Belarus Review by iSANS — May 13, 2024 

Belarus Review by iSANS — May 13, 2024


Belarus Review (2024 edition, issue 18)

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On May 7, units of the 19th Mechanized Brigade were withdrawn from Ashmiany and Pastavy districts to the point of permanent deployment. We just wanted to remind you that in the middle of March, the units of the 19th Brigade were transferred to the Lithuanian borderland as part of the combat readiness check. The Belarusian military stayed there for almost two months (from March 14 to May 6).

On May 7, Belarus began verification of non-strategic nuclear weapon launch vehicles. A squadron of Su-25 attack aircraft of the 116th Air Assault Base and a division of the 465th Missile Brigade, armed with the Iskander-M operational-tactical missile system, were involved in the verification. A division of the 336th Rocket Artillery Brigade, armed with Polonez-M missile systems, is also taking part in the inspection. It was noted that “the entire range of activities from planning, preparation, and use of strikes with tactical nuclear warheads” will be tested. In particular, the issues of supplying special munitions to military units and loading them onto launchers and aircraft will be worked out. As part of the test, on May 7, two Su-25 attack aircraft flew from the Lida airfield to the Machulishchi airfield. On May 8, the planes returned to the airfield. No other verification activity has been reported so far.

Territorial defense exercises will be held in Mahiliou and Bykau districts of Mahiliou region from May 7 to 31.

On May 10, Viktar Hulevich was dismissed from the post of the Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Belarus. Officially, he was dismissed from military service as a reserve officer due to age with the right to wear military uniform and insignia. Hulevich has held the post of Chief of the General Staff since March 2021. His successor to the post has not been announced yet.

Valeriy Revenka, Head of the Department of International Military Cooperation, held a meeting with the military attaché at the Embassy of India in Russia and Belarus (part-time). During the meeting, issues of mutual interest were touched upon, and the emphasis was placed on the positive dynamics of bilateral military cooperation.


On May 6, Lithuania’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Gabrielius Landsbergis responded to accusations drawn by the official Minsk, when the Chair of the KGB Ivan Tsertsel, speaking at the All-Belarusian People’s Assembly, accused Lithuania of preparing a drone attack against objects in Minsk. Lithuanian FM Landsbergis said in an interview with the press that these accusations are yet another hybrid attack against Lithuania. The Head of the Lithuanian Diplomacy issued a protest to the Belarusian government. Appealing to Lithuania’s allies, Mr. Landsbergis said that Lithuania is not the only country experiencing hybrid attacks from Belarus.

On May 7, the Belarusian media Radio Svaboda reported that the European Commission proposed to impose stricter sanctions against Belarus for its aid in Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine. The upcoming sanctions should further prevent the circumvention of restrictions imposed against Russia. Reportedly, the draft proposal suggests mirroring sanctions imposed against Belarus to those against Russia. The restrictions should be extended on imports of dual-use products and technologies to Belarus especially in contracts with third countries thus banning the reexport to Belarus. The European Commission is planning to prohibit the transfer of imported goods and objects of jewelry to Belarus, as well as direct or indirect import, sale, or transfer of diamonds from Belarus, including transits, non-targeted natural and synthetic diamonds, and jewelry with diamonds.

On May 7, the leader of the Belarusian democratic forces Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya met with the NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg for the first time. During the meeting, Tsikhanouskaya said she believes that every European country must build respectful and constructive relations with NATO. According to her, good relations with NATO are important for both national interests and regional security. At the same time, Tsikhanouskaya held a briefing with the permanent representatives of all NATO member countries to exchange views on the crisis in Belarus and the prospects for dialogue between Belarus’ democratic forces and NATO.

On May 8, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk called for a special meeting of the Polish intelligence to discuss alleged Russian and Belarusian infiltration in Poland after the Polish judge Tomasz Szmydt, who had access to sensitive state information, defected to Belarus. Polish and NATO authorities are investigating the judge on suspicions that he was acting on behalf of a foreign intelligence service.

On May 8, it became known that the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) would not send an election observation mission to observe Lithuania’s presidential election to be held on May 12. The OSCE ODIHR stated that such a mission is impossible because Lithuania demanded the exclusion of representatives of certain OSCE participating states from the observation mission, namely Russia and Belarus.

On May 9, the day when Russia (together with official Minsk) celebrates Victory Day, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky stated in the press conference with EP President Roberta Metsola that all countries seeking EU membership should be accepted. While emphasizing the importance of Ukraine’s candidate status, Zelensky said that there will be a “Europe Day for Georgia and Belarus”, referring to the Europe Day, celebrated by the EU Member states on May 8.


It became known that on April 16, six persons were convicted in absentia by the Partyzanski district court of Minsk. Anatol Astrouski, Viktar Puzan, Aliaksandr Tsiarlyuk, Iryna Stalaka, Hennadz Hutar were found guilty of participating together in one of the peaceful assemblies in Minsk. Vital Pakhomchyk, in addition, made three publications in one of the telegram chats, in which he allegedly publicly insulted government officials. They all were found guilty of organizing and preparing actions that grossly violate public order or actively participating in them and sentenced to two years of imprisonment. Vital Pakhomchyk was found guilty additionally of insulting a representative of the authorities and was fined 300 basic units (12 thousand rubles). Since all convicts are abroad, they have been put on the wanted list.

The Rechytski district court sentenced a local resident Dzmitry Piarshyn, accused of slandering Aliaksandr Lukashenka and insulting him. The court decided to apply “compulsory security measures and treatment in a psychiatric hospital” to him. The decision was made on April 8. It is known that on May 3, the Ministry of Internal Affairs added Dzmitry Piarshyn to the list of persons involved in extremist activities.

25 years ago, on May 7, 1999, an opposition politician, former Interior Minister Yury Zakharanka, disappeared without a trace. He called home and told his wife: “I’ll come soon, heat up dinner,” but never returned home. Yury Zakharanka’s abduction was the first in the chain of enforced disappearances of Lukashenka’s critics. In 1999-2000, acting Chairman of the Supreme Council Viktar Hanchar, businessman Anatol Krasousky, and journalist Dzmitry Zavadski disappeared in Belarus as well. Later, documents, which testified that a death squad abducted and killed opposition politicians and public figures, including a report by Deputy Interior Minister Mikalai Lapatsik, were made public. The orders were given by the country’s top leadership. These crimes have not been investigated by the Belarusian authorities.

On May 7, the next trial for participation in protest actions in August 2020 began in the court of the Baranavichy district and the city of Baranavichy. The accused are eight persons: Kanstantsin Kalyag, Eryk Kalasouski, Ivan Patsko, Aliaksandr Laurushchyk, Ivan Dryk, Pavel Sergienya, Dzmitry Filipovich, and Artsem Lapich. They were charged with active participation in actions that grossly violate public order. It is known that some were detained during the “grabbers” (mass searches and detentions). Then, at the end of December 2023, Ivan Dryk, who was under 18 years old at the time of participating in the protests, was detained. Mass detentions and trials for participation in protests in 2020 are still going on in the Brest region. Over the past month, 17 residents of Baranavichy have been sentenced on charges of organizing and actively participating in actions that grossly violate public order.

In Shumilina, the Viciebsk region, two catholic priests, Andrzej Yukhnevich and Pavel Lemekh, were detained. The detention took place on May 8, after a meeting of priests and monks of the Viciebsk diocese. The reason for the detention was accusations of “extremist activity”. The leadership of the Catholic Order of Missionaries-Oblates of the Blessed and Immaculate Virgin Mary (Congregatio Missionariorum Oblatorum Sanctissimae et Immaculatae Virginis Mariae) has published an official statement regarding the detention. The trial took place on May 10 in Viciebsk. Yukhnevich and Lemech were not brought to it, they were convicted remotely via Skype. They were not released after the trial, but it is unknown how many days of administrative arrest they were sentenced to. It is not the first time that the regime of Aliaksandr Lukashenka detains priests of different faiths. Only during 2024, at least 24 priests were detained, and criminal cases were opened against some of them. Some, like catholic priests Vyachaslau Bork or Dzmitser Prystupa, had to leave for Poland because of the persecution.

On May 10, the Ministry of Internal Affairs made the traditional Friday update of the “list of citizens of Belarus, foreign citizens or stateless persons involved in extremist activities.” At the moment, the “list of extremists” includes 4,056 persons.

Historians who left Belarus have founded the Belarusian Institute of Public History. The Institute is headed by the Academic Director, Candidate of Sociological Sciences Aliaksei Lastouski, and Chair of the Board, journalist, and researcher of Stalinist repressions Ihar Stankevich. “The main goals of the institute are to preserve the national identity of Belarusians, to form a view of the past without authoritarian and ideological attitudes, to preserve the memory of tragic periods in the history of Belarus, to form a vision of complex and ambiguous topics of the history of our country, as well as popularization and promotion of the national historical narrative in Belarus and internationally”, the Institute’s telegram channel informs.

Maryna Zolatava, Editor-in-Chief of the, was awarded the international Johann-Philipp-Palm-Award for Freedom of Speech and the Press. She was nominated for the award by the human rights organization Reporters Without Borders. The award ceremony will be held in December 2024 in the German city of Schorndorf. “In the face of huge obstacles and repressive measures, Maryna Zolatava has shown herself to be a person of extraordinary courage and honesty,” Reporters Without Borders and the Board of Trustees of the Palm Foundation believe. Maryna Zolatava was detained three years ago, on May 18, 2021, during a destruction of In March 2023, she, and the CEO of Lyudmila Chekina were sentenced to 12 years of imprisonment. According to Reporters Without Borders, Belarus ranks third in the world in terms of the number of imprisoned journalists. In the world ranking of press freedom, the country occupies the 167th position out of 180 possible ones.


During the period under review, Belarusian Foreign Minister Siarhei Aleinik gave an interview to the Russian news agency RIA Novosti. He said that Belarus wanted to take part in the negotiations between Ukraine and Russia because “this conflict directly affects Belarus as well.” He expressed hope that “sooner or later” these talks would be resumed, but “really in the right format,” and added that Minsk was ready to accept such negotiations. Aleinik once again emphasized that Belarus is a peace-loving state: “According to our Constitution, no aggression can be committed from the territory of Belarus. These are postulates that are inviolable” but decided not to mention the fact that in 2022 the Russian Federation invaded Ukraine from the territory of Belarus.

On May 7, the Belarus-1 channel published a video interview with Giedrimas Jeglinskas, one of the candidates for the Lithuanian presidency, as part of the project “Iznanka”. To talk to the politician, Lukashenka’s propagandists deceived him by presenting themselves as journalists of the Russian independent portal Meduza. In the description of the episode, the Lithuanian presidential candidates are called “puppets” and insinuate that they defend the interests of the USA, not their own country: “More than 30 years of so-called ‘independence’ Lithuania has turned from a showcase of a once great country into a doormat at the door of NATO. Trained puppets are at the helm. Instead of economic support – militarization and transformation into a military bridgehead. The trend is toward mopping up for the sake of America’s greatness”.

On the eve of the Victory Day on May 9, Lukashenka-controlled media and their authors discussed a lot about war and peace, both in the past and in the present. ONT employee Ihar Tur said in the program “Propaganda” on May 7 that it is “absolutely impossible” to call all Ukrainians enemies, although there are enough “Nazi scoundrels” there. In his opinion, Ukrainians in general “remain our brothers,” Russia, Belarus and Ukraine are “linked forever,” and the United States is to blame for the war: “The enemies are not Ukrainians, but Nazis, and they can be of any nationality. Russia is at war in Ukraine with the collective West, and in fact – with the United States, which for the sake of scaling up its geopolitical interests are putting Russians and Ukrainians against each other and want to involve Belarusians in the conflict”. A pro-government expert Aliaksei Dzermant criticized the opponents of the authorities and even called for their physical destruction: “They could have kept silent, pretended that it did not concern them, but no – it is necessary to spew some nasty things about the holy for us – the Victory Day of the Soviet people over Nazism. This is the whole essence of the swiadomites [a derogatory term, used by pro-Russian figures in reference to proponents of national identity and sovereignty in Ukraine and Belarus – auth.] – with them, like with the Nazis, it is impossible to be reconciled, to live together in one country, with them it is impossible to have dialog about anything, to agree on anything. They simply need to be shot on the spot”.

On May 7, at a commemoraive meeting on Victory Day, Aliaksandr Lukashenka noted that Belarus was taking a set of measures to adequately respond to the aggravation of the situation against the background of ever-increasing military activity in Europe. “Today we are starting to work out the second stage of response measures. The General Staffs of the Armed Forces of Belarus and Russia envisage a test of forces and means of the joint regional grouping of troops, within the framework of which it is planned to practice the use of non-strategic nuclear weapons for the first time.” According to him, “direct control, the leadership of troops, signaling the training use of non-strategic nuclear weapons will be carried out by the general staffs of Belarus and Russia in accordance with the existing plans of interaction.” He claims that such a test is “exclusively defensive in nature” and that “Belarus does not intend to give in to any provocations and is not going to go to war with anyone,” but the potential enemy must understand that in case of actions against Belarus, it will instantly receive “unacceptable damage”.

On May 9, during the military parade in Moscow, Vladimir Putin confirmed what Lukashenka had said, noting that the Belarusian “president” “asked to take part in one of the stages of this exercise”.  Upon returning to Minsk and taking part in the celebrations there, Lukashenka explained the need for such “synchronization” as follows: “Nuclear weapons are terrible weapons. But it is a weapon. And to use such a weapon, one must train, one must know how to do it. Tensions are escalating. What should we do in this situation? We need to keep the powder dry, including this deadly weapon.”

On 9 May, Lukashenka’s press service also published a staged video of his “informal conversation” with the generals, during which he shared his impressions of his trip to Moscow and, in particular, of his communication with those who had fought in Ukraine. As it follows from his story, Russian participants of the so-called “special military operation” told him that the military from Belarus was very much missed at the front, but he allegedly made them understand not to expect Belarusians: “[They] love Belarus very much, they appreciate us. I said: “Guys, we are not going there. [They responded:] We understand, but you are missed there”.

Commenting on the flight of Judge Tomasz Szmydt from Poland to Belarus, Aliaksandr Lukashenka said that Polish soldier Emil Czeczko, who had deserted to Belarus, had been killed. He said that Szmydt had been checked by the KGB on his behalf: “We looked at him – he was a normal, patriotic Pole. Nowhere did his colleagues say anything bad about him. But this [escape] is a kick in the butt to the Polish authorities. So, they start saying: traitor, so-and-so. He’s not a traitor. But he looks at things, compares Poland and Belarus, and concludes. We warned him: “You can give a press conference, [but considering] other things (they killed Czeczko), look, you’re putting yourself at risk” — [but the Pole replied:] “I’m not afraid. I must tell the truth about what is happening in Poland.” Lukashenka also instructed the security forces to ensure Szmydt’s protection “so that these scoundrels would not endanger the man,” without specifying whom he meant or naming Czeczko alleged killers.

A few days earlier, at the conference, after he escaped to Belarus, Tomasz Szmydt repeated several propaganda theses of the Lukashenka regime, for example, that the USA and Great Britain allegedly wish to drag Poland into the war, urged the Polish side to restore dialog with Belarus and the Russian Federation. Tomasz Szmydt has become a frequent guest of the state media. For example, the TV channel Belarus-1 actively advertises an interview with him “about the methods of work of foreign secret services, Western media, as well as about threats to life because of his principled position and unwillingness to turn a blind eye to the surrender of Poland’s national interests for the benefit of the USA and Great Britain”. Szmydt told propagandist Yauhen Horyn that “90% of Polish mercenaries returned from Ukraine in coffins”, but did not provide any evidence, because, according to him, in Poland “such information is not officially reported”.

Best regards,
iSANS team

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