Belarus Review by iSANS — June 17, 2024 

Belarus Review by iSANS — June 17, 2024


Belarus Review (2024 edition, issue 23)

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).

From June 9 to 15, students of the National Defense University of Zimbabwe visited Belarus on a study trip. The study group included representatives of Botswana, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Tanzania, South Africa, and Zimbabwe. During the visit, the management and students at the university familiarized themselves with the Armed Forces of Belarus, the legislative system, and the country’s industrial potential. The visit made it possible to determine the prospects for further intensification of Belarusian-Zimbabwean military cooperation.

On June 10, the Ministry of Defense of Belarus reported that units of the Armed Forces of Belarus were taking part in the second stage of exercises with the non-strategic nuclear forces of Russia. On June 12, Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Belarus Pavel Muraveika said that as part of the exercises, the crews of the Iskander-M operational-tactical missile systems moved to the designated position areas. According to Muraveika, the crews “received special ammunition and docked it to the warheads”, after which they took up their starting positions and combat duty on assigned targets. In other words, non-training ammunition was used in the exercises. However, the next day, this information was denied by the Russian Ministry of Defense. On June 13, the head of the 12th Main Directorate of the Russian Ministry of Defense, Igor Kolesnikov, said that during the exercises, the mobile formations of the department provided “the delivery of training nuclear munitions to the field storage points of the position area of the missile brigade and the operational airfield of attack aviation.” The exercises were attended by, among others, Su-25 attack aircraft. It was noted that until the last moment, the commanders of the aviation links did not know who exactly would work out combat training tasks, and from which airfield the aviation would operate. All tasks during the exercises were carried out jointly with the Russian military. In total, two Su-25 attack aircraft of the Air Force of Belarus, one Su-30SM fighter of the Russian Aerospace Forces, as well as one unit of the Iskander-M missile system were involved in the exercises. The combat training took place at the Domanovo and Obuz-Lesnovsky training fields.

The interdepartmental anti-terrorist exercise “Storm-Antiterror – 2024” took place on June 10-13 in the Brest region. The main goals of the exercise were to ensure the readiness of state bodies to respond to acts of terrorism, activities of terrorist organizations, and illegal armed groups. During the exercise, special attention was paid to the organization of interdepartmental cooperation in carrying out a counter-terrorist operation.

On June 11, the battalion tactical group of the 6th Mechanized Brigade was brought to readiness to perform its assigned tasks as part of a combat readiness inspection of the Armed Forces of Belarus. During the inspection, the personnel moved to the Gozhsky training ground to practice covering the state border, and engineering equipment of firing lines, positions, and strongholds. On June 14, the units returned to their permanent deployment point.

On June 11-13, the leadership of the Air Force and Air Defense Forces of Belarus met in Beijing with representatives of the Air Force of the People’s Liberation Army of China. At the meeting, the parties considered the issues of bilateral military cooperation and identified ways of its further development. The Belarusian military delegation also visited military infrastructure facilities and enterprises of China’s military-industrial complex.

Representatives of Serbia visited the 38th Airborne Assault Brigade for an assessment within the framework of the Vienna Document 2011 on confidence- and security-building measures. The visit verified the consistency of the information on the brigade provided annually by Belarus with the status and activities of the unit. This is the first verification exercise on the territory of Belarus in the last four years.


At the beginning of the week, the U.S. Congress published draft amendments to the Belarus Democracy, Human Rights, and Sovereignty Act. The updates condemn the Lukashenka regime for the rigged Presidential election in 2020, ongoing repressions, the deployment of Russian nuclear weapons on the territory of Belarus, and presence of Russian troops in the country, support for Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, involvement in illegal deportation of Ukrainian children from Russia’s occupied territories of Ukraine to Belarus, detention of political opponents and the over 1.4 thousand political prisoners. Furthermore, the bill condemns “the weaponization of migrants wherein the Government of Belarus, led illegally by Aliaksandr Lukashenka, has sent thousands of migrants to the borders of Poland and Lithuania in an attempt to destabilize the border region”. In the update of the Democracy Act, the U.S. Congress recognizes the United Transitional Cabinet of the Belarusian democratic forces and the Coordination Council as legitimate institutions to engage in dialogue on the peaceful transfer of power and calls for support to these institutions.

After Interpol denied issuing a red notice against the former Polish Judge Tomasz Szmydt, who fled to Belarus, the District Court in Warsaw issued a European arrest warrant on June 10. Tomasz Szmydt is suspected of espionage in Poland and giving out sensitive information, related to state security.

On June 11-12, a Ukraine Recovery Conference took place in Berlin, Germany. During his speech at the Conference, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy mentioned Belarus: “The time of free Belarus, Belarus in Europe will come inevitably”.

On June 11, the Minsk court found Lithuanian citizen Elena Ramanauskienė guilty of “espionage” and handed down a six-year prison term. Lithuania’s State Security Department called the court’s verdict “baseless”: “The KGB, one of the key pillars of the Belarusian regime, made absurd accusations that she had undermined Belarus’ national security while living in Lithuania”. Ramanauskienė had previously worked in the Belarus-owned sanatorium “Bialorus” in Lithuania’s southern city of Druskininkai. She was accused by the Lukashenka regime of having passed information about incoming guests, including high-ranked officials from Belarus. Reportedly, Ramanauskienė could have been arrested in 2023 while returning to Lithuania from Belarus.

On June 12, the U.S. Department of the Treasury imposed new sanctions for Russia’s continued full-scale invasion of Ukraine aiming to further restrict sanctions evasion and circumvention, and limit the capabilities of Russia’s military industry. 30 individuals and over 200 companies were included in the list, including Belarusian companies involved in servicing the Russian defense industry. Among the affected companies are “Belarusresintechnika”, KVAND ISOOO (Belarus-based developer of drones), BAZtube, Zavod SVT, and R&D Tehnolit, along with their CEOs. The new sanctions hit especially Moscow’s Exchange, disconnecting it from the dollar and euro. As a result, the Russian ruble fell against the dollar, and following that the two currencies – dollar and euro – rose in price in Belarus.

On June 15, it was reported with reference to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Romania, that the government of Romania will not allow official Russian and Belarusian delegations to attend the 31st annual session of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly to be held on June 29 – July 3 in Bucharest, Romania.

During the period under review, the leader of the Belarusian democratic forces Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya was on a working visit in the United States. She began her visit by meeting with G7 Ambassadors and Experts in Washington on June 12. On the same day, the Belarusian leader met with former Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, as well as US Senators, Jeanne Shaheen, Dick Durbin, and Peter Welch. The parties discussed the draft of the new Belarus Democracy Act, a campaign in support of political prisoners in Belarus, and sanctions against the Lukashenka regime, among other issues. Several other meetings followed in her tight schedule: with the US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, where Tsikhanouskaya discussed support to Belarusian volunteer fighters in Ukraine and strengthening the pressure on the Lukashenka regime to close loopholes in sanctions policy; US Under Secretary for Political Affairs John Bass to discuss financial support for Belarusian independent media, simplification of visa issuance, new sanctions against the official Minsk, etc. During her visit to the United States, the Belarusian leader received the NED Democracy Medal for Democracy Service. This award is given for outstanding contributions to the cause of freedom and democracy. Previous recipients include former Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, former Polish President, and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Lech Wałęsa, and the first President of the Czech Republic Václav Havel. During her speech, Tsikhanouskaya highlighted what the fight for democracy means for Belarusians: “…you have to explain to your kids that their daddy was sentenced to 19 years in prison because he wants a better future for them”.


As of June 10, 1,396 people in Belarus have been deprived of their liberty for political reasons. Many of them need emergency help. The United Transitional Cabinet compiled a humanitarian list for the most vulnerable groups of political prisoners. Volha Harbunova, representative of the United Transitional Cabinet, confirmed that there are 255 persons on the humanitarian list today. 32 of them are in a situation where life and death are at stake. Among them is Ksenia Lutskina, who has a brain tumor. One of the largest categories is persons aged 60+, there are 63 of them. A separate group is prisoners with disabilities. There are 16 persons in this group. 93 persons have certain forms of cancer, bronchial asthma, or heart disease that are not considered disabilities following the law. Ten political prisoners have mental diagnoses and a mental disorder.

On June 10, 32 schoolchildren and students from the Russia-occupied Ukrainian city of Melitopol were brought to Minsk. The trip was organized within the framework of the project “Defending the borders of Our Fatherland”. The organization “Local National and Cultural Autonomy of Belarusians of the Melitopol City District” received a grant for this project from the President of the Russian Federation in the amount of 2.2 million Russian rubles (about 80 thousand Belarusian rubles). The description of the project stated that the Zaporozhye youth “does not easily master the necessary knowledge about history, literature, and language of their fatherland,” since much of what they were taught before turned out to be “disinformation.” “It is a well-known fact that Ukrainization was often accompanied by the imposition of false ideals, values and of an invented language, and the rejection of the values of the Russian world and the common history of the two countries”. The idea of the project is “to help teenagers and young people to get rid of false ideals and values”.

On June 12, the trial in absentia of former political prisoner, lawyer and human rights activist Leanid Sudalenka began in the Homel Regional Court. A new criminal case in the framework of the special procedure against Leanid was initiated in November 2023. This time, Sudalenka is accused of facilitating extremist activities. Leanid Sudalenka was the head of the Homel branch of “Viasna” Human Rights Center. In November 2021, the court found Sudalenka guilty of organizing and financing protests and sentenced him to three years imprisonment at a penal colony. After leaving Belarus following the end of his prison term, he directed his activities towards the release of Belarusian political prisoners. In early June, he appealed to the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Belarus intending to influence the practice of in absentia trials in the country.

The IneedHelpBY website was blocked in Belarus. The prosecutor’s office of the Mahilou region claimed that the website violated the law on mass media and its work contradicted the national interests of Belarus. “In particular, it published information about the discrediting of the current government and law enforcement agencies, the deliberately unlawful legitimization of the actions of persons who committed offenses and crimes, including by giving them the pseudo status of “political prisoners.” Under the circumstances, the functioning of the specified Internet resource contradicted the national interests of the Republic of Belarus,” the Prosecutor’s office said in a statement. The IneedHelp initiative was recognized as an “extremist formation”. The project offered food assistance to families of political prisoners.

On June 13, a court in Serbia decided to extradite movie director Andrei Gnet to Belarus. The decision was justified by the interstate agreement between Serbia and the Republic of Belarus and the Law on International Legal Assistance. The court found no grounds that would prevent extradition. In Belarus, Gnet was accused of tax evasion on a large scale and put on the international wanted list through Interpol. Belarus authorities claim that from January 2012 to March 2019, he did not pay about one million Belarusian rubles (more than 305 thousand USD) to the budget. Andrei Gnet himself and his lawyers consider the case to be politically motivated. It is stated that European diplomats in Belgrade have already been informed about Gnet’s situation and information on the case has been sent to representatives of the European Commission. The legal team of Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya’s Office commented on the decision: “Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya’s Office continues to fight for Andrei Gnet’s freedom. His lawyers are preparing documents for appeal. He has also been given information of those who can render him legal assistance in applying to the European Court of Human Rights,” they report. The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and 11 more human rights organizations asked the Serbian authorities not to extradite Andrei Gnet to Belarus, since political prisoners there are subjected to ill-treatment, held incommunicado, and denied access to medical care. NGOs recalled that Serbia is a state party to the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, therefore it is obliged to comply with the principles prohibiting the extradition of people to countries where they may face cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.

Polish President Andrzej Duda signed an amendment to legislative acts on assistance to citizens of Ukraine. The document will simplify the life of Belarusians as well. In particular, the problem of the recognition of certificates of education was solved. From now on, the certificate obtained in Belarus can be confirmed in Poland. This applies to documents on primary, lower secondary, and secondary education, including vocational training. Previously, only persons who have received refugee status or additional protection, and their family members, as well as persons who have suffered as a result of armed conflicts, natural disasters and other humanitarian crises provoked by nature or man, could confirm the certificate through an administrative procedure in Poland.

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has published a new 11th global index of workers’ rights. Belarus was ranked among the ten worst countries along with Ecuador, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Eswatini, and Turkey. The drafters of the rating stressed that the authorities in Belarus have already destroyed the independent trade union movement, depriving workers of the right to form and join trade unions of their own choice. Unprecedented and systemic repressions against trade unions in Belarus have begun since the spring of 2022. Today, according to the ITUC, at least 42 leaders and activists of independent Belarusian trade unions are wrongfully detained or unfairly imprisoned in the most difficult conditions. Arrests of workers who are disloyal to the regime are also continuing. Anti-leadership in the ranking of workers’ rights is not something new for Belarus: it was already among the ten worst countries in 2015-2016, and since 2021 it has not left the list. In 2023, the International Labor Organization adopted a resolution calling on the world community to reconsider relations with the Belarusian authorities and apply Article 33 of the ILO Charter to it, which allows broader economic restrictions to be applied against the Belarusian regime, up to an economic embargo.

The 112th International Labour Conference was held in Geneva for two weeks, at which the Committee on the Application of Standards of the International Labor Organization, among other things, studied the situation with workers’ rights in Belarus. According to Maksim Paznyakou, acting chair of the Belarusian Congress of Democratic Trade Unions, the most important decision of the conference regarding Belarus was the plan to seek permission from the Belarusian authorities to visit all trade union activists in custody by foreign doctors. The Conference hopes that this mission will be able to assess the state of health of Belarusian political prisoners and, if necessary, provide them with medical assistance. The second achievement, according to Maksim Paznyakou, is “the formation of a tripartite ILO mission to assess the situation and visit trade union activists who are currently behind bars.” For these decisions to be advanced and eventually implemented, the conference participants suggested that the Director General of the ILO appoint a special envoy for Belarus. The next International Labor Conference will be held in June 2025 and will again study the situation in Belarus separately. “The Belarusian issue will not be removed from the agenda until the problem is solved”,” Maksim Paznyakou stated.

On June 14, the leaders of the G7 countries condemned the complicity of the Belarusian regime in Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and called on the Belarusian authorities to release political prisoners. “We express our continued concern over the regime’s continuing repression of independent media, civil society, opposition, and citizens that peacefully express their views. We also condemn the ill-treatment of political prisoners and ask for their immediate and unconditional release”, says the communique published on the website of the Italian presidency of the G7.


On June 10, the Ministry of Defense of Belarus reported that Belarusian units were taking part in the second stage of exercises with the non-strategic nuclear forces of the Russian Armed Forces. Defense Minister Viktar Khrenin said that the exercises were a response to “aggressive attacks” by the West. In his opinion, their leaders “demonstrate a lack of readiness for a constructive dialogue.” Khrenin said that after “unsuccessful attempts” to launch an “epidemic of color revolutions” and “crush” Belarus with economic sanctions, “some particular hotheads” are hatching plans to use military force against it. He mentioned Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis, who, according to him, “in a militaristic frenzy agreed to call for strikes on military facilities of the Russian Federation,” located on the territory of Belarus. Therefore, the country is “consistently strengthening its defensive potential,” while its participation in the second stage of the Russian Armed Forces exercise is “proof of that.” At the same time, he emphasized that Belarus is a “peaceful state” that “does not threaten anyone”. Two days after this statement, Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Belarus Pavel Muraveika stated that “units of the Armed Forces of Belarus are ready to use special nuclear weapons”.

On June 10, in the talk show, Budni [Weekdays] MP Aleh Haidukevich once again blamed for the migration crisis on the border of Belarus with the EU, including the death of a Polish soldier, on the Western countries, as they, in his opinion, were engaged in “destroying the countries of the Middle East, interfering in the affairs of other countries, unleashing wars”. He predicted that illegal migrants “went, are going and will go” to the EU, and if Poland toughens its policy, there will be more “bitterness” on the part of migrants, “more deaths, more murders.” The pro-government politician sees the way out of the situation in the restoration of “normal relations” with Belarus and Russia: “Poland won’t decide anything without us, they won’t do anything. We are ready for normal relations, but on an equal footing, with respect, without any edicts”. He believes that for such “normalization,” it is necessary to fulfill the following conditions: “stop sponsoring the fifth column, stop preparing terrorist attacks and extremism, hand over all the fugitive leaders to us immediately… Give them all away, the suckers and others, give them all away, bring them in a trunk [to Belarus], we will put them in jail, establish normal relations, return international law to our relations. We are not interfering in your elections, and you shouldn’t interfere”.

On June 11, Aliaksandr Lukashenka met with the Head of the Central Election Commission Ihar Karpenka to receive his report. During the meeting, Lukashenka instructed him to organize the election campaign-2025 in a “worthy” manner so that “no mosquito would be able to harm people”. Lukashenka believes that in the upcoming presidential elections, he will not have to use administrative resources “as it was in previous years.” “We are honest, decent, able to hold these elections, especially against the background of the elections of our fugitives”.

During the press conference on June 11, Chief of the pro-government Association of Belarusian Writers Aliaksandr Karliukevich supported the idea of publishing a collection of Lukashenka’s selected works. Honorary Chairman of the Association, Mikalai Charhinets, said that somebody in Lukashenka’s Administration should bring him this idea so that he would start writing books as “they are very needed by the population”.

At the youth scientific forum on June 12, Uladzimir Husakou, Head of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarussaid that they were introducing the concept of “the Belarusian world”, which “includes the whole system of national values – from ancient history and culture to the modern world order, including the traditional worldview of our people”. He noted that the historical path of Belarus has exceptional features (geographical position, peculiarities of the population of Belarusian territories, high degree of resistance of the Belarusian people to the destructive conditions of transit existence). Husakou is sure that due to these and other factors, “unique conditions for the formation of a multi-ethnic, multicultural, and multi-confessional society, a state with a highly developed science, economy, culture, and system of international relations – what without false modesty should be called the Belarusian world – have developed on the Belarusian territory”. iSANS expert Anton Hluski believes that the introduction of the new сoncept is an attempt to distance oneself from “the Russian world». “Speaking of identity, Husakou immediately moved to refute Russian narratives, according to which the history of the Belarusian statehood begins only as a result of the collapse of the Soviet Union. He had to mention the Belarusians’ dominant role in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and their being an equal national entity in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. And this is exactly what the Kremlin is trying to completely rub out of our history. Therefore, it is merely a question of time before Moscow calls the ideologists of “the Belarusian world» to order. And they are unlikely to disobey,» the expert stresses.

On June 13, it became known that Marat Markau, who had been in charge of the ONT TV channel in recent years, was appointed the new Minister of Information of Belarus. He called the strategic task of the Ministry of Information to ensure full domination [of the state] in the information field inside the country and dissemination of information about Belarus abroad. He expects that Belarusian state media will be able to reach foreign audiences with the help of “friendly” countries. Appointing the new minister, Lukashenka indirectly recognized the fact of allocation of “considerable money” from the budget for propaganda before the 2025 election and warned Markau that he was “responsible with his head” for the implementation of the planned projects and the use of opportunities: “The main thing is money, finances, you should hold them in your hands and give a penny to each of them where it is necessary. This is the main thing for me”.

Some Belarusians who left the country “suffer abroad”, Ihar Siarheyenka, Head of the House of Representatives of the National Assembly of Belarus, said in an interview to the newspaper Soyuznoe Veche on June 13. “There is no need to consider all [those who left] as enemies. There are some among them who are simply misguided,” he believes. Siarheyenka suggested that many have already realized “how difficult it is to find oneself there, in a foreign land, to get a job, to find a place in life.” He urged Belarusians “not to be afraid to return home” and reminded that there was a special commission on return in the country.

At the 78th session of the UN General Assembly on June 13 the permanent representative of Belarus Valiantsin Rybakou criticized the Western countries for the sanctions imposed on the Lukashenka regime: “We propose to consider the illegal unilateral sanctions not just economic terrorism but acts of aggression with all the ensuing consequences”. He said that the sanctions had left Belarus without some Western medicines, but at the same time he said that the country was not afraid of them, because, for example, the medicines were allegedly quickly replaced. At the same time, he tried to convince the audience that the sanctions “doomed millions of people in the global South to starvation”: “The direct consequence of sanctions against Belarusian potash fertilizers, which is almost one third of the world exports, was a significant reduction in yields in Africa”. In conclusion, the official turned to insults: “Those who come up with unilateral sanctions have no brains. Those who use them have no heart. Those who justify sanctions have no conscience. It is very sad that some people have all three of these qualities combined”.

On June 14, during the Meeting of the Council of Ministers of Belarus, Aliaksandr Lukashenka threatened officials with long jail terms and even capital punishment for corruption. In the course of these threats, he made an antisemitic statement, which was not published by Lukashenka’s press service. However, the statement was captured by the Belarus-1 TV channel [see the video at 08:08]: “Three dozen people have been detained so far. Excuse me, I’m not anti-Semitic, but more than half of them are Jews. Is it that they have a special privileged position in our country, that they steal and don’t think about their future? Everyone is the same before the law – Jew, Belarusian, Ukrainian, Russian, Pole, and Ukrainian. If he is guilty, he will go to jail”.

Best regards,
iSANS team

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