. Over the New Year’s holiday weekend, the hacktivist group, which calls itself Belarusian Cyber Partisans, claimed in their Telegram Channel that it had hacked the internal network and wiped the backup and the main website servers of the leading Lukashenka regime’s media outlet BelTA. Neither BelTA nor the Belarusian Internal Ministry released a statement on the attack, but the independent media outlets issued a report confirming the hacking of BelTA. The Cyber Partisans said they hacked BelTA to ban the propaganda action of the Lukashenka regime and claimed “When there is no one, to tell the truth, we do it”. On January 1, independent Belarusian media drew the results of the previous year in terms of the migration crisis at the EU borders with Belarus. According to reports, it is too early to state about the end of the migration crisis. The Border Protection services of different countries prevented 42 thousand attempts of illegal migration from Belarus to the EU, which is one-third more than in 2022. The attempts of illegal migration did not stop even on New Year’s Eve when 84 persons attempted to break into the EU from Belarus. The vast majority of them attempted to enter Poland, one-third of them wanted to get to Lithuania, whereas Latvia did not record any illegal migrants at its borders. On January 2, the media announced a joint initiative of the Prime Ministers of the three Baltic countries, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, to increase the effectiveness of the EU sanctions against Russia and Belarus they are implementing. According to the statement, the three Baltic States authorities will agree on a unified approach to cases when the route of goods transportation seems illogical and raises suspicions of sanctions evasion. The information sharing between institutions on this matter will also be strengthened. Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia invite other border countries to join this initiative for even better tackling the sanctions evasion. On January 5, Minsk recalled its ambassador to Sweden over the appointment of Sweden’s former ambassador to Belarus Christina Johannesson as Sweden’s special envoy for cooperation with the democratic forces of Belarus. In turn, Sweden recalled its Charge d’ Affairs to the Foreign Ministry for consultations. Reportedly, the diplomatic tensions incurred after the Foreign Minister of Sweden Billstrom made comments after the appointment of the special envoy: answering journalist questions on whether the Foreign Minister recognizes Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya as the elected president of Belarus, he stated that Tsikhanouskaya “is recognized as a person who won the elections and who by right should have become inaugurated president of Belarus”.
HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATION AND INTERNATIONAL RESPONSE
On December 19, the Grodna regional court sentenced Aliaksandra Kasko, who returned from Poland in February 2023, to ten years of imprisonment. She was accused of “inciting other social hostility”, “illegal actions concerning personal data”, “creating an extremist formation or participating in it”, “facilitating extremist activities”, “slandering Lukashenka”, “insulting Lukashenka”, “insulting a government representative” and “insulting a judge”. This is not the first time that Belarusians have been detained after returning home and tried for the events of 2020. On December 18, the trial of Aliaksey Navagradsky, who returned from Germany, began in the Grodna Regional Court. He is accused of high treason. In total, at least 125 people were detained after returning to Belarus from abroad in 2023.
Former restaurateur Vadzim Prakopyeu was sentenced in absentia to 25 years in prison on charges of insulting Aliaksandr Lukashenka, slandering Lukashenka, inciting hostility, publicly calling for the seizure of power, and insulting a government representative. In addition to imprisonment, the court imposed a fine of 37 thousand Belarusian rubles (11,210 USD) on the businessman. In June this year, a court in Minsk has already sentenced Vadzim Prakopyeu in absentia to 25 years in prison on charges of terrorism. He was charged with the creation of an organized criminal group, conspiracy, and the development of a plan to seize power. According to investigators, Prakopyeu was a member of an “organized criminal group” that operated in Belarus, Turkey, Poland, Ukraine, and other countries from July 2020 to January 2022 to commit “an unspecified number of extremist crimes.” Commenting on the December verdict, Prakopyeu said: “Lukashenka saw a political danger in my recent actions. This is a signal to all those who are going to participate in the elections of the Coordination Council of the opposition.”
On December 27, the Investigative Committee began special proceedings against opposition politicians and activists Alena Zhyvaglod, Aliaksandr Dabravolsky, Pavel Liber, and Pavel Marynich. According to the Investigative Committee, they “took measures to counteract the legitimate activities of the Central Commission of the Republic of Belarus for Elections and Holding Republican Referendums, election commissions and referendum commissions.” The decision was agreed with the Prosecutor General. Pavel Liber is a developer of the Golos platform and co–founder of the New Belarus project. Alena Zhyvaglod is the head of the Honest People initiative and a member of the Coordination Council of the democratic forces. Aliaksandr Dabravolsky is a member of the Coordination Council and senior political adviser to Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, Pavel Marynich is the head of Malanka Media.
On December 29, the Operational Analytical Center under Lukashenka took away the TUT.by domain from the owner, as well as related domains – afisha.by, jenny.by, newstut.by, rebenok.by, tutby.by and tyt.by. Domain owner Yaugenia Charnyauskaya, the daughter of the founder of TUT.by media outlet Yury Zisser, said that the authorities decided to cancel the registration record of several domain names, thereby depriving her of her ownership rights. The violation was officially justified by mistakes in data – passports, dates of birth – suddenly changing to incorrect in her account on hoster.by. To “eliminate violations,” Yaugenia, who lives abroad, was invited to “come personally to the registrar’s office.” On January 3, the Baj.by domain name was taken away from the Belarusian Association of Journalists. The decision was made allegedly in connection with the “revealed violations”. The violations consisted of the fact that the domain owner, whom the authorities requested to provide documents confirming the authenticity of personal data, refused to personally bring them to the office of the registrar company. According to the Belarusian Association of Journalists, “personal visits” to the registrar’s office are not provided in the instructions on the procedure for registering domain names on the Internet, and all the documents requested by the registrar have been submitted (which is confirmed by the registrar itself). In this regard, the association intends to inform ICANN, The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, about the violation of its rights and counts on an appropriate assessment of the incident at the global level.
In 2024, the laws on enforcement proceedings are expected to be changed. Allegedly, to relieve the courts of the excessive burden and simplify the debt collection procedure, the authorities want to expand the powers of bailiffs. They will be able to restrict citizens’ travel abroad, the export of cars, as well as to seize the only apartment to repay debts. Now these issues are being resolved by a court.
Religious organizations in Belarus are awaiting mandatory re-registration. The relevant provisions are provided for in the law, signed on January 3 by Aliaksandr Lukashenka. The law prescribes changes to the procedure for registration of religious organizations. Thus, a prerequisite for the establishment of a republican religious association will be the continuous activity of at least one religious community on the territory of Belarus for at least 30 years, as well as the presence of at least 15 communities in its composition, which operate on the territory of all regions and Minsk. To establish a local religious association, it will be necessary to have at least ten religious communities in different regions. Religious organizations can be liquidated if their activities do not correspond to the main directions of domestic and foreign policy and the concept of national security. Another reason for liquidation is the failure to provide information to the state register of organizations twice within the prescribed period, and the failure to eliminate identified violations within six months.
On January 03, the “Viasna” Human Rights Center estimated that after the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, at least 1,645 Belarusians were detained in Belarus for their anti-war position. Of these, 82 people have already been convicted under criminal charges for terms from one year to 23 years. As of October 2023, there are 13 people convicted of sabotage on the railway for a total of 199.5 years in prison, at least 35 people were convicted of transmitting photos and videos of Russian military equipment to the media, 13 people were convicted of intending to fight on the side of Ukraine, at least 26 people were persecuted for publicly condemning Russian aggression, making donations to Belarusian volunteers and supporting Ukraine. During the first month and a half of the war, more than 1,500 people were detained in Belarus for anti-war actions. Presently, people are persecuted and subjected to administrative arrest for openly supporting Ukraine. There are many cases when detainees were beaten and tortured by Lukashenka’s security forces in the police department and detention centers, after which they were taken to hospitals.
On January 3, Aliaksandr Lukashenka signed a new version of the law “On the President of the Republic of Belarus”. According to it, only a citizen of the Republic of Belarus by birth, at least 40 years old (previously the age limit was lower, 35 years), who has lived in Belarus for the last 20 years, who did not have foreign citizenship, residence permit of other countries, Polish card, etc. can become a presidential candidate in the next elections. The adopted amendments also provide guarantees for the ex-president, among them – immunity for him and his family, lifelong protection, monetary security in the amount of 100 percent salary, membership in the upper house of parliament, real estate as a gift, funerals at public expense, and others. Amendments to the law have not yet been officially published. The bill was posted on pravo.by; however, later it became unavailable.
Criminal cases have been opened against Vitsebsk human rights defenders Pavel Levinau and Iryna Trattsyakova. Their photos appeared on the stands “The police are looking for them.” Under the pictures, it is indicated that they are being sought “for committing a crime under Part 2 of Article 342 of the Criminal Code (organization and preparation of actions grossly violating public order or active participation in them).” Human rights activists believe that the authors of the wanted notice violated the presumption of innocence and should be held accountable. Corresponding appeals were sent to the prosecutor of Vitsebsk and the head of the Department of Internal Affairs of the Vitsebsk Regional Executive Committee.
Private Polish language schools are being closed in Minsk. One of the major schools, PanProfesor, January 5, announced the termination of its work in Belarus after the visit of the security officers because the school “does not have any resources and opportunities to at least somehow resist such a pressure.” In December, “officers of certain security services” came to one of the school’s employees and also searched the company’s office. “They announced a lot of violations, and debts of the company (which is untrue), as well as referred to some anonymous statement (the contents of which, of course, no one gave anyone a chance to get acquainted with) and offered to stop classes and liquidate the company voluntarily”, — stated PanProfesor on its Facebook page.
Security forces detained members of the Nizkiz musical band. Vocalist and songwriter Aliaksandr Ilyin, bass guitarist Siarhei Kulsha, and drummer Dzmitry Khalyaukin were detained. “In 2020, they decided to use our popularity, we were offered to shoot a clip at protest actions in Minsk,” Ilyin says in a “repentant” police video. Two other detained band members also refer to the video “Pravily” (Rules), which has gained more than a million views on the band’s YouTube channel and became one of the main songs of the protests in Belarus in 2020. It has now been deleted. “The Belarusian regime continues its relentless attack on our culture. This is another shameful act of revenge by the regime,” commented Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya.
“Viasna” Human Rights Center has compiled a map of persecution for the “spread of extremism” in 2023. According to human rights defenders, at least 2,791 people were brought to administrative responsibility on these charges. Of these, at least 342 people were arrested for “extremist” materials for a total period of 6,548 days. At least 254 people were fined a total of 10,019 “basic” sums (370,703 rubles, or 112,260 USD). Often, confiscation of the means of committing an “offense” — a phone or computer — is also used as punishment. However, most of the results of the trials are unknown.
A book about women political prisoners in Belarus has been published in Germany. The publication is titled “Wenn du durch die Hölle gehst, dann geh weiter” (If you are going through hell, don’t stop). It includes testimonies of women political prisoners in Belarus. Some of the heroines – Julia Slutskaya, Nataliia Hershe, Volga Klaskouskaya – are already at large. Others – Maryia Kalesnikava, Katziaryna Andreyeva, Nasta Loyka, Marfa Rabkova, and Alena Gnauk – were sentenced to huge terms and are now serving their sentences in the Gomel colony for women. The author of the book is the famous German director and playwright Cordelia Dvorák, who has repeatedly expressed solidarity with Belarus. “In the summer of 2020, women became the face of the Belarusian revolution. After the rigged presidential election, they put their country in the headlines of the world press. The regime has responded with harsh repression, and now longer and longer prison sentences for increasingly absurd “crimes” have become the norm. But during everyday life, total persecution, violence, and terror, the testimony of women from prisons in Belarus, collected here, is a sign of dignity and endurance,” the annotation to the book says.
On December 21, the Latvian Parliament adopted a statement condemning the illegal and forced resettlement of Ukrainian children by Russia and Belarus on the territory of both countries. Latvian MPs called on international organizations to actively participate in their return home. The document expresses support for the investigation launched by the International Criminal Court. The Latvian Parliament also stated the need to create an international center that would act as a contact point and deal with the return of Ukrainian children abducted by Russians and Belarusians.
On December 26, the Lithuanian Seimas approved amendments to the law on the legal status of foreigners, which, among other, will allow Belarusians who arrived in the country through the mediation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to be granted a residence permit for humanitarian reasons not for one, but for three years. “This amendment is extremely important for the Belarusian opposition, for more than 750 Belarusian citizens who fled to Lithuania from the repressive regime of Lukashenka and whose temporary residence permits have to be extended every year on this basis, while the situation in Belarus does not change and, unfortunately, will not change for a long time,” said the Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, head of the group “For a Democratic Belarus” in the Lithuanian Seimas, Žygimantas Pavilionis. There are already first cases when Belarusians who applied for an extension of their residence permit in Lithuania on humanitarian grounds received an extension of their residence permit for three years.
The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) states that religious freedom in Belarus is under threat. The relevant statement was published after Aliaksandr Lukashenka signed the law on amending laws on the activities of religious organizations. “Instead of repealing their extremely restrictive law on religion, which was adopted more than two decades ago and does not meet international human rights standards, Belarusian officials redoubled their efforts and adopted an even more repressive law on religion, which gives the government unlimited control over religious communities and their affairs,” said USCIRF Chair, Abraham Cooper. “Religious communities will face a difficult choice: to practice their religion or beliefs “illegally” or to submit to a brutal regime that uses indiscriminate force and intimidation against its people.”
At the end of the year 2023, iSANS noted a new round of anti-Polish campaigns in Belarusian state media against the background of the recent change of government in Poland. The idea that the new government will remain “under the control” of the EU or the “Anglo-Saxons” is conveyed to the audience. Participating in the program “The Editors’ Club” on December 23, Oleg Gaidukevich, leader of the pro-government Liberal democratic party, said: “The political field in Poland is very much cleaned up! There was and there is no democracy and freedom of speech there! There is a showdown between two political centers. One party was supported by the Americans. When it came to power, it promised to support the national interest, but instead, it has fallen under the US.” It is still groundlessly claimed that Poland hopes to get the territories of Western Ukraine. For example, “human rights activist” Alyona Krasovskaya writes that there is an agreement between Presidents Duda and Zelensky to transfer Volyn, Ternopil, Rivne, and Lviv regions to Poland, and warns Poles that in case of such annexation “nationalist Westerners with the support of Ukrainian criminals (already in Poland) can organize another ‘Volyn massacre’ in the country and seize power”. The Ukraine topic remains on the agenda. Same as previously, Belarusian propaganda expresses sympathy with “our common Ukrainian brothers”, who is reportedly dying for the interests of Zelensky, behind whom, as the pro-state expert Aliaksandr Shpakouski stated on December 22 on air at the show of Grigory Azarenok, stand “Western crusaders who set out to enslave Russia”. Azarenok also shares his opinion: “This bastard breed of Westerners is the most disgusting thing in the world. To kill a million men so that uncles from the United States and Europe can sit next to you. May you die in the New Year.” Propagandists also reacted rather uniformly to the mobilization bill being discussed in Ukraine, predicting that ordinary men will become “cannon fodder” while the oligarchs and their children will enjoy life abroad. For example, on December 27, columnist of SB Belarus Segodnya columnist Anton Popov said: “The new law on mobilization <…> finally turns Ukraine into a monstrous bioreactor for processing its population. In an attempt to stay at the top of the food chain and snatch some more money, Zelensky seems to forget his disagreements with the military and is preparing to organize an unprecedented hecatomb on an unprecedented scale”. The most odious state media could not but celebrate the 144th anniversary of Joseph Stalin’s birth. The praise opus by Grigory Azarenok was published by Minskaya Pravda (mlyn.by) on December 21: “You became the ruler of half a world. From Berlin to Beijing, dozens of nations prayed for you. And then everything collapsed. Today your beloved Ukraine, which you cherished on your sick hand like a baby, has become a monster. But in Belarus, there is your Line. And there stands your bust. I bow to you, Leader. I reject all slander against you. Higher than you is only the Lord God.” Azarenok remained in the same tone, sending New Year’s greetings to Lukashenka’s opponents in his Telegram channel: “And for you bitches, only 1937. Eternally. Permanently. Permanently hot 1937,” and posted the picture “Happy New Year 1937!” as a cover for a YouTube video on January 3. In the last decade of December, the Lukashenka regime again turned to the topic of the placement of Russian TNWs in Belarus, presenting it as one of the positive results of the year. On December 22, Aliaksandr Lukashenka, congratulating those involved on the Energy Worker’s Day, said that Belarus was “strengthening its position as a nuclear power” (although he was talking about the commissioning of the second power unit of the Belarusian Nuclear Power Plant). On December 25, participating in the EAEU summit, he answered the question about whether all the planned Russian nuclear weapons had been delivered to Belarus: “A long time ago. I already told you when the delivery ended. Back in September, I think, or in October. At the beginning of October, the last one. Everything is in its place in good condition.” Also, during the St. Petersburg summit of the Eurasian Economic Union on December 25, Lukashenka called EU diplomatic chief Josep Borrell, who had earlier voiced his fear that Russia might attack NATO countries, “a foolish person who has nothing to do with politics”. Propagandists widely disseminated his words in state media and went even further, calling Borrel “a fool” (Novikov,), “a moron” (Gladkaya), and in parallel insulting other European politicians (Ursula von der Leyen, Radoslaw Sikorski, José Manuel Barroso, etc.). On December 27, in an interview with Sputnik Belarus, former opposition activist and now pro-government politician Yury Voskresenski called the delivery of Russian TNWs the main event of the year, as it “will ensure our defense capability, our security, our political, economic and military sovereignty for many years to come and will cool down Western heads to the desire to cut off the Belarusian balcony and make a sanitary zone on the western flank.” At the charitable holiday within the framework of the action “Our Children”, which took place on December 28 in Minsk, Lukashenka made it clear that the Belarusian authorities would continue to accept children from Ukraine: “…we are doing everything to make children, who are fleeing from the war, feel at home here. And there are quite a few of them. We see what is happening in different corners of our planet. And we are doing everything so that those children, who today do not have an opportunity to gather in a beautiful hall and talk to their president, come to us, and feel at home. There should not be children running away from war. We should pick up these children in time, bring them home, warm them, and make their childhood happier”. Journalists of state media, in their turn, tried in every possible way to whitewash the authorities of Belarus, which several Western countries suspect of involvement in the deportation of Ukrainian children. They repeatedly emphasized Lukashenka’s “good intentions” and declared their loyalty to him and his policy. Propagandist of the state channel ONT Igor Tur: “Alexander Grigorievich, I am deeply convinced, is doing this for the children – all his children of his Belarus. Perhaps in 2023, with the Arab-Israeli conflict, with the military actions in Ukraine, we all realized very clearly: the main thing is that our children should not know what war is. Fathers and mothers will certainly stand shoulder to shoulder with the Commander-in-Chief”. Columnist of SB. Belarus Segodnya Andrei Mukovozchik in an article of January 4: “…and we will help the children of Donbas, despite any pressure from the outside. Because they are children. Because at least someone should remind the world going crazy that war should not touch children.” Pro-government experts and propagandists actively commented on the tragic events in the Russian city of Belgorod that took place on December 30. As a rule, they were one-sided in their assessments and borrowed relevant narratives from their Russian colleagues, accusing the Ukrainian authorities of terrorism, presenting the Russian Federation as the injured party, and omitting the victims of Russian aggression in Ukraine. Aliaksandr Shpakouski calls the strike on Belgorod “another war crime of the Kyiv regime” and believes that “it is impossible to negotiate with terrorists”. Pro-government expert Alexei Dzermant: “My condolences to Belgorod residents and Russians. Alas, this terror will not stop until there is no retaliatory destruction of the Ukrainian ruling elite.” On New Year’s Eve, Aliaksandr Lukashenka made his traditional speech, in which he thanked the law enforcers, among others: “In the past year, they tried to bring us to our knees, strangle us economically… But we have not only survived, we have also developed comprehensively, moving towards our goal! And we can do even more, knowing that we live behind the reliable back of all those who faithfully serve and love the Motherland. Because there is no stronger incentive for development than confidence in the future and confidence in the security of the people. People in uniform, thank you for peace!” Both against the background of this speech and in the first week of 2024 in general, propagandists try to convince the audience that without “wise Batska” everything will collapse in Belarus, so the society should rally around him and resist the “enemies”. Liudmila Gladkaya, a propagandist associated with law enforcement agencies: “Our president, his team, law enforcers, yes, each of us tried to keep life in Belarus peaceful and safe. So that we continue to walk confidently through life. We have a responsible task ahead of us: we elect deputies of all levels, our representatives in the government, and in 2025 we will elect the head of state, our future. And 2020, the lessons of Donbas and Ukraine show that we have no right to remain silent and do nothing. If we remain silent, the enemy will act. You and I have a huge responsibility. We have only one Motherland.” The topic of the need to identify enemies and make purges in the ranks is supplemented by numerous publications in the print media, stories on state TV, and posts on social networks of propagandists devoted to the upcoming parliamentary and local elections on February 25, 2024. On January 2, Communist MP Siarhei Klishevich said that a new term – “electoral security” – had appeared in Belarus “at the level of legal documents”. In this connection, he said, “It is necessary to think how to further strengthen our system so that such populists, clowns or simply agents of foreign states could not penetrate our socio-political field and somehow influence the development of our state”. In early January, Lukashenka mentioned for two days in a row preparation for the upcoming presidential election, which he wants to organize in 2025. On January 3, when appointing the Minister of Economy, he said that the coming year would be difficult, but “not because the current president wants to continue to be president”. These words were taken by independent media as a declaration of readiness to participate in them. On January 4, the dictator warned that 2024 would be a “special year», as “the tension will be incredible: everyone is preparing for the presidential election in Belarus – both in the East and in the West”. On January 5, the Ministry of Culture of Belarus announced a competition for scripts of films and TV series to be produced in 2025. For each of the formats, an indicative list of topics is announced. “Heroism” of law enforcement officers in 2020 is included among the possible themes of scripts for a full-length feature film. Best regards,iSANS team