Belarus Review by iSANS — June 24, 2024 

Belarus Review by iSANS — June 24, 2024
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Belarus Review (2024 edition, issue 24)

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 June 18, the “Vityaz” special-purpose detachment was inaugurated in Vitsebsk. The unit is a part of the 7th Police Brigade of the internal troops and will be deployed in Vitsebsk and Polatsk. Officially, the unit’s tasks are to conduct combat operations, fight against sabotage and reconnaissance groups and illegal armed groups, as well as to strengthen the protection of the state border. The unit is armed with Volat V1 armored vehicles, anti-tank missile systems, unmanned aerial vehicles of various types, 82-mm mortars, automatic grenade launchers, and other weaponry.

A meeting of the Security Council was held on June 18. It considered a draft decree on assessing the state of national security. The need to develop the document arose due to the adoption of a new National Security Concept in April 2024. The draft decree defines the main indicators and criteria for assessing the state of national security. At the end of the meeting, the draft was approved. Before adoption, it will be adjusted taking into account the discussions. The document under development is secret and will not be published.

From June 19 to 21, Minsk hosted the international exhibition “National Security. Belarus-2024”. A prototype of the Phoenix laser mobile complex for fighting drones was demonstrated at the exhibition. The complex includes a high-precision laser weapon with a power of 3 kW. It is planned to “launch a combat version” of the complex in 2025.

On June 20, as part of the development of military cooperation between Belarus and Saudi Arabia, the head of the Department of International Military Cooperation of the Ministry of Defense of Belarus met with representatives of the Ministry of Defense of Saudi Arabia. The parties discussed the prospects for the development of interaction and the possibility of putting the relations on a planned basis.

On June 21, it became known about the beginning of a surprise inspection of the readiness of the Belarusian Armed Forces units to perform their assigned tasks. According to the Chief of the General Staff Pavel Muraveika, the inspection is comprehensive and involves a variety of forces. It will involve units of the operational commands of the Army, missile troops and artillery, Special Operations Forces, Air Force, and Air Defense Forces. The test will be carried out at firing ranges and terrain in Brest and Homel regions. Given the geography of the test, it can be assumed that it is a “response” to the build-up of the Ukrainian military grouping on the border with Belarus. This was stated by the State Border Committee of Belarus on June 20, on the eve of the inspection. So far, units of the 15th Anti-Aircraft Missile, 51st Artillery, 336th Rocket Artillery, and 38th Airborne Assault Brigades have been involved in the inspection. The scale of the ongoing inspection makes it possible to state that it does not pose a military threat to Ukraine.

The Ministry of Defense of Belarus is planning new purchases of drones for the needs of the army. By the end of 2024, the ministry plans to purchase nine drones from the transnational company Autel Robotics whose headquarters and production are located in China, and many subsidiaries based in many countries of the world. In 2023-2024, Autel Robotics drones were already purchased by Belarus for the needs of its internal troops. Therefore, the Belarusian military will be able to realize its plans to purchase drones. Every year, the number of drones purchased for the needs of the Belarusian army increases and their range expands.

A comprehensive tactical training session with servicemen of one of the mechanized battalions of the 6th Mechanized Brigade and personnel of the Hrodna Border Guard Group was completed. During the exercises, the servicemen performed service at checkpoints and fully accomplished several joint tasks to protect the state border.

In August 2024, personnel of one of the units of the 15th Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade will carry out combat launches at the Russian Ashuluk training range. Units of the anti-aircraft missile forces of Belarus conduct annual exercises at Russian firing ranges.

On June 23, in an interview with propagandists, Defense Minister Viktar Khrenin stated that the Belarusian military was able to get combat experience from the mercenaries of PMC “Wagner”. According to the official, the mercenaries “continue to share their experience, primarily combat experience”. Indeed, as of early June, a small number of mercenaries of PMC “Wagner” (up to 100 people) remained in Belarus to train military personnel. Since February 2024, cooperation between PMC “Wagner” and Belarusian security forces is practically not covered in the Belarusian government-controlled and pro-government media. This happened after Lukashenka expressed dissatisfaction that the security forces pay too much attention to mercenaries in the media.


On June 18, it was announced that the Latvian government allocated funding of up to 10 million euros for the country’s Ministry of Defense to continue strengthening the border with Russia and Belarus. According to the Latvian MoD, since March 2024, the defense industry has been conducting practical work strengthening the eastern border. The plan is to allocate 303 million euros for this purpose within five years. Latvia is strengthening the border by digging anti-tank ditches and setting barriers. This comes as a part of the creation of the Baltic Defense Line, performed by units of Latvia’s National Armed Forces all along the border with Russia and Belarus.

On June 18, the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) unveiled its draft regulation on Russia. The regulation also includes restrictions against Belarus. In summary, the new rule further tightens export controls in respect of Russia and Belarus in the following ways: adding additional items prohibited for export without a license, imposing a new software license requirement for certain software, narrowing the scope of commodities and software that qualifies for the License Exception for Consumer Communications Devices (CCD), consolidating Russia and Belarus sanctions into a single section of the Export Administration Regulations (EAR), and adding addresses to the Entity List structure.

During the period under review, it became known that the EU member states agreed on a powerful and substantial 14th sanctions package in reaction to Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. The sanctions will especially target Russia’s gas market and ban exports of LNG through EU waters. Reportedly, the package provides new targeted measures and increases the impact of the existing sanctions by closing loopholes.

On June 19, the leader of the Belarusian democratic forces Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya met with the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Marija Pejčinović Burić. During the meeting, the parties addressed the continued work of the Contact Group on Cooperation with Belarusian Democratic Forces and Civil Society established by the Council of Europe in September 2022, steps towards developing a roadmap for Belarus’ accession to the Council of Europe, and the establishment of the Information Point of the Council of Europe in Vilnius. Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya underlined that under the current leadership, the Council of Europe has ceased all cooperation with the illegitimate dictator and officially formalized relations with the democratic forces of Belarus.

On June 20, the Belarusian leader met with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Armenia, Ararat Mirzoyan, in Vilnius. During their dialogue, they discussed the political situation in Belarus, Armenia, and the region, as well as the cooperation of Belarus’ democratic forces with the government, parliament, and civil society of Armenia.

On June 23, Poland’s Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski said Poland is considering closing the last remaining border checkpoints at the country’s border with Belarus to stem illegal migration. The Polish Foreign Minister added that Poland is now investigating the possible impact of the border closure on the Polish economy and local communities. Belarusian democratic forces’ leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya commented on the issue by stating that “initiatives to limit border traffic due to the regime’s ongoing provocations should target the dictator, not the people. We cannot abandon Belarusians to their fate behind a new iron curtain”.


On June 17, the Homel Regional Court sentenced human rights defender Leanid Sudalenka to five years of imprisonment in absentia. Sudalenka was found guilty of facilitating extremist activities. Additionally, he was fined 650 basic units (26 thousand rubles). In November 2021, Leanid Sudalenka was already sentenced to three years of imprisonment. On July 21, 2023, he was released, having served his entire term, and left Belarus shortly after that. He continues his human rights activities outside the country.

An information vacuum is being created around political prisoner Maryia Kalesnikava in Homel colony N 4. This was reported by an ex-political prisoner who was serving her sentence there. She stated that the administration of the colony forbids other prisoners to communicate with Maryia. The guards are always with her, they even accompany her to the toilet. Prisoners who cooperate with the administration keep an eye on her as well. Maryia Kalesnikava has been held in full isolation from the outside world for more than a year, in violation of international norms and domestic legislation. In February 2024, it was exactly one year since her family last received a letter from her. According to Maryia’s father, the administration of the colony does not allow him to visit her and does not respond to his letters and requests. Lawyers are also not allowed to see her.

On June 20, the Minsk City Court sentenced Franak Vyachorka, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya’s senior adviser, to 20 years in a high–security colony. In addition to imprisonment, he was also fined 1,500 basic units, which is 60,000 Belarusian rubles (approximately 17,000 euros). Franak Vyachorka said that he had submitted a petition to the Minsk City Court to familiarize himself with the case and attend the trial via a video link, but was not allowed to do that. The court found him guilty of conspiracy to seize state power unconstitutionally, organization of mass riots and group actions on the territory of the Republic of Belarus that grossly violate public order, public calls for the seizure of state power, the commission of an act of terrorism and other actions aimed at harming the national security of Belarus, creation and leadership of an extremist formation, leadership of a structural unit belonging to an extremist formation, and slander against Lukashenka. He was also sued “in the interests of the state” for compensation for property damage of more than 30,9 million rubles (approximately 8,8 million Euro), “caused by illegal actions.”

Criminal cases in the framework of special proceedings (trials in absentia) have been initiated against 108 people since the introduction of this norm to the Code of Criminal Procedure in 2022. Dzmitry Gara, Chair of the Investigative Committee, told reporters about the “systematic basis” of identifying people, collecting “evidence of their guilt” and the practice of confiscation of property. He named those who went abroad as the target category and said that the number of cases against them will grow. In most criminal cases the property of those whom the authorities consider to be accused is seized. “These are apartments, houses, land plots, and expensive cars. There is a lot of property that should be converted into state income by a court decision,” he noted. Experts consider trials in absentia against exiled critics of the regime and confiscation of their property an instrument of transnational repression, aimed at punishing the opponents and silencing the dissent.

The Montenegrin authorities refused to grant asylum to a Belarusian activist, local journalist Lubomir Filippovich writes. The activist’s personal information is not disclosed for security reasons. The document on the refusal to grant asylum was signed by Radovan Popovich, Director General of the Department of Administrative Affairs, Citizenship and Foreigners of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Montenegro. It states that the government of the Republic of Belarus allows Ukrainian refugees into the country and provides them with asylum. Filippovich writes that five paragraphs of the decision’s justification are devoted to “how many international conventions Belarus has signed, how much it produces and where it exports it all”, while human rights violations are mentioned in one sentence, which says that “there are certain human rights violations” in Belarus. About 1,000 Belarusians live in Montenegro, and since last year they have not been able to renew their passports at Belarussian consulates abroad as a result of a decree, signed by Aliaksandr Lukashenka on September 4, 2023. Belarusians have organized themselves into several organizations in Montenegro and have collectively appealed to the government of the country several times. “They have not received any response from the government and the president that would help determine their status,” Filippovich comments.

Poland plans to extend the special order for obtaining a travel document for Belarusians whose national passports have expired or have become invalid. Belarusians will be able to receive a Polish travel document on simplified terms until December 31, 2024. This follows from the draft resolution of the Minister of Internal Affairs and Administration of Poland. The resolution should come into force on July 1, 2024. The Belarusian Solidarity Center draws attention to the fact that this document has not yet been adopted and, at the moment, preferential conditions for obtaining a travel document are valid only until July 30, 2024.

Belarusian political refugees moving to Germany face a “high bureaucratic barrier.” According to Marya Rudz, co-chair of the association of Belarusians of Germany “Razam E.V.”, only 300 Belarusian political refugees have received a humanitarian visa in Germany. “This requires very serious evidence that a person is being persecuted at home. Search data, administrative and criminal records,” she emphasized. As regards the asylum procedure, a thousand applications from Belarusians have been submitted for international protection, but there were no more than 40 positive decisions. “This is a long process that has a low percentage of positive responses. A person must be in Germany, must live in a refugee camp, and there must also be documents proving the real danger of a person staying in Belarus,” Rudz explained. She also mentioned the problem with the exchange of Belarusian passports which about 30 thousand Belarusians may face in Germany. Rudz said that it is possible in Germany to obtain a “passport of a foreigner” with which you can legally stay in the country, study, work, and partially travel. Many Belarusians have received such passports. However, there were cases when people with humanitarian visas were denied issuing this document and offered to go back to Belarus to replace their passports. It is also known about cases when people were denied international protection and had to return to Belarus, where they were arrested.

On June 21, the President of the UN Human Rights Council announced the appointment of Susan Bazilli (Canada), Karinna Moskalenko (Russian Federation), and Monika Stanisława Płatek (Poland) to serve as members of the Group of Independent Experts on the Human Rights Situation in Belarus. The Group’s responsibilities will include investigating and establishing the facts, circumstances, and causes of human rights violations and abuses committed in Belarus since May 1, 2020. The Group of Independent Experts was established by a resolution of the Human Rights Council adopted at its latest session in April this year, replacing the High Commissioner for Human Rights Examination Mechanism that had existed from March 2021 to March 2024 and produced three reports. The three independent experts appointed now to the new Group had served as experts on the previously existing Mechanism. According to its mandate, the Group will make recommendations on accountability measures to end impunity in Belarus and ensure accountability and access to justice and effective remedies, including reparations for victims. These new duties were not in the mandate of the Examination Mechanism. This provides the Group with a stronger leverage of influence on the international community’s strategies of response to continued gross human rights violations and alleged crimes against humanity in Belarus. The Group was requested to submit a comprehensive report on the situation in Belarus at a fifty-eighth session of the Human Rights Council (24 February-2 April 2025). “The creation of such a group of experts is a unique procedure for Belarus,” the legal team of Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya’s Office notes, – “This is evidence of the high level of attention from international human rights organizations to what is happening in our country. The events of 2020 and subsequent years have not been forgotten: crimes will be investigated, and the perpetrators will be brought to international responsibility.”

On June 21, political prisoner journalist and activist of the Polish minority of Belarus Andrzej Poczobut became an honorary citizen of Warsaw. Deputies made the corresponding decision of the city council of Warsaw. “If we cannot force the regime to release him, we can make sure that there is no silence around his case,” Polish politician Robert Tyszkiewicz commented. Andrzej Poczobut is a journalist and one of the leaders of the Union of Poles not recognized by the Lukashenka authorities. Andrzej Poczobut was detained on March 25, 2021, in Hrodna within the frame of the so-called “Polish case” along with other activists of the Union of Poles of Belarus. He was accused of “inciting hatred on a national basis” and sentenced to eight years of imprisonment in a high-security colony. In October 2022, the KGB added him to the list of terrorists. In October 2023, it became known that Andrzej Poczobut was kept in solitary confinement in a punishment cell for a long time and was not provided with the necessary medicines. His long-standing health problems are a matter of serious concern.  There have been repeated reports about long-term or repeated episodes of incommunicado detention of Poczobut in the high-security colony where he is serving his term and the lack of any credible information about his condition for many months since the time of his arrest in 2021. According to reports, Poczobut is isolated from other prisoners and from people who could transmit information about him to the international community. His letters are censored, and his contacts are heavily restricted. Even the place of his imprisonment was initially kept secret.


During the period under review, Belarusian propagandists and pro-governmental experts actively assessed (as a rule, negatively) the Peace Summit on Ukraine, which took place in Switzerland on June 15-16. Aliaksandr Tsishchanka in his article for SB. Belarus Segodnya noted that some participants of the conference were united by “denounced Russophobia”: “… only Russia’s loss is a fair solution for them. But Brussels and Washington do not take into account that there are several other levels of justice to which Moscow can legitimately claim. These are, for example, the borders of the Soviet period and even the pre-Soviet period”. For his part, SB columnist Anton Papou noted that despite the “bellicose stance of Western hawks” who are “ready to fight to the last Ukrainian,” the failure of the meeting in Bürgenstock was “expected” but is “deafening,” as they failed to develop a common position with the countries of the Global South. Belarusian Foreign Minister Siarhei Aleinik called the summit in Switzerland a “so-called peace conference” and said that the participation of European countries “without the key player, Russia” looked like a “theater of absurdity”. He once again voiced the official position of the Belarusian authorities, who are trying to convince the world that “any peaceful settlement of the Ukrainian conflict and any discussions of European and Eurasian security issues without the participation of both Russia and Belarus is futile”.

On June 17, the Lyceum of the Belarusian State University was named after Felix Dzerzhinsky, one of the ideological inspirers and leaders of the “Red Terror” in Soviet Russia and the USSR. It should be noted that in 2020, more than a thousand graduates of the institution supported the protests after the rigged presidential election; later at least fifteen teachers were dismissed from the lyceum. MP Aliaksandr Shpakouski called the naming of the Lyceum after Dzerzhinsky “one of the most creative ideas of the Belarusian authorities, realized in the sphere of the state ideological policy in recent years”. His colleague Vadzim Hihin recognized that the Lyceum “has had a very contradictory environment for many years”, especially “in the humanities profile”. Therefore, he is happy that “the situation is changing before our eyes” and believes that “Dzerzhinsky’s name will become a symbol of such positive changes”.

On June 18, Aliaksandr Lukashenka, while speaking at the Security Council meeting, underlined that Belarus is a “peaceful country, always open for equal dialogue and mutually beneficial cooperation”: “We have never threatened anyone. Moreover, we openly, unlike other countries, communicate our approaches to everyone. Whoever wants to hear it will hear it”.

On the same day, it became known that the representatives of the Lukashenka-controlled mass media received accreditation from the International Olympic Committee for streaming the Summer Olympics 2024 in Paris. The Belarusian Association of Journalists, an independent NGO persecuted by the authorities, noted that among the accredited media, there are SB Belarus Segodnya and BelTA, employees of which are under sanctions of the EU. Moreover, part of the employees of SB. Belarus Segodnya, which is issued by the Lukashenka administration, together with the Siloviki attended interrogations of people arrested during peaceful protest in Belarus and published reports from the interrogations.

On June 19, Aliaksandr Lukashenka said during a meeting with the new head of the Federation of Trade Unions of Belarus, Yury Sianko, that he sees the Trade Union as a “people’s party” composed of “state people.” “These are state people, patriotic people in their overwhelming majority.” He called on the unions to “strive for the best” and make “less bureaucracy”.

On June 19, amid the release of information about Russia and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) signing a strategic partnership agreement, BT propagandist Maryia Piatrashka raved about the Russia-China-North Korea partnership: “…DPRK has a solidly developed military-industrial complex. They will support Moscow. They say that the DPRK has already sent more than 5 million artillery shells to Russia.” She notes that Putin could still show the West the “Kuzka’s mother” [a Russian proverbial expression of an unspecified threat or punishment, such as “to teach someone a lesson”, “to punish someone brutally” – ed.] of strategic nuclear weapons, but for now, she advises the NATO Secretary General and other Western politicians who allegedly want to “attack Russia on a full scale” to consider that Russia’s alliance with China and the DPRK is “China’s last warning”.

On June 20, the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of Belarus and the Russian Federation presented a joint report “On the situation with human rights in some countries”. This is the first report prepared by the Belarusian Foreign Ministry together with the Russian one. The document considers “violations of human rights” in the EU, USA, Great Britain, Australia, Japan, Ukraine, etc. The authors state that special attention was paid to “double standards” in the field of human rights, as well as to “manifestations of racism, xenophobia, aggressive nationalism, chauvinism and Russophobia”, which allegedly took place in the above-mentioned countries. Deputy Foreign Minister Yury Ambrazevich and his Russian counterpart Sergey Vershinin in their opening remarks stated that the facts collected in the report “clearly demonstrate that the Western ‘model democracies’ are characterized by racist, neo-colonial attitudes”, which, according to the authors, is confirmed by the desire of these countries to impose their “rule-based order” on other states and its opposition to international law.

On June 20, ONT propagandist Ihar Tur tried to explain why repressions started in Belarus in 2020. Tur expectedly justifies the actions of the Lukashenka regime; he writes that the protesters went out to the streets with demands to the authorities, and “a strong power cannot allow demands to itself”. Tur believes that “the stronger power should in no case fulfill any demands, even the most clever and correct ones”. The propagandist develops this line further and comes to the paradoxical conclusion that “the demands of a rationally authoritarian power must instantly cause repression of the demanders” because it is necessary to preserve “a successfully functioning system in a state of effective balance and stability.” Ihar Tur advises not to demand, but to “ask, suggest, initiate”, assuring Belarusians that they “will always be heard”. The pro-government TV channel Grafach agrees with him and adds that the same logic applies to demands to release political prisoners – allegedly, the more the opposition demands to release people from prisons, the less chance there is of that happening.

Best regards,
iSANS team

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