Belarus Review by iSANS — May 27, 2024 

Belarus Review by iSANS — May 27, 2024
Photo: Official Logo of the Stockholm Conference on Belarus. Copyright: Stockholm Center for Eastern European Studies


Belarus Review (2024 edition, issue 20)

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 20, the battalion tactical group of the 6th Mechanized Brigade (78th Independent Mechanized Battalion with attached tank artillery units) was placed in the readiness mode to perform its assigned tasks. The personnel moved with standard weapons to the designated area, where they practiced defensive actions to cover the main road directions.

On May 20, Belarusian Defense Minister Viktar Khrenin met with Turkish Ambassador to Belarus Güçlu İşık. The parties discussed prospects for cooperation in the military sphere.

On May 21-23, under the leadership of the Head of the Logistics of the Armed Forces of Belarus, command and staff exercises were held with military administration bodies and military logistics units. The exercises focused on the management of logistics support for troops, dispersal of material stocks, medical care for the wounded and sick, and measures to improve the survivability of logistics facilities. During the exercise, new forms and methods were tested for the transportation of material, the dispersal and secrecy of its delivery to the troops. More than 100 reservists were called up from the reserves to take part in the exercise.

On May 22, Equatorial Guinea’s Minister of Defense Victoriano Bibang Nsueh Okomo started his official visit to Belarus. The visit included talks with Belarusian Defense Minister Viktar Khrenin to discuss the prospects of military cooperation between the countries. During the visit, the delegation of Equatorial Guinea visited the Military Academy and familiarized itself with the training of units of the Special Operations Forces of the Armed Forces of Belarus.

On May 22-23, under the guidance of the State Secretariat of the Security Council, a comprehensive inspection of the readiness of the 4th Militia Brigade of the Internal Troops to fulfill its service and combat missions was held.

Pavel Muraveika was appointed the new Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Belarus on May 23. His predecessor, Viktar Gulevich, was dismissed from military service on May 10. Muraveika previously served as first deputy of the State Secretariat of the Security Council. The official is known for several scandalous statements. For example, in October 2023, he claimed Belarus’s right to “cut a vital corridor” through Lithuania with weapons to gain access to the transit of goods.

On May 23, Russian Defense Minister Andrei Belousov paid a visit to Belarus. During the visit, he had a working meeting with the Belarusian Defense Minister Viktar Khrenin. The parties discussed topical issues of bilateral military and military-technical cooperation. Viktar Khrenin said that the meeting is another confirmation of the strategic partnership between Belarus and Russia. According to Belousov, additional measures should be taken to ensure the security of the so-called “Union State”.

The commander of the 111th Artillery Brigade described plans to rearm the unit. The brigade is expected to receive modernized Uragan multiple rocket launchers and 2S5 Hyacinth-C self-propelled guns, as well as Polonez multiple rocket launchers. In addition, it is planned to equip each artillery platoon with a drone and to install standard electronic warfare equipment on artillery systems to counter FPV drones.

On May 25, eight Mi-8 and Mi-24 helicopters of the Russian Air Force flew to the Baranovichi airfield from Russia. There have been no Russian Air Force helicopters in Belarus since August 2023. The purpose of the helicopters’ arrival is unknown.


On May 20, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk stated that nine suspects had been arrested and charged with sabotage and provocations in Poland. Reportedly, these persons worked on behalf of Russian security services. Among the arrested are citizens of Russia, Poland, Ukraine, and Belarus. According to Donald Tusk, there are no public figures among them, rather people with criminal pasts, who were hired for the tasks. The Prime Minister said that on May 21st there will be an order to re-establish a commission to investigate Russian and Belarusian influence in the country. A similar commission existed under the previous government of Poland but its work was suspended when the current government was established. The commission shall consist of nine to thirteen people, will be in the jurisdiction of the Minister of Justice, and led by the Chief of the Polish Military Counterintelligence Service. This comes against the background of an announced project of fortifying Polish-Belarusian borders.

Last week, it became known that Lithuania is considering terminating at least four bilateral treaties with Russia and Belarus and replacing them with multilateral agreements. It is proposed to terminate Lithuania’s agreements with the governments of Russia and Belarus on investment promotion and protection, as well as on trade and economic relations. The Ministry of Justice prepared a proposal to denounce the agreement with Russia on legal assistance and legal relations in civil, family, and criminal matters, while the Finance Ministry has drawn up a proposal to denounce the agreement with Russia on the avoidance of double taxation of income and capital and prevention of fiscal irregularities. According to the Minister of Justice Ewelina Dobrowolska, “Having assessed the needs, opportunities, and legitimate interests of Lithuanian citizens, we see that the legal cooperation agreement with Belarus could not be terminated, and it is not recommended to terminate it, as we have no international documents we could use as a basis for cooperation”.

On May 20-22, a Stockholm Conference on Belarus was held in Sweden’s capital, gathering many international guests, politicians, experts, and representatives of the Belarusian democratic forces.  The Head of the United Transitional Cabinet Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya attended the conference, addressed it with a speech, and held many important meetings on the sidelines of the conference. As a result, Sweden granted on the Day of Solidarity with Belarusian political prisoners, May 21, an aid package of five million Swedish kronor (over 400 thousand EUR) for the newly established International Humanitarian Fund for Victims of Repression in Belarus. During her visit, Tsikhanouskaya met with the Speaker of the Swedish Parliament, Andreas Norlen, who held a briefing for the Swedish delegations of the PACE and the OSCE PA. During the meetings, the threats posed by the Lukashenka illegitimate regime and the need to distinguish between the regime and the Belarusian people were discussed. As a result of Tsikhanouskaya’s meeting with the Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs Tobias Billström, a joint article appeared in the Swedish press capturing the situation in Belarus. Also on the sidelines of the Stockholm conference, Tsikhanouskaya held a non-public panel discussion with diplomats, officials, and politicians from EU member states and the USA. The discussion was organized by the International IDEA and the Lithuanian Embassy in Sweden, headed by the former Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs and former Lithuanian Ambassador to Belarus Linas Linkevičius. The Belarusian leader called for assistance to Belarusian independent media, civil society, families of the repressed, trade unions, human rights defenders, and democratic forces’ institutions.

On May 23, it was announced that the EU is considering a new package of sanctions to further restrict exports of dual-use products and technologies to Belarus. The new package of sanctions shall close the loophole even further for Moscow to evade sanctions and import luxury cars and other sanctioned goods into the country. The EU seeks to ban exports of technologies and products that might have military designation and liquified natural gas to Belarus and through Belarus. Among other things, sanctions will ban imports of luxury cars to Belarus and through Belarus. As for now, existing sanctions ban imports of luxury cars to Russia, but not to Belarus, which creates a loophole for sanctions evasion. The trade of diamonds from Belarus will also be affected by sanctions and will mirror the ones imposed on these gemstones of Russian origin.

On May 23, Russian President Vladimir Putin came on a working visit to Belarus. This visit is the second foreign visit after his recent “re-election”, following his earlier visit to China. As there are not many capitals left for Putin to visit, after his international arrest warrant was issued by the ICC over a year ago, Minsk is the one, where he can travel and meet his closest ally Lukashenka. According to the official information, the two dictators were set to hold discussions on security issues, including joint exercise with tactical nuclear weapons, and bilateral cooperation in the fields of industry, economy, and energy.


Belarusian political prisoner Ihar Losik, a blogger, a media consultant for Radyjo Svaboda, and the creator of the telegram channel Belarus Golovnogo Mozga, turned 32 years old. He has been held incommunicado detention for more than a year. He was detained in June 2020. In December 2021, he was sentenced to 15 years of imprisonment in a high-security colony. His wife Daria was imprisoned two years after Ihar’s sentence. In January 2023, she was sentenced to two years of imprisonment for an interview with the Belsat TV channel, which was recognized as an extremist in Belarus. Daria was accused of facilitating extremist activities.

Palina Sharenda-Panasyuk, who was supposed to be released on May 21, was charged with disobeying the administration of the colony and not being free. This is the third time she has faced this charge. In 2021, she was sentenced to two years of imprisonment for alleged use of violence against policemen and insulting them, as well as insulting Aliaksandr Lukashenka. In April 2022, she received another year of imprisonment for alleged malicious disobedience to the requirements of the correctional institution administration. Her term of imprisonment was supposed to end on August 6, 2023, but another case was brought against her for “disobedience” and one year of imprisonment was added. On May 21, the President of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola, called for the immediate release of Palina Sharenda-Panasyuk and other Belarusian political prisoners. “Palina Sharenda-Panasyuk’s place is not in prison, but free and reunited with her family. Today, on the International Day of Solidarity with Political Prisoners in Belarus, I call for the immediate release of her and all political prisoners,” Metsola wrote on the social network X.

The Investigative Committee opened a criminal case against all 257 participants in the upcoming elections to the Coordination Council. The Coordination Council itself is called a “criminal group” that is engaged in “inspiring protest actions and mass riots, discrediting the constitutional foundations of the state, maintaining radical and protest potential, forcing the authorities to participate in the negotiation process from a position of blackmail, dictate and ultimatums, as well as directly seizing power unconstitutionally, including by force.” The criminal case against the opposition includes four charges: conspiracy to seize state power; calls for restrictive measures; creation of an extremist formation; and promotion of extremist activities. “Following the established algorithm, information about the real estate objects and property belonging to the accused on the territory of Belarus was obtained as part of the investigation of the criminal case. At the moment, investigative actions are being carried out, including inspections, searches, seizure of property, and other procedural measures. The Investigative Committee will take exhaustive measures to ensure the principle of inevitability of punishment and compensation for damage, including in the framework of special proceedings,” the Investigative Committee stated. On May 23, mass searches were conducted at the places of registration in Belarus of candidates for the Coordination Council from Pavel Latushka’s coalition and their relatives. KGB officers came to the apartments and carried out searches and seizure of property.

Another criminal case was initiated against political prisoner Zmitser Dashkevich. He is again accused of organizing and preparing actions that grossly violate public order, or actively participating in them. In 2022, he was already sentenced to one and a half years of imprisonment on such charges. He was supposed to be released in July 2023, but a new criminal case was opened against him on the charges of disobedience to the requirements of the colony administration and he was sentenced to another year in prison.

Three years ago, on May 21, 2021, activist Vitold Ashurak, who was sentenced to five years of imprisonment behind closed doors, died in Shklou colony N 17. The official cause of his death was a cardiac arrest. According to his relatives, Vitold Ashurak did not complain about his health before his imprisonment. A lot of facts indicate that he could have been killed. The Investigative Committee, however, stated that his death was not criminal, and has not conducted an investigation. Human rights organizations have declared May 21 as the Day of Solidarity with Political Prisoners in Belarus to honor his memory, as well as to remind the world community of the thousands of Belarusians who are in prison on politically motivated cases.

On the Day of Solidarity with Political Prisoners in Belarus, the US Embassy in Minsk called for the release of political prisoners. “We celebrate the solidarity with political prisoners on May 21. But we remember them every day because every day they are unjustly imprisoned for believing in a free and democratic Belarus. All political prisoners of Belarus should be released,” the embassy said in a statement on the X network.

The Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs calls for the release of all political prisoners in Belarus and the charges against them to be dropped. “There are at least 1,360 political prisoners in Belarus, and more than 250 of them are in a situation that threatens their health or life. Today, on the Day of Solidarity with Political Prisoners in Belarus, we once again call for the release of the detainees, the dismissal of charges against them, and the cessation of further repression,” the embassy said in a statement on the X network.

The European Union demands the immediate release of all political prisoners in Belarus. The statement of the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrel, published on the International Day of Solidarity with Political Prisoners in Belarus, says: “Since the death of political prisoner and activist Vitold Ashurak in prison in May 2021, at least five more political prisoners have died in regime’s places of captivity: Mikalai Klimovich, Ales Pushkin, Vadzim Khrasko, Ihar Lednik, and Aliaksandr Kulinich. They were unjustly persecuted for their political opinions and beliefs and failed to receive adequate medical attention and care. Today, there are still nearly 1,400 political prisoners in Belarus. Hundreds have serious health issues, and disabilities, are over the age of 60, and have mental disorders. They are illegally detained, and subjected to torture and ill-treatment, including deprivation of necessary medical assistance. The regime is increasingly also targeting those who have fled the country. The European Union condemns the most recent wave of raids and property seizures of political activists who continue their pro-freedom activities in exile. 104 persons have been added to the suspect list of the ongoing mass criminal investigation against Belarusians abroad. On this day of solidarity, the EU demands the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners and calls on the authorities to comply with Belarus’ international human rights obligations, notably ensuring access to adequate health services without discrimination on the grounds of their situation. The EU will continue to support all those who courageously stand up for an independent and democratic Belarus.”

Sweden will contribute five million Swedish kronor (about 430 thousand euros) to the International Humanitarian Fund for Victims of Repression in Belarus, which supports political prisoners and their families. This was stated by the Minister for International Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade Johan Forssell. “The priority of the Swedish policy towards Belarus is to deepen the dialogue with the Belarusian democratic forces in exile under the leadership of Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya. The outside world mustn’t forget those who are fighting for a free, democratic, and independent Belarus,” the press service of the Swedish Foreign Ministry quoted him as saying.

Human rights defenders from the “Legal Initiative” and Respect-Protect-Fulfill have prepared a communication to the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, and the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus. The document notes that forced labor for prisoners is legalized in Belarus. The Penal Enforcement Code defines that all convicts are required to work while serving their sentence. Prisoners are forced to work for pennies, while all norms of labor legislation are violated.


Making personnel decisions in the structure of the state security bodies on 20 May, Aliaksandr Lukashenka demanded the KGB to resolutely suppress the activities of foreign intelligence services, as some neighboring countries “are preparing various armed groups and almost regiments, as they call them, to invade the territory of Belarus”. Lukashenka also called the sanctions imposed against his regime “economic sabotage and war against Belarus.” According to him, the West has violated “all international treaties and all international agreements,” as it has obligations to Belarus as a landlocked country and therefore has no right to “block us”.

The topic of “sanctions pressure” was also touched upon by Belarusian Foreign Minister Siarhei Aleinik, who on May 21 called on the Shanghai Cooperation Organization member states for solidarity and expressed hope for the continuation of “joint constructive work” to counteract sanctions.

“Calls for sanctions against Belarus are causing damage to the country”, propagandist Ihar Tur said on May 20 on the air of ONT. According to him, this damage will be compensated for by “economic measures” – the seizure of property from Belarusians who believe that the Lukashenka regime deserves sanctions. “And if we have lost, say, a million dollars from sanctions, we will force these million dollars to be compensated. After all, most of those shouting “Crush Belarus” have real estate in Belarus,” he said. How the amount of damage allegedly caused by each of those on the list compiled by representatives of the regime will be calculated, and whether it is commensurate with the cost of their apartments, Tur did not specify.

In turn, Ryhor Azaronak in his program “Azaronak Directly” wondered how legitimate the authorities decide to deprive people of their housing. He believes that property and freedom should be taken away from Belarusians for the very fact of participation in political life on the side of Lukashenka’s opponents. “Another round of defeat of the fugitive scum. They thought that they were the most cunning – on one hand, they would undermine the regime with the help of grants, bring harm, pain, and misfortune to Belarusians, while on the other hand, they would profit from property, keep their relatives here in greenhouse conditions and comfortably wait for their revenge. It is a new criminal case. [We should confiscate their] property in favor of the Motherland”.

The propagandists also closely followed the preparations for the elections to the opposition Coordination Council, threatening those Belarusians who decided to cast their vote in them with punishment in the form of loss of property, freedom, and health. Yury Tserakh: “People, you still have a part of your life ahead of you. You can live this life as a happy person, next to your loved ones, watching your children grow up, and maybe even grandchildren. You can plant a tree, build a house, and raise a son. And you can go to prison, and it is not at all certain that you will manage to get out of it. And anyone from Belarus who gets involved in this story will go to jail. The fugitives have already run away, they don’t care, so let them have fun with themselves.”

On May 21, propagandist Kseniya Lebiadzeva in her project “This is Different” on Belarus-1 called on Ukrainians to “take power into their own hands”, because, according to her assessment, “Zelensky turned into a pumpkin on the night of May 20-21, and now he is a nobody”. She claims that the same destiny awaits the future president of Lithuania, and calls Lithuania itself a “quasi-state.” “The OSCE was not present at the elections. And according to the US and EU logic, if the OSCE was not there, then there were no elections. This is how they treated our elections in 2020, when the same OSCE recommended the member countries of the organization not to recognize the results of the presidential election in Belarus.  We are waiting for them not to recognize the Lithuanian elections. And [take a stance on the] violations of the Ukrainian Constitution, because the ban on elections is a direct violation of democracy and basic human rights and freedoms – or is this different?”

Her statements regarding the legitimacy of the Ukrainian president coincide with the opinion of the leaders of Russia and Belarus. On May 24, while on a visit to Minsk, Vladimir Putin was concerned with the question with whom it would be possible to negotiate in Ukraine now, since “the legitimacy of the incumbent head of state is over”, although the Western community and “sponsors of Kyiv” are going to confirm it at the forthcoming conference in Switzerland. Aliaksandr Lukashenka agreed with the position of his Russian colleague, saying that there is “no legal purity” in the current situation. Lukashenka said that he had “deeply analyzed the problems with the powers” and concluded that “neither the current president nor the future one will solve these big issues facing the state of Ukraine, the people of Ukraine,” and that they will be solved “behind the ocean”.

Ihar Maroz, a representative of the Prosecutor General’s Office of Belarus, visited the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic and took part in the conference “Denazification: definition of modern scientific approaches”, which was held on May 22-23. He spoke about “national heroes and pseudo-heroes of the Great Patriotic War period” and shared with his colleagues “the system of measures to combat nationalism developed in the Republic of Belarus”. The conference participants considered “historical, socio-cultural and organizational-legal bases of denazification”. On the second day, they discussed “the concept of denazification of Ukraine.”

Answering questions from the state media after the talks with Putin in Minsk on May 24, Aliaksandr Lukashenka commented on the topic of joint exercises on the use of non-strategic nuclear weapons. He emphasized that Belarus has no desire to attack anyone, but it should be able to defend itself and use the means at hand. “We are not doing anything special. We are preparing, and practicing. We must be ready. The world is unstable, and dangerous. We can’t miss this strike like we did in the middle of the last century. We’re not going to let this happen, they need to know that. But we are not escalating the situation: we do not need war. We spoke today only about peaceful prospects. But we keep the powder dry – nothing special.”

Lukashenka also once again addressed the topic of sanctions and blamed the Western countries for the crash of the helicopter, on which Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi was flying: “As a man, not a president, I will say: the disgusting, repulsive position of the United States led to this. I am referring first of all to the sanctions. These scoundrels had no right to impose sanctions against ships, airplanes, helicopters, and other things that transport people. They have imposed sanctions, I think, against ships in Russia, against us, against my, let’s say, airplane. They won’t get Vladimir Vladimirovich because he has a Russian airplane, but here they have imposed these sanctions. Is that normal? It’s people moving around. You sold this ship. It doesn’t matter if this helicopter has been around for 40 or 50 years. It may have flown three times in 50 years, and it would have been fine if it had been properly maintained, but they banned their companies from maintaining it. So, it’s their fault, among other things”. He added that the West should wait for “retaliation,” i.e. God’s punishment.

Best regards,
iSANS team

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