Belarus Review by iSANS — June 03, 2024 

Belarus Review by iSANS — June 03, 2024
Photo: screen shot from the official website of the New Belarusian passport project


Belarus Review (2024 edition, issue 21)

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).

Dear readers of our Belarus Review, 

we want to inform you that the issuance of our Review will be delayed next week. Instead of Monday, June 10, the release is postponed to June 13. We apologize for any inconvenience and hope you will enjoy reading the Review after its release.


On May 27-31, “within the framework of improving the unified regional air defense system of Belarus and Russia,” a joint flight-tactical exercise was held. The exercise was managed by the Belarusian side. It was officially reported that during the exercise, the main efforts were aimed at solving the problems of covering state and military facilities from air attacks. The dispersal of aviation forces to operational airfields was also practiced. On May 25, eight Mi-8 and Mi-24 helicopters of the Russian Air Force flew to the Baranavichy airfield to take part in the tactical exercises. On May 31, the day the exercise ended, the helicopters left for Russia. It is noteworthy that the Russian Defense Ministry did not cover the exercise in the punlic domain until May 31, the day of the end of the exercise, when it published a press release about the exercise. In general, the participation of the Russian Air Forces in the exercise was limited, as there were practically no flights of airplanes and helicopters.

On May 28, Defense Minister Viktar Khrenin arrived on an official visit to Kazakhstan. While in Kazakhstan, Khrenin visited the National Defense University, where the issue of training Belarusian servicemen in Kazakhstan was discussed. On May 29, Viktar Khrenin held talks with Minister of Defense of Kazakhstan Ruslan Zhaksylykov. The parties stressed mutual interest in strengthening and developing relations between the defense departments of the states and confirmed the positive dynamics of cooperation in the military sphere. Viktar Khrenin said that the Belarusian Armed Forces are ready to share experience with the Kazakh army. The Kazakh Defense Minister said that Belarus is a strategic partner and a brotherly nation for Kazakhstan. During the talks, an agreement was signed on the organization of reception, airfield maintenance, and security of military aircraft at the military airfields of the Armed Forces of Belarus and the Armed Forces of Kazakhstan.

On May 29, Aliaksandr Lukashenka visited the open joint-stock company Legmash located in Orsha. It was officially noted that “the enterprise has recently joined the arms industry”. It is known that since 2023, the plant has been producing shells for Grad multiple rocket launchers. In the published photos from Lukashenka’s visit to Legmash, one can see that the production of shells has indeed been established. The production volumes are not known.

A regular meeting of the Council of Defense Ministers of the CSTO member states was held in Almaty on May 31. During the meeting, Belarusian Defense Minister Viktar Khrenin noted the activities of the “U.S.-led Western countries” aimed (among other things) at “further militarization” and an increase in the number and scope of operational and combat training activities in Europe.

On May 30, units of the communications troops of the Armed Forces of Belarus received another batch of new and modernized equipment. On May 31, new excavators, front-end loaders, and electric generators were handed over to the units of the Armed Forces of Belarus at the 1371st Engineer Base.
The Groza-Z1 mobile system for the protection of objects from unmanned aerial vehicles and Groza-S drone electronic warfare stations were put into service by internal troops.

At the end of May, the units of the Air Defense Forces of the Armed Forces of Belarus, which provide security for the Mozyr oil refinery, were rotated. The rotation of units shows that the security threat to the refinery was recognized as permanent.


On May 28, the results of the elections to the Coordination Council of the Democratic Forces of Belarus became known. The elections were held on May 25-27 and the turnout was only 6.723 people or 0.097 percent of potential voters. The 80 mandates to the Coordination Council were divided among the lists of pro-democratic movements. The majority of votes were gathered by the list of Pavel Latushka and the “Movement for Freedom” resulting in 28 mandates, the second-best result with 13 mandates – Bloc of Prokopyev/Yahorau. “Independent Belarusians” received eight mandates, followed by the “European Choice”, “Youth Attack”, “Our Business”, “Freedom” and “Enough to be Afraid”. Three lists didn’t make it through the three percent threshold and were left without a mandate. All names of the recently elected delegates of the Coordination Council are public and can be found online. The leader of the Belarusian democratic forces Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya issued a statement commenting on the results of the election. She expressed her gratitude to all who participated either as a candidate or a voter and said that she hopes to see the Coordination Council as “an effective body for coordination and cooperation”. The leader of the team that developed the software for online voting, Pavel Liber, stated, evaluating the Coordination Council election results, that Belarusians have set a global precedent for online elections using the most advanced international approaches and managed to create a unique frontline product, which proved itself as a reliable solution.

Following the incident at the Belarusian-Polish border, where a Polish soldier patrolling the frontier was stabbed by an illegal migrant, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk stated on May 29 that Poland considers strengthening its borders even more, as it is NATO’s Eastern Border and important for the whole region. The Polish government will decide on the introduction of a 200-meter buffer zone at the Polish-Belarusian border in the week of June 3-9. In the meantime, Polish authorities presented at the Ministry of National Security and Defense what the actual implementation of the “Eastern Shield” project will look like. Poland has already decided to deploy additional troops to strengthen border security at the country’s frontier with Belarus. As stated by the Polish Defense Minister, the 25th Air Cavalry Brigade and the 6th Brigade were deployed to the border within 24 hours. Both brigades include the best soldiers who have experience from NATO missions in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the stabilization mission in Kosovo.

On May 30, The Council of the European Union adopted a regulation that aims to levy prohibitive tariffs on grain products imported from Russia and Belarus. The regulation increases duties on cereals, oilseeds, and derived products from Russia and Belarus to a point that will in practice halt imports of these products. Currently, the importers from Russia and Belarus pay low or no import fees for the named products. In addition, those goods will be barred from access to the Union’s tariff rate quotes. These measures concern products originating in or exported directly or indirectly from Russia or Belarus to the EU. They will not affect transit through the EU from both countries and other third countries.

On May 30, the results of a journalistic investigation by Lithuanian journalists together with the Belarusian Investigative Center were published. The investigation targeted one of the biggest companies in Lithuania, “Garsų pasaulis“, which is the leading company on the market and prints passports in Lithuania. The investigation revealed that the company allegedly still has ties with one of Lukashenka’s ”wallets”, the oligarch Viktor Shevtsov. According to the investigation, in 2011 the company managing “Garsų pasaulis“ together with the Belarusian company “Holographic Industries” established a joint company in Lithuania “GP Holographic”. The latter delivered holographic tape to “Garsų pasaulis“ for the production of documents for third countries. Among the investors of the “Holographic Industries,” there is Belarusian oligarch Viktor Shevtsov, who is called Lukashenka’s “wallet”. The director of “Garsų pasaulis“ Ana Janusauskiene claims that after the start of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, in 2022 all ties with “GP Holographic” were abolished and the company’s stock was sold to Shevtsov through intermediaries. One of the leading Lithuanian news portals 15min claims that the “GP Holographic” and “Garsų pasaulis“ are registered under the same physical address and have joint administrator and accountant. According to the investigation, the company “Garsų pasaulis“ claims it hasn’t produced Lithuanian passports and ID cards with Belarusian-origin holographic tape. The Belarusian holographic tape was only used for documents of third countries. The company signed a Letter of Intent with the United Transitional Cabinet, according to which the company contributed to the development of a design for the New Belarusian passport. The New Belarusian passport is a project by the Belarusian democratic forces to issue an alternative document to Belarusians, especially those abroad after Lukashenka issued the Decree prohibiting the issuance and prolongation of passports in diplomatic missions. It must be noted that the Contract between “Garsų pasaulis“ and the United Transitional Cabinet has not been signed yet. The Representative for Foreign Affairs of the United Transitional Cabinet Valery Kavaleuski commented on the issue and stated that no personal data of any Belarusian was collected. The politician said that “Garsų pasaulis“ only assisted in drafting the design so it would correspond to the ICAO standards. The independent entity “Heraldic Council” developed the passport design. Kavaleuski underlined that any company that could be involved in the process of production of the new Belarusian passport will be checked thoroughly.

In May, Aliaksandr Lukashenka signed a law suspending Belarus’s participation in the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty (CFE Treaty). According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Belarus, the suspension of the CFE treaty was a “forced measure” and Belarus has been making every effort to preserve the treaty. An expert of the iSANS gave an evaluation of the official Minsk decision to suspend the treaty and stated that the suspension of the treaty is another step in the degradation of the international security system, while the current form of the CFE Treaty does not correspond to modern realities and does not suit either party. According to the expert, Lukashenka’s regime acted in line with and logic of the degradation of the international security system, which came, among other things, due to the actions of him and Russia. The wording about “suspension” rather than termination of the treaty suggests that the Lukashenka regime is trying to show that it took this step involuntarily, because, according to its representatives, the provisions of the CFE Treaty were not observed primarily by Western states.


The authorities continue to intimidate civil society by publishing videos and photographs of the arrested apartments of the members of the Coordination Council. The pro-government telegram channel published photos of apartments sealed by the Investigative Committee, as well as videos showing the housing and communal services workers and employees of the Ministry of Emergency Situations using special tools to break into apartments of people persecuted for their political views. This was accompanied by mocking comments: “New pictures of sealed doors after the seizure of the property of members of the “Coordination Council” extremist formation. The apartments will soon be auctioned off to repay the damage done to our country.” The authorities declare that they intend to deprive their political opponents of their property en masse. Recently the Investigative Committee began threatening confiscation to hundreds of Belarusians who left Belarus and continue to be active abroad. Even though, according to the legislation, it is prohibited to sell a person’s only housing to pay off damage, the authorities sold the apartments of Siarhei Tsikhanousky and Valery Tsapkala. There is no reason to believe that this norm will be respected in the future.

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya has not received news about Siarhei Tsikhanousky for more than a year. She commented on this on the fourth anniversary of her husband’s detention. “One of the questions I am often asked is: “How is your husband?”. I wish I could answer, but I can’t. I haven’t received any news about him for more than a year. Today it’s been four years since his arrest in Hrodna. I know in my heart that he wants me to continue our fight”, she wrote on the X network. Siarhei Tsikhanousky planned to nominate his candidacy for the presidential elections. However, he was detained and was unable to do so due to administrative arrest. Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya was nominated instead. At the end of May 2020, Siarhei Tsikhanousky was detained as a result of provocation during an election picket, when he campaigned for his wife’s candidacy. He was sentenced to 18 years of imprisonment. In February 2023, he was once again sentenced to an additional one and a half years of imprisonment on the charge of disobedience to the demands of the colony administration.

At least 77 persons have been tried for donations since 2020. They were tried on charges of financing an “extremist formation” for supporting solidarity funds or on charges of financing “terrorist activities” for donations, for example, to BYPOL or “Cyber Partisans”. Those who made donations to Belarusian volunteers in Ukraine were persecuted for “financing the war”. At least 13 convicts on this charge are known. Cases of persecution for allegedly “financing terrorist activities” have become more frequent. This April, the Ministry of Internal Affairs reported that it had identified 260 persons who transferred money to “extremist” organizations for more than 5,000 USD. As a way to compensate for their “offense”, they were forced by the authorities to make “voluntary donations” to the state social and medical institutions specified by the authorities for more than 356 thousand USD.

Since May 29, 2020, at least 36,418 persons have been administratively prosecuted for political reasons, and at least 5,133 persons have been convicted under criminal charges, reports Human Rights Centre “Viasna”. Of those, at least 2,466 persons were convicted for participating in protests, 90 persons — for donations, and 51 persons were tried for high treason. 40 persons were convicted within the framework of special proceedings (in absentia). Repetitive criminal cases have been opened against 38 convicts. The youngest political prisoner, Maria Misyuk, was 16 years old, she is a citizen of Ukraine. The oldest known one, Natallia Taran, was 76 years old, in the summer of 2022, she was sentenced to three and a half years of imprisonment for insulting government officials. 254 political prisoners are at special risk due to their health conditions. Six people have died in prison in four years.

Three in absentia political trials began in Belarus on May 31. Another trial against the activists began in the Brest Regional Court. Bloggers Andrei Pavuk, Illya Saliankou, Volha Pak, singer Marharyta Liauchuk, producer Aliaksandr Chekhouskai, and musician Uladizslau Navazhylau are judged. All of them are abroad. The case involves 14 charges, including “facilitating extremist activities», “insulting state symbols”, and “financing extremist activities”. The trial will be held behind closed doors. In Minsk, a trial in the case of “Tsikhanouskaya analysts”, in which 20 defendants are political scientists, sociologists, journalists, and researchers, began. People who conducted research and made public comments are accused of conspiring to seize power, calling for sanctions, participating in extremist formation, and inciting social hostility. On the eve of the trial, 14 defendants in the case issued a statement calling it politically motivated persecution. “All persons arbitrarily grouped in the “case” were engaged in purely professional activities that cannot be attributed to the actions charged,” the analysts stated. The Minsk City Court began to try Franak Vyachorka, an international affairs advisor to Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya. He was charged under nine articles of the Criminal Code. The US Embassy in Minsk stated that the case of the Tsikhanouskaya analysts is “another attack on human rights and freedom of speech” and “an attempt to silence dissidents and intimidate their families.” The in absentia trials were also condemned by the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Marija Pejčinović Burić, and the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights.

The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus, the Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities, and the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, all being experts exercising mandates of UN special procedures, in their communication to Belarus authorities expressed their concern about the alleged denial of adequate medical assistance to Pavel Kuchynski and incompatibility of his detention conditions with his health condition. Pavel Kuchynski is a political prisoner and has stage four Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He has been imprisoned for more than two years despite his illness. UN special procedures reminded Belarus authorities of relevant international human rights standards, which appear to be disregarded. They urged that all necessary interim measures be taken to halt the alleged violations and prevent their re-occurrence and, if the investigations support or suggest the allegations to be correct, to ensure the accountability of any person responsible for the alleged violations. They noted that they may publicly express their concerns soon, as a matter warrants immediate attention.

On May 27, Human Rights Watch published a report on the repression against Belarusian lawyers. The 95-page report, “I Swear to Fulfil the Duties of Defense Lawyer Honestly and Faithfully: Politically Motivated Crackdown on Human Rights Lawyers in Belarus,” documents the near complete government takeover of the legal profession in Belarus and repression against human rights lawyers by Aliaksandr Lukashenka’s government. The report shows that while a governmental crackdown on lawyers in times of political unrest in Belarus is not new, the scale and severity of this wave of repression are unprecedented. For the first time in the history of modern Belarus, lawyers have become political prisoners themselves for their work on behalf of clients. “By systematically retaliating against human rights lawyers, undermining their rights, and violating the rights of their clients in politically motivated cases, Belarusian authorities have turned the judicial system into a mockery of justice and deprived Belarusians of their right to a fair trial and equal protection under the law,” said Anastasiia Kruope, assistant Europe and Central Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Belarus should put an end to politically motivated prosecutions of lawyers and reinstate the independence of the legal profession.”

Belarus took 158th place in “The State of Freedom of Expression Around the World 2024” ranking of freedom of speech. This is the fourth place from the end. Only Nicaragua, Eritrea, and the DPRK are below Belarus in the ranking. Belarus has been bypassed by countries such as Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, and Syria. Rating is published annually by the human rights organization Article 19. All countries are divided into categories: open, countries with few restrictions on freedom of speech, countries with restrictions, countries with large restrictions, and countries in crisis.


On May 28, Aliaksandr Lukashenka attended the Forum of Media community in Belarus, which gathered only the media loyal to the regime. He claimed that Belarus continues to be “subjected to the largest hybrid pressure from the West in modern history.” In response to this, he called for an “unashamed” increase of propaganda and counterpropaganda: “I want young journalists to internalize this. There is no need to shy away from such words and concepts. Or do they not exist in the West? They just call it another word – PR, that is, working with public opinion. The essence is the same”. He also believes that in the West “they imprison their journalists, close the media and persecute anyone who dares to disagree with the policy and actions of the authorities”. Lukashenka noted that some of those present might say that it was the same in Belarus in 2020, but, according to him, Belarusian authorities “didn’t arrest for their opinion and didn’t imprison them.” Lukashenka also instructed media managers to control “some star journalists,” as in their stories they “talk about Ukraine,” with which one day it will be necessary to establish relations: “This is our neighboring country. This is our native country. And I am sure that those who speak harshly about Ukraine do not realize that most people in Ukraine are normal people”.

At the same forum, Ivan Eismant, head of the Belteleradiocompany (BTRC), told the audience that “the sanctions imposed by the collective West and the information war gave a qualitative leap in the development of the Belarusian media space. According to him, in recent years “the volume of public and political broadcasting has been significantly increased, high-profile journalistic investigations and special projects are regularly released, the pool of political experts and columnists has been significantly expanded.” From this, he concluded that “the West’s attempt to silence the voice of the Belarusian state media has had the opposite effect.”  Eismont announced the expansion of BTRC foreign broadcasting: the content is planned to be translated into 30 languages. According to him, BTRC has increased the production of content in English, both for TV and radio air, as well as for the Internet. He also boasted about the achievements of the Polish editorial office created in the company.

In May, Aliaksandr Lukashenka signed a law on the suspension of the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty (CFE Treaty) by the Republic of Belarus. On this occasion, the Foreign Ministry said that the suspension is “a forced response to ensure the national security of the country against the background of the destruction of the existing conventional arms control regime in Europe and the continuing escalation of military and political tension in the region”. Diplomats said that Belarus is ready to continue observing national levels of personnel and conventional arms “if neighboring states demonstrate adequate restraint”.

On May 29, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belarus, Siarhei Aleinik, during the meeting with his Hungarian Colleague Péter Szijjártó in Minsk stated that the “situation” in Ukraine was “provoked” and is “developed” from abroad by those “who gain direct profit from that”. “Minsk’s position remains the same from the very beginning – it is necessary to stop the death of people and start negotiations. Right now. And we, on our behalf, are ready to assist in that. The Minsk platform is open for negotiations. This is in our joint interest. Today, there is no other more important issue for the common European house”, he said.

On May 28, Deputy Minister of Economy Tatsiana Brantsevich raised the issue of aggravating the deficit of people in the labor market during a round table in the newspaper Respublika. She stressed that first, Belarus should not attract foreign citizens as labor resources but retain its staff. Also, it’s better to return the migrated fellow citizens. “We have unique labor resources. Our people are educated, hard-working, tolerant, law-abiding, and diligent. Our European neighbors do not particularly want to see guests from Africa or the Middle East, but they open their doors wide for Belarusians,” the official believes.

During the period under review, ONT propagandist Ihar Tur admitted that pro-government journalists “most often” send questions they intend to publicly ask Lukashenka “for approval” to his press service in advance. He explains the necessity of this as follows: “Any question to Lukashenka is high politics. Not only his answer but the question itself. High politics is very subtle, and in high politics, the price of one wrong word, let alone a question, is very high.” Tur shared that Lukashenka has a press secretary who “knows all the political subtleties of different periods” and “makes a decision <…> based on whether the country needs this very question and the answer to it to be aired publicly today or not”.

On May 30, Vladimir Putin presented state awards to “outstanding citizens of Russia”. Interestingly, among the awardees was Aliaksei Talai, a Belarusian Paralympian and director of a “charitable foundation” that organizes the illegal deportation of Ukrainian children from the occupied territories to Belarus. In his speech, Talai promised Putin “not to fail”: “We are proud that you and our leader Aliaksandr Lukashenka hold the line in such a brotherly way! And the third hero, Novorossiya, will return to us one day! We are Russians! God is with us!”

In a speech at a meeting of the Council of Defense Ministers of the CSTO member states, Belarusian Defense Minister Viktar Khrenin said that “U.S.-led Western countries” are actively aimed at “introducing unprecedented discriminatory measures aimed at isolating and worsening the economic situation”, “waging a large-scale information war” and “swaying the internal political situation to overthrow legitimate governments and bring to power controlled politicians who will act on orders from the outside and defend the interests of others”. The Defense Ministry did not say which countries Khrenin was referring to.

On May 31, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis answered the question of whether Ukraine had the right to hit Russian targets on the territory of Belarus. In his opinion, Ukraine “should have the ability to defend itself” if Russia moves its targets somewhere else. Pro-government politician Aleh Haidukevich reacted, calling Landsbergis “a trained dog who speaks nonsense that harms the security of all of Europe.” Haidukevich warned that in case of an attack on Belarus, which, according to him, does not want war, they “will hit the decision-making centers and will not be ceremonious”.

Best regards,
iSANS team

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