Belarus Review by iSANS — May 06, 2024 

Belarus Review by iSANS — May 06, 2024


Belarus Review (2024 edition, issue 17)

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).

The Belarusian military delegation headed by the head of the Main Department of Combat Training of the Armed Forces of Belarus, Alyaksandr Bas, took part in the command and staff exercise “Security Belt 2024” in Tehran (Iran). During the exercise, the Belarusian military together with their Iranian colleagues practiced the issues of combating terrorist formations. The Belarusian and Iranian sides also held talks on the development of cooperation in the field of combat training.

Based on the 7th Independent Special Police Brigade (combat unit 5524, Vitebsk), a new special-purpose detachment “Vityaz” was formed. The detachment became the thirteenth such unit in the structure of the internal troops. It can be expected that the official “presentation” of the unit will take place soon.

The command of the Air Force and Air Defense Forces of Belarus has planned new investments in the infrastructure of the Lida airfield. Thus, this year the runway will be repaired, and airplane shelters will be purchased. The airfield is home to the 116th Air Assault Base (military unit 19764). The main armament of the air base is Su-25 attack aircraft.

The head of the Anti-Aircraft Missile Forces of the Air Force and Air Defense Forces Command of the Armed Forces of Belarus stated in an interview with state media that the Buk-MB anti-aircraft missile system (Belarusian modernization of the Buk complex) will be delivered to the troops “in the near future”. The military is also studying the Russian Pantsir-SM and S-350 Vityaz complexes for possible future purchase.

On April 29, Decree No. 179 “On Conscription of Reserve Officers for Military Service” was published. The document envisages conscription of reserve officers under the age of 27, who graduated from the military department and did not complete compulsory military service, to the Armed Forces of Belarus and the Border Guard Service in 2024. The number of drafted officers is contained in a classified annex to the decree. This is the second case in 30 years of reserve officer conscription in sovereign Belarus, when the number of conscripted officers was classified. This may be due to 1) reluctance to show the deficit of junior officer cadres in the army; 2) to conceal the formation of a personnel reserve for the Southern Operational Command.

On 3 May, Aliaksandr Lukashenka visited the 1072nd Central Command Post of the Air Force and Air Defense Forces of Belarus. The purpose of the visit was to observe the inspection of the duty forces of the Air Force and Air Defense Forces. The event was held because of the ongoing military exercises “on the territory of neighboring (with Belarus) countries,” and was part of the sudden check of combat readiness of the Armed Forces of Belarus, which began on March 11. It should be noted that the Belarusian military had been rehearsing the “check” for almost three months before its demonstration to Lukashenka.


On April 29, the German Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Deutsche Welle editors reacted to the ban of all contents of Deutsche Welle Belarus in Belarus and “condemned the decision of the Belarusian Ministry of the Interior in the strongest possible terms. The accusations are flimsy and do not reflect the reality of the work of the Belarusian editorial team”. The Ministry of the Interior of Belarus declared DW Belarus as an extremist organization already in March 2022, shortly after an outbreak of large-scale aggression against Ukraine with the assumption that DW discredits officials, and poses a threat to the sovereignty of the country and to the public security. Now, a couple of years later, the Belarusian officials took another step in banning all contents of DW Belarus on all platforms and the channels of Russian DW on all social media networks.

In an interview with one of Lithuania’s radio channels Žinių Radijas, Advisor to Lithuania’s President Kęstutis Budrys stated that it is important to find ways to limit the flow of Russian and Belarusian citizens to Lithuania, especially in the light of the increased hostile actions by special services and intelligence agencies of these two countries against Lithuania. The Advisor to the President added that currently the migration flows of Russian and Belarusian citizens to Lithuania are too high and the state must react and listen to the warnings that Lithuanian intelligence agencies issued. At the same time, Kęstutis Budrys stated that the borders of Lithuania must remain open to the Belarusian opposition.

On May 1, during a meeting with German Minister of Foreign Affairs Annalena Baerbock on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of Poland becoming a member of the European Union, Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs Radoslaw Sikorski directly named Lukashenka “the source of illegal migration” and called the ongoing migration crisis at Polish borders “a hybrid attack”. The head of Polish diplomacy called on the EU institutions to act in solidarity in countering this attack. According to him, Lukashenka imposed visa-free entry for citizens of many countries just to push them out of Belarus into Europe.

On May 1, the Office of Foreign Assets of the U.S. Treasury Department (OFAC) designated for sanctions 29 individuals, 253 entities, and 16 vessels due to their support of Russia’s military-industrial base and chemical and biological weapons programs. The designations include Russian individuals, entities, and vessels as well as companies and individuals in third countries that are supporting the Russian military-industrial base and chemical and biological weapons program. Among the designated persons there is one Belarusian national, Natallia Butrym (Butrym), who is an employee of TK Logimeks which has been involved in facilitating the procurement and shipment of goods to Russian end-users, in cooperation with Gonul Export Lojistik Ticaret Ve Sanayi Limited Sirketi (Gonul Export), sending tool-mounting equipment for lateral machines and appliances for fixing items for turning machines to Russia.

On May 3, it was announced that on April 25, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) announced a final rule on a new license exception for “medical devices”. As of April 29, the exception authorizes the export, re-export, or transfer of “medical devices” or “parts”, “components”, “accessories” and “attachments” that are used exclusively for use in such medical devices to or within Russia, Belarus, and the Crimea, so-called Donetsk People’s Republic and so-called Luhansk People’s Republic regions of Ukraine. New License Exception MED includes terms and conditions to ensure that only those exports, reexports, and transfers (in-country) that are in U.S. national security and foreign policy interests will be authorized.

On May 3, it was announced that Latvia started to build fortifications along its borders with Russia and Belarus. The Latvian Army will create a chain of strongholds, including defensive fortifications, obstacles, and ammunition depots. It is planned to spend USD 326 million in the course of five years to implement the project. As for now, anti-tank ditches are being dug just a kilometer away from Russia’s border near the Terekhovo border crossing. It is not reported whether the fields along the border with Russia and Belarus will be mined.

Last week, it became known that as a result of Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya’s meetings within the G7 Ministerial Format, Belarus was included in the final summit’s communique, and Canada announced the allocation of CAD 1 million for support to Belarusian independent media and imposed additional sanctions against the Lukashenka regime.

From April 29 to May 1, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya was on a working visit in Norway, where she met with the Mayor of Oslo, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of Culture, spoke at the Norwegian Parliamentary Committee of Foreign Affairs, visited the Norwegian Helsinki Committee in Oslo, after which the Committee initiated a letter in defense of freedom of religion and beliefs in Belarus, and met with Natallia Pinchuk, wife of political prisoner, winner of Nobel Peace Prize 2022, leader of “Viasna” Human Rights Center Ales Bialiatski. The topics of the meetings in Norway included the situation of political prisoners, support for independent media, and Belarusian civil society, among others.

On May 3, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya and the President of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola signed a Letter of Intent on Cooperation between the European Parliament and Belarusian Democratic Forces during a working visit to Malta. The letter declares commitment to the following joint goals and directions of cooperation: facilitating a democratic transition in Belarus, including through assistance to Belarusian democratic forces and activists of civil society, human rights defenders, independent media, and trade unions within the framework of the EU4Belarus program and through the expansion of educational initiatives and opportunities; contributing to the alleviation of migration issues faced by Belarusians abroad; holding accountable, within the framework of international mechanisms, representatives of the regime and individuals responsible for human rights violations and crimes against humanity in Belarus, as well as for the involvement in military crimes against Ukraine; ensuring the release of political prisoners in Belarus; monitoring the internal situation in Belarus, especially violations of the rights of journalists, human rights defenders, activists, NGO representatives, and the repressed; monitoring the implementation of the rights and freedoms of Belarusians abroad. This also concerns attempts by the Lukashenka regime to legitimize itself through fictitious elections and its involvement in aggression against Ukraine.


The Prosecutor General’s Office sent to the Supreme Court the case against the participants of the allegedly extremist formation “Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya’ analysts” to determine the jurisdiction. The Supreme Court, in its turn, allocated the case to the Minsk Regional Court. According to the case file, all participants of the “formation” are charged with committing crimes of an extremist nature in connection with the presidential election campaign, as well as in the post-election period. Five criminal cases were initiated against the defendants, including for “conspiracy to seize state power unconstitutionally” and “assistance in public calls for the seizure of state power.” The procedure was initiated by the Investigative Committee in January 2024; two dozen experts were united into an “extremist formation”. Meanwhile, “Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya’s analysts” are not a real association, but 20 experts in various fields, some of whom have nothing to do with the work of Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya’s Office.

The administration of correctional colony N 2 in Babruisk has opened a new criminal case against Eduard Babaryka on charges of malicious disobedience to the requirements of the colony administration. These charges are often applied to political prisoners to add time to the term they are serving. He may be sentenced to another year of imprisonment. Eduard Babaryka, the son of Viktar Babaryka, banker and public figure, presidential candidate in 2020, was detained in July 2020. In July 2023, he was sentenced to eight years in a high-security colony on charges of tax evasion, aiding and abetting group actions that grossly violate public order, and aiding and abetting hostility and discord.

A former political prisoner Aliaksei (the name has been changed for security reasons) spoke about several well-known political prisoners with whom he was in the correctional colony No. 1 in Navapolatsk, known for its cruel rules and pressure on political prisoners. According to him, Viktar Babaryka has seriously lost weight. “I saw him in 2020 first, and the difference is very noticeable, he probably weighs 80 kilograms or even less. He has turned gray, has aged very much, and does not look well. When he was admitted to the hospital a year ago, there were rumors that his ribs were broken and one of them pierced his lung. He allegedly hit himself when he fell. But I hardly believe it.” Ihar Losik was nominally listed in Aliaksei’s squad. But he was always in a punishment cell or a cell-type room, so Aliaksei had not even seen him. Aliaksei saw Andrzej Poczobut several times in the industrial zone, and notes that he “takes everything stoically.”

On April 29, the propaganda film “Children in the Crosshairs. Recruited by the Enemy.” was released on the state TV channel ONT. It reported about a recent detention of seven teenagers for “cooperation with the Ukrainian special services.” Some of them were accused of an act of terrorism and high treason. It was explained in the film that six teenagers allegedly united in the anarchist cell “Black Nightingales”, which “under the leadership of the National Liberation Army of Ukraine” was created by a 16-year-old citizen of Ukraine Maria Misyuk. It was alleged that teenagers united to commit sabotage in Belarus, and then in Russia. According to the story, Maria Misyuk moved with her family from Ukraine to Belarus in 2022, where she created an “anarchist cell to prepare terrorist attacks.” Her curator “Marichka”, with whom Misyuk allegedly communicated online, sent her “instructions on making an explosive device, a Molotov cocktail, as well as literature of anarchist and destructive content.” Among the detainees are college students from Baranavichy, Niasvizh, Mir, Minsk and Luninets. These are Trafim Barysau, Siarhei Zhyhalyou, Zmitser Zaharoshka, Anastasia Klimenka and Aliaksandra Pulinovich. 18-year-old Daniil Herasim is accused of high treason for photographing military facilities in Asipovichi and trying to transfer a brake “shoe” (a device for reducing the speed or stopping the movement of groups of railcars, as well as securing standing rolling stock protection from spontaneous and unauthorized movement) to the “Soprotivlenie” initiative. The film also showed Stanislau Shapel, who is already serving his sentence in a colony. He allegedly agreed to be a courier to transfer money for illegal purposes and recorded a video in which he said that he was against Putin and supported Ukraine. According to the Deputy Minister of Education of Belarus, Katsiaryna Petrutskaya, the film “Children in the Crosshairs. Recruited by the Enemy.” will be shown “in schools, colleges, and universities until the end of the academic year.” In addition, “it will be recommended to parents, as well teachers”.

On May 2, the Interior Ministry recognized the resources under the general name “We are not serfs” as an extremist formation. The alternative name of the “formation” in the document of the Ministry of Internal Affairs is “Aleh Zhalnou”. “We are not serfs” became the 200th extremist formation included in the relevant list of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. YouTube channels, pages on Facebook and other social networks, e-mail, accounts on platforms with donations, and a logo belonging to “We are not serfs” were all included in the list. During 2023 and four months of this year, the Minsk Prosecutor’s office sent more than 180 applications to the city courts for the recognition of information products as extremist materials. More than 160 of them have been granted.

On May 2, the Investigative Committee began special proceedings against Tatsiana Marynich and Anastasia Khamiankova, co-founders of Imaguru, a startup hub for businesses. They are accused of inciting hostility or discord, tax evasion, conspiracy to seize power, calls for sanctions, participation in an extremist formation, financing extremist activities, recruiting, training or otherwise training citizens to participate in an armed formation on the territory of another state, discrediting the Republic of Belarus and abuse of power or official authority. Tatsiana Marynich and Anastasia Khamiankova opened Imaguru in Minsk in 2013. It was the first startup hub in Belarus, the main task of which was to develop young businesses in the country. However, in April 2021, Imaguru was closed in Minsk. In August 2023, it was recognized as an “extremist formation”.

A new criminal case has been opened against political prisoner Zmitser Dashkevich, the former chair of the international youth movement “Malady Front”, who should have been released in two months. A criminal case has been opened on charges of organizing and preparing actions that grossly violate public order, or actively participating in them. Zmitser Dashkevich was sentenced to one and a half years of imprisonment in 2022 on the same charges. He was supposed to be released in July 2023, but a new criminal case was opened against him on charges of disobedience to the requirements of the colony administration, and in October 2023, he was sentenced to another year of imprisonment.

At the initiative of Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, an international humanitarian fund was established to support Belarusian political prisoners. The support will include, among other things, medical care and rehabilitation, and material and psychological assistance to the released political prisoners and persons subjected to political repression. Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre, during a meeting with Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, confirmed that Norway is contributing 10 million Norwegian kroner (850 thousand Euro) as a first contribution to this fund. In addition, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs will provide practical support for the activities of the fund in close dialogue with other potential donors and participants. Governments, international organizations, and other potential donors will be able to contribute to the fund. The fund money will be managed by Belarusian organizations and initiatives that help political prisoners.

Belarus has dropped to 167th place in the press freedom ranking, having lost ten positions over the year. This is stated in a report published on the website of Reporters Without Borders. “Being the most dangerous country in Europe for journalists even before Russia invaded Ukraine, Belarus continues massive repression of independent media,” the report says. The authors of the report noted that the Belarusian authorities have changed the legislation to give legitimacy to attacks on freedom of speech: “The justice system, which is under the full control of the government, has begun to equate independent journalism with “extremism”, for which one faces up to seven years of imprisonment. Most of the independent media and the Belarusian Association of Journalists are officially declared extremist. Belarus is also one of the world leaders in the number of imprisoned journalists. In total, 38 journalists and five other media workers are behind bars.

Diplomats of European countries in Belarus wrote a letter to journalists-political prisoners on World Press Freedom Day. “In Belarus alone, 35 journalists and media workers are currently being unfairly imprisoned. The absence of their voices is painfully felt in the public sphere of Belarus. Various forms of repression against journalists and media workers in Belarus are in violation of international obligations, which Belarus, as a member of the UN and the OSCE, recognizes itself. A letter was sent to each of these 35 media workers who are unjustly imprisoned in Belarus today. None of these brave voices have been forgotten. None of them will be forgotten in the future,” the German Embassy in Minsk said in a statement. It notes that the governments of the countries of the signatory diplomats “are united in demanding that political prisoners finally be released.”


On the evening of April 29, the state channel ONT showed the propaganda film “Children in the crosshairs. Recruited by the enemy”, in which it accused the Ukrainian side of recruiting Belarusian teenagers and creating Telegram channels that ‘called for killing children for money’.  The 45-minute film talks about the arrest of young people for “terrorism and cooperation with Ukrainian special services”, the underground group “Black Nightingales”, led by “Chyrvona Zhaba” [Red Toad], a 16-year-old Ukrainian national Maria Misyuk. The girl, allegedly acting under the control of the Ukrainian security services, created a “terrorist cell,” which included college students from Minsk, Baranavichy, Niasvizh, and Luninets, says the film. According to the version of the film’s authors, first the “nightingales” distributed leaflets and drew graffiti, and then decided to organize an explosion in the police department or prosecutor’s office in Baranavichy. The movie was actively promoted in social networks of state media and propagandists. Propagandist Liudmila Hladkaya believes that everyone should watch it to see “the Nazi nature of the masterminds and organizers – terrorists, for whom even children are just meat”. In an article for Minskaya Prauda, a pro-government political scientist Andrei Lazutkin tries to suggest to parents that “a Belarusian child and a child from Ukraine are people from two different worlds, where in one there is complete control, and in the other everything is possible and nothing happens for it”, and advises them to watch whether their children have Ukrainian acquaintances by correspondence and in real life so that they don’t get involved in a “radical politicized group”.

On April 29, during the online stream “Minsk-Moscow”, Russian propagandist Konstantin Pridybailo said that “the Polish regime is an enemy for Belarus”, and his co-host, Belarusian propagandist Liudmila Hladkaya, specified that it was an enemy “for the whole Union State”. The guest of the program, the head of the Main Department of Ideological Work of the Ministry of Defense of Belarus, Leanid Kasinski, stated that Poland has territorial claims to Belarus, but did not cite any statements of the Polish authorities confirming this statement: “If Poland has territorial claims to our country and they are visible to the naked eye, they were expressed by some Polish politicians, why can’t we speak about this situation as some kind of risk, threat or challenge?”.

On April 30, Aliaksandr Lukashenka said that he continued to think about the construction of another nuclear power plant. In his opinion, the Belarusian society has already “got over the post-Chernobyl syndrome”, and the decision to build the Belarusian Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) in Astravets was correct. The final decision has not been made yet, but, according to him, if there’s one NPP in the west of the country, the other one should be in the east. Lukashenka said that Belarus was “wise” in its decision to build the nuclear power plant, but he did not fail to insult opponents and neighboring countries, calling the West “complete scumbags” and the critics of the regime who left the country “bastards”. He said that Poland, which “initiated the nonsense” against Belarus, plans to build at least two nuclear power plants, while Lithuania now buys electricity “at crazy prices” because it lost the Ignalina NPP, which should have been “brought up to speed”. This idea was developed by Yury Shautsou, a pro-government expert, who threatened that with the construction of one more nuclear power plant, Belarus would get another source of energy, and at a time when “this industry is in decline in Ukraine”: “It is clear, the war will end sooner or later. Therefore, we need to prepare for the fact that there will be a zone with reduced industrial development next to us. Ukraine will most likely cease to be an exporter of electricity. We have a chance to become the most industrially developed sub-region of Eastern Europe”.

In January 2024, the Ministry of Culture of Belarus and Belarusfilm announced a competition of scripts for films with state support. Since then, they have received 280 applications and synopses from around the world, but most of these scripts are in the genres of fantasy or comedy, said deputy head of the Department of Cinematography Krystsina Melnikava on the air of ONT. At the same time, the Ministry of Culture has not sent a single synopsis of a movie about the events of 2020 and the “heroism” of law enforcement officers, although “the palette of the competition allowed to send such applications”. But the agency still wants to make such a movie and “continues the search”. Melnikava once again urged everyone to submit their scripts to the contest and said that potential authors are not limited “neither in age nor in the profession.” Moreover, she suggested that the state TV channels launch cooperation with Belarusfilm to shoot a whole series dedicated to the suppression of the 2020 protests or on “other hot” topics that will be important to our state”.

On the air of Hrodna Plus, former Minister of Internal Affairs, now Lukashenka’s assistant Yury Karayeu, referring to the events of 2020, spoke about the peculiarities of “Western democracy”: “All non-commercial organizations <…> have been trying for years to sow in our people the notion ‘democracy is freedom of the individual, obligatory change of power’. In other words – the Western model of life, the model of democracy – four years, a maximum of eight, and the leader of the country must necessarily leave. And there is no such thing as a “leader”. There is some hired manager. In his opinion, such an understanding of democracy is not typical for Belarusians: “All this completely contradicts our Soviet, our Slavic, our Euro-Asian spirit and mentality, where the history was quite different. And we have found this way when we have a strong head of the republic, who was elected by the people.” Karayeu is in favor of Lukashenka’s rule as long as possible.

Propagandist Ryhor Azaronak, who contributes with great inspiration to the strengthening of the personality cult of the Belarusian dictator, speaks in a similar vein. In the program “Tainye Pruzhiny Politiki [Secret Springs of Politics]”, which he devoted to Labor Day on May 1, the central figure was Lukashenka, whose support and stronghold, according to the propagandist, is “simply working people”: “When father and son plant a tree – they glorify our President. When a janitor sweeps away leaves with a smile – he praises our President. When a mother bends over a lullaby and sings to her baby about some magic kingdoms, and he smiles in response – they glorify our President. Because he is all about it – about people’s happiness”.

On May 2, pro-government and pro-Russian expert Aliaksei Dzermant called Ukraine “nationalized” and expressed the opinion that it is not even so much control over its territory that is needed, but “denazification”: “The nationalization of Ukraine is a weapon directed inside our civilization and we see the tendencies of growth of ultra-right, nationalist sentiments. In Russia, in Belarus, we shot down this wave, thank God. But Ukraine relates to us by millions of visible and invisible threads, so inevitably there is a “Ukrainianization” of ourselves to a greater or lesser extent, and the West needs it for this purpose. Through spiritual and blood ties with Ukraine to “Ukrainize” and nazify us, finally burying us as a civilization that has already defeated Nazism once. Nazified Ukraine is a kind of revenge for that Victory. Nazified Ukraine is our heaviest defeat, but it is not yet a loss in the war, so the Special Military Operation, although a late decision with many flaws in its execution, is still fair, correct, and inevitable. But that is why it must be brought to an end – by denazification of Ukraine, denazification of our entire civilization”.

BT propagandist Kseniya Lebiadzeva, on air with Ryhor Azaronak, called on associates and like-minded people to “be radical about opponents” as they are “enemies”, and enemies must be destroyed: “Those events that happened in 2020, if anything, should just seem like a fairy tale to them. They need to be destroyed. And this is not because we are so ruthless, aggressive, but because we need to protect our own.” Azaronak agreed with her, noting that enemies should be “destroyed like stray dogs.” Lebiadzeva added that “blue asses should seem to them [Lukashenka’s opponents] just a fairy tale,” and stressed that the law enforcers were right to use force to suppress the protests in 2020, and they should have done it “stronger so that the stupidity would be knocked out of their heads”.

A priest close to Lukashenka will hold a lesson dedicated to Victory Day, which will be held on May 7 and 8 in all Belarusian educational institutions. “In the video, Archpriest Fiodar Pouny reveals the beauty of the spiritual feat in the Great Patriotic War. The video is recommended for [showing during] educational lessons in educational institutions,” writes the Homel Diocese of the Belarusian Orthodox Church. In the video, Pouny talks about the “Russian soldier,” who now “fights against Nazism” and who will come to Belarusian schools after the victory: “Now, thank God, there is peace in Belarus, on our land. But the Russian soldier, like them, fights for our peace. For the temples, for their loved ones, for what we call Fatherland. Guys voluntarily go to the front, into the damp trenches, because their grandfathers and great-grandfathers defended their homeland. Their grandfathers knew that they lived to defend their homeland. And now their grandchildren dare not dishonor their clan. Let us wish for victory, <…> so that Nazism is broken this year. After the new victory, new heroes will also come to your schools to talk about what the motherland is and how to defend it”.

Visiting the Holy Dormition Convent in Orsha on Easter, Aliaksandr Lukashenka expressed hope that May “will give peace to the brotherly people”, but he did not specify which people he meant. He expressed confidence that “with our prayers, we will return to those times when our peoples will be together,” even though “there was a disaster in the neighborhood”.

Best regards,
iSANS team

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