Belarus Review by iSANS — May 20, 2024 

Belarus Review by iSANS — May 20, 2024
Photo: Krzysztof Walczak on Unsplash


Belarus Review (2024 edition, issue 19)

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 15, Belarusian Defense Minister Viktar Khrenin had a telephone conversation with the new Russian Defense Minister Andrei BelousovThe parties discussed the current state of bilateral relations. The Russian Defense Minister stressed the special relations between the armed forces of the two states.

On May 16, the Head of the Department of International Military Cooperation of the Ministry of Defense of Belarus Valeri Ravenka held an accreditation meeting with the military attaché of the Iranian Embassy in Russia and Belarus (concurrently). The parties discussed the state and prospects of the development of bilateral military cooperation, as well as exchanged views on international and regional security issues since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

On May 16, two Su-30SM fighters of the Russian Air Forces flew to the Baranavichy airfield from Russia. Now at the airfield in Baranavichy there are two Su-24MR reconnaissance aircraft and at least four Su-30SM fighters of the Russian Air Forces.

On May 17, the annual training camp “Military Security and Defense of the State” was held in Mahilou under the leadership of the Minister of Defense. The participants were representatives of Regional and Minsk City Executive Committees, and representatives of military registration and enlistment offices. During the event, the participants got acquainted with the procedure for the use of unmanned aerial vehicles and the fight against them; saw the practical actions of the people’s militia unit, and the protection of the airport by the territorial defense forces; and got acquainted with the samples of construction equipment used to prepare settlements for defense. It is worth noting that prior to the meeting, the military had rehearsed the episode with the airport security for several days.

The community of railway workers of Belarus received information that the Belarusian Railway is preparing to receive echelons with military equipment, ammunition, and personnel from the Armed Forces of Russia. Among other things, troops from the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine can be transferred to Belarus. Several assumptions can be made of why the Russian troops could be deployed to Belarus: 1) Preparations for the exercises of the “regional grouping of troops” of Belarus and Russia, which are scheduled for 2025; 2) Military training of mobilized Russian citizens at training grounds in Belarus [as has already happened in 2022-2023]. 3) Preparation of a new invasion from the territory of Belarus into Ukraine [as already happened in February 2022]. For each of the above scenarios, arguments can be given that indicate the possibility (or impossibility) of its implementation. As of now, the transfer of Russian troops to Belarus has not been recorded.

The artillery units of the Special Operations Forces received Grad multiple launch rocket systems. The reason for the transfer of Grads to the troops could be as follows: 1) increasing the fire capabilities of artillery units; 2) the war experience in Ukraine, where Grad multiple launch rocket systems have shown their effectiveness.

Recently, there has been an increase in the export of aviation fuel produced at the Mozyr Oil Refinery to Russian airports. The increase in supplies may be related to 1) the emergence of a shortage of aviation fuel due to Ukrainian strikes on Russian oil refineries; and 2) the formation of fuel reserves for the intensive use of aviation soon.


On May 14, the leader of the Belarusian democratic forces Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya presented a painting of the deceased artist, political prisoner Ales Pushkin to the Minister-President of Flanders Jan Jambon during the meeting of the EU culture ministers in Antwerp. The painting “Belarusian Sun” by Ales Pushkin symbolizes the peacefulness of Belarusians and their love for their native land. The painting is in an original frame made by the painter himself from wood from his fence in his village Bobr. The picture will be exhibited in one of the museums in Belgium. The gift was made as a gratitude for Flemish Support to Belarusian civil society and contributes to preserving the memory of the outstanding Belarusian artist Ales Pushkin.

On the same day, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya started her working visit to Denmark. At the beginning of her visit, she spoke at a panel discussion at a Danish Foreign Policy Society. During the debate, Tsikhanouskaya highlighted that she feels inspired by Belarusian women at the forefront of the struggle every day. During her visit to Denmark, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya was presented with a European of the Year Award by the European Movement in Denmark. This award is given annually to individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to European integration, European society, and the promotion of universal human values. While delivering her gratitude speech, the Belarusian democratic leader said that “only in Europe can Belarus thrive and realize its full potential. Only in Europe it can maintain its independence and build democratic institutions that serve people, not usurpers”.

On May 14, the Belsat broadcasting company quoted information from the Telegram Channel of the Association of Former Servicemen of Belarusian Security Forces BYPOL about the possibility of a provocation at the Belarusian-Polish border prepared by Belarusian and Russian special forces. The message reads that Lukashenka is planning a mass raid of migrants at the Polish border. Reportedly, around 700-800 people should be involved in the provocation. The leader of BYPOL considers that the migration crisis is used to infiltrate Russian and Belarusian agents into the European Union. Reportedly, the Russian side has sent people of Chechen origin. Whether there are Kadyrov’s troop fighters among them is currently unknown.

On May 16, the UK Department for Business and Trade amended the Belarus Sanctions Regulations. The amendment extends the existing import sanctions by prohibiting the import of aluminum. It also prohibits the acquisition, supply, and delivery, directly or indirectly, of aluminum, and the provision of technical assistance, financial services funds, and brokering services relating to aluminum.

On May 16, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy proposed to the Verkhovna Rada to suspend the readmission treaty with Belarus. An explanatory note to the bill, submitted to the Verkhovna Rada, states that “considering the latest events and Minsk’s support for Moscow’s policy, the practical implementation of the international readmission agreement between Ukraine and Belarus has become impossible”.  Furthermore, it is stated that the Rada should suspend and not terminate the agreement as termination could affect Ukraine’s EU accession.

On May 18, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk announced the Shield-East project. This project aims to secure the Polish eastern borders and will include a system of fortifications and landscaping to make it ‘impossible’ for a potential enemy to cross. Reportedly, Poland will invest PLN 10 billion (EUR 2.5 billion) to implement the project. This comes after Donald Tusk accused Moscow and Minsk of attempts to destabilize Poland and of orchestrating hybrid attacks against Poland and the Baltic States enabling the migration crisis.


In April, the Viasna” Human Rights Center recorded the continuation of intensive trials in politically motivated criminal cases. According to preliminary data, the number of convicts for the month amounted to at least 161 persons, of whom 50 were women, and 111 were men. The predominant part of trials was on cases of “active participation in group actions that grossly violate public order.” Of the 161 people prosecuted in April, 102 were charged with this crime. A considerable number of sentences on cases, investigated within the framework of a special procedure (trial in absentia), was recorded. Practices of prosecuting entire families or groups of relatives for participating in peaceful protests, and of repeated conviction of persons previously subjected to repression have continued.

Two Belarusian activists living in Poland are being stripped of their property in Belarus. Hanna Fedaronak runs a shelter for Belarusian refugees in Warsaw and hosts the satirical channel “Lukasholki”. She recently found out that her house in the village of Varapaeva in the Pastauski district was sealed by the authorities. The property of Yulia Sliuko, who was an activist of the strike committee in Hrodna, was also seized. Previously, the regime took away properties only from public representatives of the opposition who were associated with Tsikhanouskaya’s office or the Coordination Council as well as from well-known human rights defenders. Now this practice has spread to ordinary Belarusians.

More than 400 Belarusians have been added to the criminal investigation database of the Russian Interior Ministry over the past three months. There are now more than 3,400 Belarusians on the list. The Belarusian doctor Uladzimir Martau, who was detained in Russia on May 14, was also on this list. He was taken to the police station of the Vsevolozhsky district of the Leningrad region of the Russian Federation. Most likely, he will be extradited to Belarus. He is charged with organizing or participating in an extremist formation. The reason for the arrest was his interview with one of the Belarusian media. In 2020, as head of the Department of Anesthesiology and Intensive Care at the Vitsebsk Emergency Hospital, Uladzimir Martau openly criticized the position of the authorities regarding the coronavirus pandemic and spoke about the real epidemic situation and the problems of doctors.

All 12 coalitions of candidates for the elections to the third composition of the Coordination Council were recognized by authorities as extremist formations. This follows from the list on the website of the Ministry of Internal Affairs updated on May 16. More than 120 people are listed in it.

The Investigative Committee of Belarus announced the initiation of criminal cases against participants of the Freedom Day actions around the world. According to the Investigative Committee, the list of suspects in the case of “Belarusians abroad” has been expanded by 104 names. Criminal cases on charges of creating an extremist formation participating in it and discrediting the Republic of Belarus were open against participants of the actions in Warsaw, Vilnius, Wroclaw, Bialystok, Brussels, Batumi, Prague, Philadelphia, and other cities across the world. Information about real estate and other property of suspects located on the territory of Belarus was allegedly collected as part of the investigation. Investigative actions are currently being carried out: inspections, searches, seizure of property, and “other procedural measures”. Freedom Day, also known as Independence Day, is celebrated on March 25, the anniversary of the declaration in 1918 of the independence of the Belarusian People’s Republic, the first national state of Belarusians. In Soviet times, Freedom Day was celebrated secretly, after the collapse of the Soviet Union it briefly became a public holiday, but after the coming of Lukashenka to power turned into a protest date. The authorities are trying to cancel and suppress it.

On May 16, Ivan Krautsou, executive secretary of the Coordination Council, was sentenced in absentia by the Minsk City Court to 11 years of imprisonment in a high-security colony. He was charged with the creation of an extremist formation; fraud; conspiracy or other actions to seize state power; and spread other social discord. Ivan Krautsou is a Belarusian politician, architect, manager, and member of the organizing committee for the creation of the Vmiestie (Together) party. He was a member of Viktar Babaryka’s presidential campaign team in 2020.

Journalist Dzmitser Kazakevich, who left Belarus in 2021, found out that on May 16 KGB officers came to his empty apartment and broke down the front door. Then the door was sealed, and on the glued paper it was written that all questions should be addressed to the Investigative Committee. “If the apartment is seized according to the laws of Lukashenka, then I will return it sooner or later according to the laws of the new Belarus,” Kazakevich commented. In 2020-2021, he was detained several times, and his apartment was searched on three occasions.

On May 17, security forces searched the place of registration in Minsk of Barys Garetski, Deputy Chair of the Belarusian Association of Journalists. A criminal case has been opened against him; charges are unknown. Barys Garetski and other leaders of the Belarusian Association of Journalists were forced to leave Belarus back in 2021 after security forces destroyed the organization’s office in Minsk. In March 2023, the organization was declared an extremist formation. Despite the forced relocation, the Belarusian Association of Journalists continues to actively support Belarusian journalists and the media.

On May 14, the Committee to Protect Journalists called on Serbia not to extradite and to immediately release Belarusian journalist Andrei Gnet. The Serbian authorities detained Gnet upon arrival in the country on October 30, 2023, based on an Interpol arrest warrant issued by the Belarusian Interpol Bureau. The Belarusian authorities accused Gnet of tax evasion. Since then, Gnet has remained in custody. His health has deteriorated significantly. In his letter from prison, Gnet wrote that his left foot has been partially paralyzed since April and he is not receiving proper medical treatment. In case of extradition to Belarus, the journalist may be charged with additional charges of creating an extremist group or participating in it, for which he faces up to ten years in prison. The charge of tax evasion is punishable by imprisonment for up to seven years. In December 2023, the Belgrade Supreme Court ruled that the conditions for the extradition of Andrei Gnet to Belarus had been met. On March 12, 2024, the Belgrade Court of Appeal reversed this decision and sent the case for review. The trial resumed on March 26. The final decision can be delivered at any time.

A group of 15 EU member states, led by Denmark, has issued a joint call to develop the outsourcing of migration and asylum policy, arguing that the “unsustainable” increase in irregular arrivals seen in recent years justifies thinking “outside the box.” The signatories want the EU to tighten the recently adopted asylum pact, which already imposes stricter controls on those who seek to enter the 27 countries of the bloc. The proposed reform measures include accelerated screening of people arriving without documents, new detention centers at the border, and accelerated deportation of asylum seekers who have been denied asylum. “The EU and its member states should enhance their contribution to equal, constructive, and broad partnerships with key countries, especially along the migratory routes, by changing our focus from managing irregular migration in Europe to supporting refugees as well as host communities in regions of origin,” they write. “If we wish to further our efforts to break the incentive structures that drive irregular migration movements and dangerous journeys towards Europe, complementary efforts are necessary,” they add. The letter dated 15 May was addressed to the high-ranking officials in the European Commission. Besides Denmark, it was endorsed by Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Italy, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, the Netherlands, Austria, Poland, Romania, and Finland, reflecting a cross-party consensus.

Support for civil society, independent media, and human rights defenders from Belarus and other countries who are “oppressed by authoritarian regimes” working in their countries or exile will be among the priorities of Lithuania’s presidency of the CoE Committee of Ministers, which began on May 17 and will last until November 13.


On the eve of the presidential elections in Lithuania, Belarusian propagandists gave their forecasts of their outcome. For example, on the day of voting, the minister-counselor of the Embassy of Belarus in Russia, Aliaksandr Shpakouski, wrote in the Telegram that no significant changes in the policy of Lithuania should be expected following the results of the elections. In his opinion, the identity of the winner does not matter, because “Vilnius is subordinated to the United States and is used by Washington to escalate tensions in the region,” and “Lithuania’s anti-Belarusian activity in 2024-2025 will only increase.” At the same time, he suggests that Minsk continues its “friendly policy towards the Lithuanian people”, i.e. maintain a visa-free regime, and establish contacts with those whom he calls “political dissidents” and “loyal business circles”.

Member of the Belarusian “parliament” Vadzim Hihin also tried to reproach Lithuania for its alleged lack of independence: “A well-known expert on the Baltic region, Alexander Nosovich, even ironically proposed to replace the person as head of the Lithuanian state with artificial intelligence. They say that he will obediently carry out orders coming from Washington, whip up Russophobia, and rattle sabers.

In the period under review, the discussion of the military topic continued. The host of ONT Ihar Tur in the issue of the program “Propaganda” emphasized that Belarus is indeed preparing for war – but only “so that it does NOT start against us”. He is sure that “there will be no war” because, in the event of an attack on Belarus, the enemy will suffer unacceptable damage. After all, Lukashenka is ready to give the order to strike. At the same time, Tur lashed out at those who spread the slogan “1941-45 – we can do it again!”, because “war is scary”. He notes that the “special military operation” in Ukraine, which  “de facto turned into a war,” allowed everyone to watch “at least footage from the front, which does not reflect all the horrors of this war even by 3%.” Therefore, in his opinion, many have lost the desire to “repeat”: “The war in books and movies is heroized and romanticized. Real war is fear, death, blood, death, horror, death, hopelessness, death, anxiety, death, hope – and death again. Any bad peace is better than war – ask anyone who has been in the war.”

On May 14, propagandist Yury Tserakh spoke about the protests against the law on “foreign agents” in Georgia. He mockingly sympathizes with the protesters, because “they are all being filmed; even from the videos that can be found on the Internet, it will not be difficult to determine their identities.” In his opinion, although the eyes of the opponents of the Georgian ruling party are still shining, this brilliance already reflects “criminal cases, bodies sprawled on the concrete floor of the detention center <… > blue bottoms and broken destinies.” The propagandist promises the protesting Georgians “a roller of repression, which will soon begin to roll the naïve dreams of protesters into the asphalt”.

On May 15, Russian State Duma deputy Andrei Krasov said that the Parliamentary Assembly of the Union of Belarus and Russia proposes to create a Commission to investigate terrorist attacks, war crimes, and acts of aggression against the Union State to “prevent and destroy the plans of our enemy, the collective West.” According to the deputy, it will be possible to “involve representatives of states friendly to the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus in the investigations”.

The regime’s media continue to cover the details of the stay of the fugitive Polish judge Tomasz Szmydt in Belarus, not forgetting to criticize the “Western democracies” at the same time. In an article for Belarus Segodnya on May 17, propagandist Liudmila Hladkaya called high-ranking Polish officials “traitors and criminals” for accusing those who want to “live amicably with neighbors, to cooperate, as before, in the economic, cultural and other spheres.” According to her, dissenters in the West are often “dismissed”: “The recent assassination attempt on the Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico showed much more clearly how the West deals with those who are inconvenient and pose a threat to political criminals on a global scale”.

Pro-government politician Aleh Haidukevich also commented on the assassination attempt on Robert Fico. In his comment, h Haidukevich criticized Belarusian oppositionists who allegedly blamed Lukashenka and Putin for the presence of excessive security in their entourage and who compared them with politicians in the neighboring countries who “ride a bicycle to work.” Haidukevich called the leaders of Lithuania and Latvia “the so-called presidents” and said that “they are nobody” and nothing depends on them, while “the fate of Russia and the world depends on Putin, and Lukashenka defends the national interests of the country.” Therefore, they should be protected because “we know that the West gets rid of those whom it deems undesirable.”

The line of accusations against the West was picked up by pro-government political scientist Vadzim Yalfimau, who on the air of Alfa Radio expressed confidence that “Washington and Brussels wanted to eliminate an inconvenient politician.” According to him, there are two leaders “with common sense” left in Europe who “openly do not accept the involvement of the EU and NATO in the war against Russia and Belarus” – these are Viktor Orban and Robert Fico.

On May 16, Assistant to the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Medinsky said that the “maximum balance” of teaching history in schools, vocational schools, and universities in Russia and Belarus is one of the tasks of the expert advisory Russian-Belarusian Council on History. He expressed fears that otherwise, foreign foundations could tell children their version of history: “It will be a completely different story, and the ideas of good and evil among our younger generations will also be the same that our geopolitical competitors want, to put it mildly.” He said that mutual licensing of school textbooks will continue. According to Medinsky, the same synchronization will be carried out at the scientific level, through a joint glossary, and joint common concepts.

Not only civil servants but also ordinary Belarusians should be guided by the messages of Aliaksandr Lukashenka, made by him at the first session of the All-Belarusian People’s Assembly (ABPA). This demand was expressed by the Minister of Justice Yauhen Kavalenka, who held a meeting with employees of bodies and organizations of the Ministry of Justice on May 18.  The Minister demanded that “the main messages” would be used not only by state servants but also by people – both at work and in everyday life.

On May 20, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Belarus expressed condolences in connection with the death of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and other Iranian officials in a helicopter crash, stressing that “true friends of Belarus have passed away”. In his condolences to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Aliaksandr Lukashenka also called Raisi “a true friend of Belarus” and emphasized that “active work and decisive steps” of the deceased political and public figures “ensured the proper position of the Islamic Republic of Iran in the world, contributed to the strengthening and growth of the high status of the state in the international arena”.

Best regards,
iSANS team

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