Unrest in Belarus

Belarus, Eastern Europe

The relationship between Belarus and Russia is a long and complicated one. Originally, Belarus existed as a part of various empires and kingdoms before ultimately being absorbed into the Russian Empire following the partition of Poland in 1795. Belarus shortly gained independence after the Russian Revolution before being forcibly brought back into the fold in 1919. The country was then occupied by the Nazis following the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 and over the course of the war, 25% of the population died. It only gained its independence after the collapse of the USSR. Belarus has spent most of its existence under occupation or as a smaller part of a larger empire; its history is one of constant struggle to keep itself free.

Often referred to as “Europe’s Last Dictator”, the current president, Alexander Lukashenko, came into power in 1994 and has held a murderous grip on the presidency ever since. Of all the presidential elections in Belarus, only the first in 1994 was deemed to be fair by political monitors. Lukashenko’s regime has been noted for its suppression of political freedom, freedom of speech and the press, and violent crackdowns on dissent. More recently, he has been facing severe unrest in the populace since proclaiming victory in an election that was widely regarded as fraudulent.

For the first time in years, Lukashenko faced real opposition in the form of political figure Viktor Barbariko. False legal charges were brought against Barbariko to prevent him from running and he was arrested, resulting in sporadic protests throughout the country. In his place, a new figure, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, became the face of the opposition. Tikhanovskaya gained significant traction, however, Lukashenko still won by a staggering 80% of the vote. Widespread accusations of fraud were levelled against the president of Belarus. Ms Tikhanovskaya was forced to flee the country out of fear for her safety.

Protests grew rapidly but were subject to violent police crackdowns. Protestor numbers swelled to the hundreds of thousands and Lukashenko’s violent response faced widespread condemnation from the international community. Calls for a new and fair election in Belarus have fallen on deaf ears, with Lukashenko declaring that the only way he would be removed from the presidency would be by his “assassination.” However, after turning to the Kremlin for help, Russian president Vladimir Putin has expressed his support for Lukashenko and willingness to intervene.

After securing his position with Russian support, Lukashenko has enacted a sustained and merciless assault on Belarusian civil society, harshly cracking down on any group the government considers dissidents or a threat to their regime, including trade unions, independent media, activists, and private citizens. Thousands have been arrested and charged for a myriad of crimes related to the 2020 protests as well as new allegations ranging from insulting Lukashenko to terrorism. Lukashenko’s draconian crackdown is clearly informed by his fear of being overthrown, and these efforts reflect his continued efforts to terrorize the Belarusian population into being too frightened to oppose him. 

We witnessed thousands of arrests, hundreds of reports of torture and other ill-treatment, including sexual violence and the reported torture of children. The violent abduction of people in broad daylight by masked individuals, presumably on the basis of their peacefully expressed opinions.

Key Facts

25,000 +

People detained

5 +

Total deaths

Ongoing since

24 May 2020

Where: Belarus. Protests are mostly concentrated within the capital city of Minsk.

Why: The current president of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, announced his victory in the 2020 elections, which were widely derided as fraudulent. Out of all Belarusian elections, only the 1994 Presidential elections were deemed to be free and fair by international monitors. 

Statistics: 13,000 people detained, 450 cases of torture and ill-treatment of detainees, 5 dead, and 50 protesters missing. 

The Key Actors

The Situation

Classification: Civil Unrest, Authoritarian Crackdown

Analyst’s suggestions:

  • The OWP advocates for the immediate removal of Lukashenko from power and for fresh elections to be held. Opposition leaders who have been jailed or exiled should be allowed to return to the country to participate in the political process and all prisoners of conscience who have been jailed should be freed.

Similar Humanitarian Crises

  •  European Migrant Crisis


The Belarusian government, with assistance from Russian President Putin, have violently put down nearly all protests and in the intervening year and half have launched a concerted campaign of repression, arresting dissidents, activists, journalists, and any other group the government views as hostile.

Timeline Of Events

Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia joined the commonwealth of independent states, officially recognizing the sovereignty of each other and declaring themselves independent of the Soviet Union.

Following the break away of most of its satellite states and the failed 1991 August Coup, the Soviet Union officially dissolved, forever changing the political landscape of Eastern Europe.

Winning with 80% of the vote, Alexander Lukashenko ascends to the office of president of Belarus. These are the only elections in Belarus that would be recognized as fair and free.

President Lukashenko puts out the seven-question referendum, a series of votes which fundamentally altered the Belarussian constitution, extended the length of the presidential term, and gave more power to the office of president. The voting process was regarded by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe as failing to meet democratic standards.

In the run up to the 2020 elections, authorities arrested popular opposition figures Sergei Tikahnovsky and Viktor Barbaryka, essentially preventing them for running for offices before the election.

People begin gathering to protest the detainment of opposition figures Sergei Tikhanovsky and Viktor Barbaryka and to demand free and fair elections, resulting in police crackdowns. Protests continue to grow as the election proceeds.

Following her husband’s arrest, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya announced her candidacy, intending to run in her husband’s place. Quickly becomes the face of the opposition movement.

Protesters took to the streets on election night, resulting in widespread violent crackdowns by police.

Alexander Lukashenko pronounced victory over the opposition, winning nearly 80% of the vote. The elections were widely decried as fraudulent. Greater protests erupt over the results and countries such as the UK and Canada refuse to recognize the results of the election.

Having faced constant threats during her campaign and fearing for the safety of herself and family, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya fled to Lithuania.

Violent crackdowns only result in greater numbers of protesters, who flood the streets and call for Lukashenko to resign. Protests throughout August and into September.

In an interview with state tv, Russian president Vladimir Putin declared the creation of a “reserve police force” to intervene and restore order in Belarus if necessary. This put to rest any doubts whether Putin will come to Lukashenko’s aid or not.

After fleeing to Ukraine, prominent opposition member Maria Kolesnikova was forcibly returned to the city of Minsk and jailed. She then was charged with incitement to undermine national security and faces up to five years in prison as a result.

Following the inauguration of Alexander Lukashenko as president for the sixth consecutive term, the EU proclaimed the results of the 2020 Belarussian elections to be illegitimate

The number of protesters swelled as thousands took to the streets to protest the re-
election of Alexander Lukashenko. This comes in the face of a police threat to use live
ammunition against protesters. Thus far no incidents of live fire have been reported.

Opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya has called for nationwide strikes against
Lukashenko’s regime. This comes after the expiration of a deadline set by the
opposition for Lukashenko to resign.

Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov recently stated Moscow’s support for
constitutional reform efforts in Belarus in discussions with his Belarussian counterpart,
Vladimir Makei. The Russian Foreign Ministry, “-reiterated its support for the Belarusian
leadership’s initiative to carry out constitutional reform in the interests of normalizing the
situation in the country as soon as possible…” The two sides have reportedly been
discussing making small amendments to Belarus’s constitution, to appease the
opposition movement. Whether this will result in any lasting change remains to be seen.

As protests continued for its 14 th consecutive week, police arrested roughly 1053 people
in a single day. This led to condemnation from both Amnesty International and Minsk-
based human rights group Viasna. Eyewitnesses observed police using excessive and
indiscriminatory force against protestors and bystanders alike.

The government of Belarus has reportedly ordered the freezing of any bank funds
meant to aid those detained by police for protesting. Since the outbreak of the protests,
small funds had been set up by to help pay for the fines of those detained or beaten for
demonstrating. One such fund, the BY_help fund, was set up by activist Andrei
Leonchik and had raised millions of euros for this purpose. The government froze all
funds transferred by him as well as opening a criminal case against him. Protests

Thousands rallied to protest the death of 31 year-old opposition supporter Raman
Bandarenka at the hands of police. According to the Viasna human rights center,
Bandarenka was detained and handed over to the police by men in plainclothes. He
was then beaten and suffered grave injuries. Bandarenka was commemorated by

opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya. EU spokesman Peter Stano condemned the
killing of Bandarenka as well and stated that the EU “stands ready to impose additional
sanctions” on the government of Belarus.

EU ministers announced that they had agreed to work on a third round of sanctions
aimed at Belarus, this time targeting firms and individuals with close ties to President
Alexander Lukashenko.

Thousands took to the street this week to protest Lukashenko’s government, in one of
the largest marches of the past month. Human rights group Viasna has reported that
over a 100 were arrested.

Belarus recently announced that it will be closing its borders starting on December 20th, preventing citizens and residents from leaving or entering. According to a government decree, this was done to control the spread of COVID-19. However, this has prompted backlash as many, such as opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, believe the true
purpose of this policy change is to keep political dissidents trapped within the country.

Belarus’s Public Prosector’s Office said that it had began legal proceedings against opposition leaders Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, Olga Kovalkova, Maxim Znak, Maria Kolesnikova, Sergei Dylevsky, and others. They are currently accused of forming a conspiracy to overthrow the government of Alexander Lukashenko. The penalty for such
could be steep prison sentences as well as being barred from running for office, as has befallen many of Putin’s critics in the Russian Federation.

COVID numbers in the prisons of Belarus have shot up recently as a result of mass arrests. Several prisoners who spoke to Associated Press have alleged that authorities deliberately attempted to infect them with COVID once imprisoned, by housing infected prisoners together with fresh arrivals, intentionally overcrowding cells, and not using proper ventilation.

The president recently declared that the government had survived a foreign
“blitzkrieg” attempt to oust him, in reference to the protesters. This comes after Russian material and personnel support helped Lukashenko maintain his grip on power.

Belarussian security forces raided conducted searches of human rights
activists’ homes. The homes searched belonged to members local groups such as the Belarussian Association of Independent Journalists and Viasna-96. Authorities put out a brief statement saying that it was part of an investigation of the financing of protests by, “organizations positioning themselves to be human rights defenders”.

The government of Belarus recently asked Lithuania to extradite opposition
leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya so that she may, “-face prosecution for her
crimes against the government order, public safety and the state”. The request was denied by Lithuania’s Foreign Minister. 

The UN Human-Rights council has passed a resolution condemning the
crackdowns against protests and freedom of association in Belarus. The vote
was by the representative of Portugal, Rui Macieira, who spoke on behalf of the EU.

Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, speaking from exile in Lithuania, has called for a
second wave of protests in Belarus to revive the opposition movement from
sputtering out in the face of Lukashenko’s new grip on power. Svetlana is
set to visit Washington DC and meet with US president Biden, who has expressed support for her cause.

Ryanair Flight 4978 from Athens, Greece to Vilnius, Lithuania was recently
forced to make an emergency landing in Minsk due to a bomb threat. The
threat was purportedly discovered by Belarussian officials and the plane
was intercepted by a Belarussian fighter before being forced to divert
course to Minsk. Once there, opposition activist Roman Protasevich and his girlfriend (both of whom have been living in exile in Poland), were pulled away and arrested. No explosive devices were discovered on the aircraft.

Following the forced landing of Ryanair 4978, the EU agreed to impose new
sanctions on Belarus. Among these lists of sanctions were the banning of all
EU air travel to Belarus and flights over Belarussian airspace. This step
represents a harsh new stance compared to previous sanctions. While the effects of this have yet to be felt, the economic impacts could be severe.

American lawyer Youras Ziankovich, was abducted recently during his stay
in Moscow and forcibly taken to Minsk in Belarus. From there the Belarusian
government accused Ziankovich of being part of a plot to assassinate
Belarussian president Alexander Lukashenko. Belarus took it one step
farther by claiming that the plot involved the FBI. Currently Ziankovich is awaiting trial. 

The United States is reportedly considering new sanctions against Belarus
following a visit by opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya.

On August 4, the trial of Maria Kolesnikova and Maxim Znak, two opponents of Alexander Lukashenko’s rule, began in Minsk, Belarus. Both Kolesnikova and Znak gained recognition for supporting protests against Lukashenko throughout 2020 and 2021. Now, the two could face up to 12 years behind bars for “conspiracy or other actions committed with the aim of seizing power,” as Lukashenko seeks to tighten his grip on power. 

In a call with Belarus’ Alexander Lukashenko, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin vowed to support the disputed Belarusian leader. Putin promised that Lukashenko “can always count on Russia’s support.” Russia plans to deliver military aid to Lukashenko to help the Belarusian dictator reinforce the country’s border security against its NATO and European Union neighbors. Russia’s military aid comes as the two countries continue talks about deeper political integration.

Two faces of the Belarusian opposition to Alexandr Lukashenko, Mikhail Znak and Maria Kolesnikova, were sentenced to 10 and 11 years in prison on the 6th of September, 2021. The trial was not open to the public. Kolesnikova received 11 years and Znak received 10 years. Both oppositional figures were found guilty of trying to overthrow the regime and seize power.  

The start of joint military drills involving Russian and Belarusian forces along
Belarus’s western border has heightened tensions between the country and
its neighbors. Some 200,000 troops gathered at different military locations.
Although Russia claimed that the drills were necessary to counter an
increase in NATO forces in the area, Poland and the Baltics expressed
concern at Russia and Belarus’ war games; officials argued that Russia has not been transparent about the intention of their military exercises and that they constitute a security threat in the region.

Russian and Belarusian military forces have begun joint military drills on the borders of Belarus’ EU and NATO neighbors, Poland and Lithuania. These drills commence as tensions continue to boil between Belarus and other European nations over human rights abuses, provocation, and illegal immigration and as Lukashenko and Putin seek to further integrate their countries’ militaries and politics. 

On September 9, Russian President Vladimir Putin pledged to send
$600 million to Belarus’ regime as part of a push to merge the two
countries together. President Putin declared that it would be necessary
to unite Belarus’ and Russia’s economies before tackling the question
of politics. The $600 million is part of Russia’s deal to send Belarus
new weaponry.

Belarussians will celebrate the holiday “Day of National Unity” for the first

time on September 17, 2021. This August, President Alexander
Lukashenko declared September 17 a national holiday to commemorate
the day that Belarus joined the Soviet Union in 1939. President
Lukashenko called Belarus’ union with the USSR “an act of historic
justice for the Belarusian people.” President Lukashenko establishes
the holiday as he attempts to integrate Belarus and Russia

On Monday, Belarus’ parliament passed legislation that legalizes
refusing entry to refugees from European Union countries. “We
are obliged to protect our country and its citizens by all available
means,” the Belarusian parliament’s speaker, Vladimir
Andreichenko explained. This legislation comes as European
Union member states, especially Poland and Lithuania, have
accused Belarus of using refugees as hybrid warfare in
retaliation to sanctions placed on Belarus by the EU earlier this

At a United Nations assembly on 26 October, Anaïs Marin, an independent human rights expert, submitted a report about the
psychological and physical torture female Belarusian activists have
experienced since Alexander Lukashenko first began to crack down on protests last year. Marin observed that women became the “victims of forced disappearances, torture, ill-treatment, and other forms of [abuse]” while others have been forced into exile. She called on Belarusian authorities to respect the women peacefully protesting.

In the past week, the Belarusian police have arrested dozens of
Belarusians in southern Belarus for being subscribed to banned
Telegram and social media channels. Recently, the Belarusian government has cracked down on press and social media and declared hundreds of telegram channels and social media sites as “extremist.” Subscribers of these banned channels can face fines or jail time. According the Viasna human rights center, about 30 were charged on the 26th of October for allegedly using one of these sites.

On 1 November, two German human rights groups, World
Organization Against Torture (OMST) and European Center for
Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), accused several members
of the Belarusian security service of crimes against humanity. Among the list of crimes were the execution of mass detentions, disappearances, sexual violence, and torture. The two groups chose to file their lawsuit in Germany due to its principle of universal jurisdiction, meaning German courts can prosecute crimes against humanity that have been committed
anywhere in the world. 

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko threatened to retaliate against sanctions placed by the EU on Belarus by shutting down the transit of natural gas through Belarus to the EU. This comes as the migrant crisis on Poland and Belarus’ borders worsens, heightening
tensions between Belarus and its European Union neighbors.

The US State Department laid out a number of sanctions against Belarusian officials, including Ihar Kenyukh and Yauheni Shapetska, heads of the Minsk Akrestsina detention center, for “their involvement in gross violations of human rights, namely the torture and/or cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment or punishment of detainees in the aftermath of the fraudulent August 9, 2020 presidential election.”

A number of small demonstrations broke out across Belarus as people protested against the Russian invasion of Ukraine as well as President Lukashenko’s statement on intention to renounce Belarus’s non-nuclear status and potentially house Russian nuclear weapons. Video from the protests show demonstrators shouting, “No to war” and “Glory to Ukraine,” as well as showing a swift crackdown by police that quickly broke up the demonstrations.

Thousands of Belarusians, many of whom had fled after the violent crackdown on protests in 2020 and 2021, are now joining the Ukrainian territorial defense force. According to Foreign Policy, many of these volunteers report that the war with Russia is a part of the same struggle they see against President Lukashenko, and hope that by helping Ukraine Belarus may also be free of Russia’s influence.

Zmitser Dashkevich, former leader of an anti-Lukashenko youth group called the Malady Front, was arrested for activities during the 2020 protests. According to Radio Free Europe the Main Directorate for the Fight Against Organized Crime and Corruption charged Daskevich with the “organization and preparation of activities that violate social order, or the participation in such activities.” Dashkevich is one of many Belarusian protestors and dissidents being arrested and charged for crimes in the 2020 protests, including journalist Katsyaryna Andreyeva and activist Paval Vinahradau.

A number of reported disturbances in Belarus, including sabotage from railway workers and the efforts of opposition hackers, aim to disrupt Russian military operations against Ukraine. According to Belarusian human rights group Viasna, at least 30 railway workers have been arrested for works of sabotage, and the Belarusian government has declared a railway network an extremist group. Meanwhile, a hacking group self-styled as the Cyber Partisans are attacking Belarus’s rail network to further disrupt Russian efforts.

The anti-Lukashenko opposition movement has begun showing signs of fracturing, as exiled-former culture minister Pavel Latushko announces the formation of a new organization separate from the leadership of Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who many Western leaders recognize as the winner of the fraudulent 2020 election that sparked the protests against Lukashenko.

The list of sanctions Belarus faces, despite insistence of Lukashenko his government is a neutral party, grows every day. The US Bureau of Industry and Security announced a number of new sanctions against Russia as well as Belarus, with the BIS noting “as part of the U.S. Government’s response to Belarus’s actions in support of Russia’s aggressive conduct in Ukraine,” Belarusian industries and individuals would be subject to sanctions, in this case specifically related to aircraft parts and licensing.

Syarhey Adzyarykha, a deputy director at Belarusian state media agency BeITA was sentenced to five years in a penal colony over “abuse of duty” for handing over information to opposition groups during the 2020 protests. Belarusian investigators accuse Adzyarykha of attempting to distance himself from Lukashenko’s regime when Adzyarykha feared the protests would oust Lukashenko.

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken released a statement detailing a number of new sanctions and restrictions being placed on officials complicit in the war in Ukraine, including Belarusians. Blinken noted that the US was expanding sanctions to “17 individuals responsible for undermining democracy in Belarus…including Belarusian nationals involved in the intimidation, harassment, and repression of strikers supporting the pro-democracy movement.”

Belarusian journalist and editor of independent media outlet Novy Chas, Aksana Kolb is arrested by Belarusian authorities with no charges disclosed and authorities say they will hold her for at least 10 days. Kolb has been detained and released in the past, as well as having her publication Novy Chas raided and shut down, but since restarting it she has criticized Lukashenko’s rhetoric and actions in regards to the Russo-Ukrainian war, which her colleagues credit for this new round of imprisonment.

Amnesty International’s Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia Marie Struthers condemned the continuing persecution of Belarusian citizens by Belarusian authorities, and urged the latter to reveal the location of seven independent trade union leaders who were arrested Tuesday. Struthers says Lukashenko’s regime is, “reducing the nation’s civil society to ashes,” in their “crackdown on peaceful dissent.”

Amnesty International Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia Marie Struthers released a statement imploring the Belarusian government to release Marfa Rabkova, Andrei Chapyuk, and eight co-defendants. Struthers urges that they along with, “all others who have already been thrown behind bars simply for carrying out their human rights,” should be, “immediately and unconditionally released,” along with calling for the Belarusian government to “end their campaign of repression against civil society activists.”

In response to the railway sabotage of the past few weeks, the lower house of the Belarusian parliament passed a measure changing the criminal code to make acts of terrorism a capital offense. House speaker Vladimir Andreychenko described “Destructive forces” and “terrorist (and) extremist activity by trying to rock the situation in Belarus,” such as “actions are being taken to disable railway equipment and tracks, objects of strategic importance,” of which he said, “there can be no justification for the actions of terrorists.” The measure needs to pass the upper house and receive approval from Lukashenko to take effect.

The Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ) has been awarded the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize. The BAJ represents over 1300 Belarusian journalists and media figures who are dedicated to freedom of expression and the press in Belarus. Despite being shut down by the government and forced abroad in August of 2021, the BAJ’s past and continuing work has been recognized by the International Press Jury, who awarded them the prize. 

The Belarusian Defense Ministry has said that the Belarusian military will be conducting “military readiness” drills, warning that military vehicles may disrupt traffic on roads, though not specifying where the drills will take place nor for how long. The Belarusian Defense Ministry stated that there is no risk to any other European states.

The Belarusian government has been attacking the civil society of its country for two years, including labelling all non-state media as “extremist organizations,” leading to shutdowns, liquidations, and arrests. The Head of the Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAZh) Barys Haretski told Radio Free Europe that “though the authorities have done everything possible to destroy the independent media,” they “have found ways to reset themselves and begin coverage from abroad,” in order to “to remain present inside Belarus,” with the hope to “eventually return there.”

In an interview with the Associated Press, President Lukashenko reaffirmed his support for Putin and Russia’s justifications for its war against Ukraine, but did admit that he is “not immersed in this problem enough to say whether it goes according to plan, like the Russians say, or like I feel it,” and that he, “feel[s] like this operation has dragged on.” During the interview, Lukashenko called the conflict a war, despite Russian insistence on the term “special military operation,” reiterated that Ukraine “provoked” Russia, and again attempted to position himself as a neutral peacemaker in the conflict.

Sofia Sapega, Belarusian activist and girlfriend of dissident Roman Protasevich, has been sentenced to 6 years in prison on a number of charges, including “inciting social hatred. Sapega and Protasevich were infamously arrested last year when Belarusian planes forced the couple’s Athens to Vilnius plane to land in Belarus over a supposed bomb threat, where the exiled pair were promptly arrested.

Ukraine-based Belarusian opposition journalist Denis Staji was found beaten and tortured in his Kyiv apartment, with Ukrainian authorities launching an investigation this week. Staji’s wife Viktoryia Lavnikevich told the Committee to Protect Journalists that she and Staji had moderated Belarusian ex-pat Telegram channels and had recently begun criticizing the war in Ukraine, and claimed that members of the Belarusian KGB reached out to Staji to ask for his assistance, which he refused.

Pro-government Telegram channel Obratnaya Storona released a video of Belarusian journalist Yury Hantsarevich seemingly confessing to sending information to extremist media outlet. Gulnoza Said, the Committee to Protect Journalists Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, described the video as a “coerced confession,” that once again demonstrates, “that Belarusian authorities will do whatever it takes to demean and harass members of the press,” and called for Hantsarevich’s immediate release.

Exiled Belarusian opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya claimed in an interview with Radio Free Europe that Belarusians see the war in Ukraine as the same struggle for democracy against the autocracy of Putin and Lukashenko. Tsikhanouskaya hopes that if, “Ukraine wins, it will mean that the Kremlin is weak and, hence, that Lukashenka is weak,” providing, “a new window of opportunity for Belarusians, for protests and strikes,” that may topple Lukashenko.

In a statement made on behalf of Norway, Canada, and the United Kingdom, the Head of the UK’s Delegation to the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Neil Bush stated the three government’s opposition to the repression being conducted by the Belarusian government against its people. Speaking of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Bush said the three nations, “commend the bravery of the Belarusian people in withholding their support for this war, and we deplore the harsh repression of those who speak out against the Lukashenko regime,” also specifically speaking out against, “proposed changes to the criminal code in Belarus to include new grounds for the death penalty…as an enhanced instrument of political repression,” urging the Belarusian government to end both practices.

Human rights advocacy group Amnesty International has described the expansion of the death penalty for alleged terrorists as, “the ultimate attack on human rights,” noting the, “dangerously vague definition” the Belarusian government uses for terrorists. Amnesty International urged the government, “to abandon this cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment once and for all, and to stop its shameful campaign of persecution of political opponents and human rights activists.”

Co-founder of opposition Telegraph Channel Nexta, Stepan Putilo, has had terrorism charges brought up against him by the Belarusian government. His co-founder of Nexta, Roman Protasevich, was the dissident forced to land by Belarusian jets and arrested last May. The terrorism charges now carry a potential death sentence following the recent expansion of the law.

Exiled Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, along with Belarusian pro-democracy activist Veronica Tsepkalo and the sister of imprisoned activist Maria Kalesnikava accepted the Charlemagne Prize in Germany. The award was given in accordance with the trio’s work to restore democracy in Belarus, and during the acceptance Tsikhanouskaya reaffirmed her commitment ousting Lukashenko.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty correspondent Aleh Hruzdzilovich, who was sentenced earlier this year to 18 months in prison for supposedly participating in anti-government demonstrations, has been transported to a penal colony. RFE/RL President Jamie Fly called the arrest and charges “illegitimate,” and said, “his only ‘crime’ was reporting the truth to Belarusians who are now denied that truth by their government.”

Amnesty International called on the Belarusian government to end its persecution of the BelaPAN news network, decrying the “sham trial” brought against the independent news agency. BelaPAN is accused of being an extremist group, and many of its leaders have been arrested and charged with a myriad of crimes.

Sociologist Tatsyana Vadalaskaya and journalist Aksana Kolb have received jail sentences from Belarusian courts for charges of disrupting social order and attending protests in 2020, only the most recent of such sentences as the Belarusian government continues its two-year long crackdown on opponents and critics,

Another Belarusian correspondent of Radio Free Europe has been detained by the Belarusian government, a number that has increased since 2020 and throughout this year as the government cracks down on independent media. Andrey Kuznechyk has been charged with creating an extremist group and sentenced to six years in prison.

US Special envoy Julie Fischer, who has been barred from entering Belarus because of US sanctions against the government, has reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to working with “the people of Belarus,” while praising their “resilience as they rejected…that fraudulent election,” referring to the protests against Lukashenko in 2020.

Filmmaker and journalist Olga Loginova claimed, “Lukashenko is carrying out a cultural genocide of Belarusians,” by targeting cultural artifacts, intellectuals, and even the Belarusian language. Lukashenko has mandated that Russian be a legally coequal language while forcing Belarusians to use it to the point that only 20% of Belarusians use their own language on a daily basis.

The White House released a statement officially extending the executive order from 2006 that deemed Belarus a threat to national security of the United States. The statement also reiterated the US’s policy regarding the 2020 election in Belarus as invalid and Lukashenko as an illegitimate leader.

In an interview with Newsweek, opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya said that the people of Belarus want Lukashenko removed, and are only waiting for the right moment. Tsikhanouskaya noted that many are afraid of the Belarusian government’s crackdowns, but that if they believe this will be the last fight against Lukashenko, they will come out in opposition.

Belarusian activist Lyudmila Ramanovich has been sentenced to 18 months in jail for criticizing Russia’s war in Ukraine and calling Lukashenko a “usurper” in a letter sent to Investigative Committee.

The Belarusian government has inaugurated a crackdown on independent trade unions within the country. Union leaders and representatives have been arrested and the offices of unions have been raided and searched. The unions are accused of a myriad of crimes, including illegally organizing, violating public order, and insufficiently submitting to authorities.

In her annual report to the Security Council, Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights Situation in Belarus Anaïs Marin soundly condemned the myriad of oppressive measures committed by the Belarusian government. Marin called on Lukashenko’s government to end its unfair election, repeal its expansion of the death penalty, and cease its campaign of repression and terror against Belarusian civil society.

Three activists have been arrested and accused by the Belarusian government of sabotaging Belarusian rail networks in an attempt to obstruct Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Last month the Belarusian government expanded the death penalty to dissidents and those accused of working against the government, and these charges represent the official use of this new policy. 60 other activists remain in custody for similar charges but are still under investigation.

Human rights advocates Amnesty International condemned the sentencing of 20-year old student Danuta Pyarednya to 6.5 years in prison for reposting a comment criticizing Russian President Putin and his invasion of Ukraine. Pyarednya is the most recent in what Amnesty International claims is over 1000 Belarusians imprisoned for criticizing the war in Ukraine.

According to a survey conducted by Dr. Ryhor Astapenia via Telegram in June, support for joining Russia’s invasion is only supported by 5% of respondents, only one percent more than the number of respondents who stated Belarus should enter the war on Ukraine’s side, and one percent less than the same question asked in May.

The Committee to Protect Journalists says that at least 5 Belarusian journalists are currently set to appear before Belarusian courts for a litany of charges, and noting that arrests are only one manner the Belarusian government uses to harass and suppress journalists in the country.

The International Civil Aviation Organization, the UN’s aviation agency, has formally declared that the bomb threat the Belarusian government used to ground Ryanair flight FR 4978 was a deliberate and unlawful falsehood and a pretext to arrest exiled dissident Roman Protasevich and his girlfriend Sofia Sapega. Though the US-EU bloc already came to the same conclusion and issued a number of sanctions, this finding by the UN officially denies the stated excuse used by the Belarusian government for grounding the plane.

In an interview with Agence France-Presse, Belarusian President Lukashenko said the Belarusian system is “tougher,” than other countries, even saying “I even do not rule out the word ‘authoritarian.’” But he pushed back against claims of hundreds of political prisoners being held in his country, and claims only a small number of violent dissidents have been arrested, at odds with claims from rights groups that thousands of Belarusian protesters have been arrested and convicted for criticizing the state.

According to the Migration Department of Lithuania, 10,116 Belarusians and 1,687 Russians have been granted residence permits in Lithuania from January to June of this year, with around 4,400 Belarusian and 1,100 Russians have permits pending. Opposition leader Tsikhanovskaya, herself exiled from Belarus, says most are fleeing Lukashenko’s repression and the fear of conscription in a war against Ukraine.

Belarus’ foreign ministry accused the UK of adopting policies that are “systematically aimed at causing maximum damage to Belarusian citizens and legal entities,” and announced their ambassador will be recalled back to Belarus. The UK Foreign Office would later, on the 31st, release a statement Belarus haas become entirely dependent on Russia.

Iryna Slaunikava, a journalist working with the Poland-based Belarusian language TV channel Belsat has been convicted in a Belarusian court of forming a terrorist organization and was sentenced to five years in prison. Slaunikava is the third journalist from the Belsat being held by the Belarusian government, and the Polish government has described the arrest as a scandal and a human rights violation, vowing that there will be repercussions if Slaunikava isn’t released.

US State Department and the Council of the EU released statements on behalf of their respective governments reiterating their position that President Lukashenko lost the 2020 Belarusian elections and that his subsequent crackdown on peaceful protests were a gross violation of the human rights of the Belarusian people. These statements come on the two year anniversary of the elections.

The International and European Federations of Journalists (IFJ/EFJ) and their Belarusian affiliate, the Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ), released a statement laying out the extensive campaign of repression that President Lukashenko has conducted against journalists and independent media in Belarus on the anniversary of the fraudulent 2020 elections.

A Russian multi-role fire control radar was reportedly blown up at an air base in Belarus around 30 kilometers from the Ukrainian border. Belarusian sources haven’t confirmed what caused the reported explosions, with the Belarusian government saying a fire that had broken out nearby was caused by an inspection.

Belarusian opposition leader Syarhey Tsikhanouski, who attempted to run in the 2020 Belarusian election before being arrested, has been sentenced to an additional three years in a penal colony for reportedly defying authorities in prison, adding on to his existing 18 year sentence. Since June Tsikhanouski has had no contact with his lawyers or his family abroad, including his wife and current opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya.

The Jamestown Foundation released a report criticizing the strategies and activities of the Belarusian opposition led by Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who met in Vilnius to form a new cabinet. The report noted that the opposition faces a disconnect with Belarusian people as information from Belarus is so limited, and noted that infighting amongst the leadership is preventing action from being taken.

Media and legal expert publication the Jurist has said that Belarusian media has been almost entirely repressed by Belarusian authorities. The publication notes that free media in Belarus is being forced to recruit almost exclusively from outside the country.

Former 2020 Belarussian Presidential Candidate Valery Tsepkalo and Belarusian political scientist Dmitry Bolkunets said in an interview with the Kyiv Post that the Belarusian state is functionally run by Russia following the 2020 Belarusian elections and the international sanctions brought after Russia’s invasion.

President Lukashenko warned NATO, specifically referring to its neighbor Poland, that Belarus has fitted its SU-24 warplanes to carry nuclear weapons and that any “escalation” on their part will result in an “immediate response.” Belarus does not currently have any nuclear weapons, suggesting how strong the ties between Belarus and Russia have become as Belarus is threatening to hold part of  Russia’s nuclear arsenal.

In a joint statement released by the US Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) along with Ambassador Jocelyn Kinnear, Head of the Canadian Delegation to the OSCE, the organization soundly reaffirmed the illegitimacy of Lukashenko’s claimed electoral victory in the 2020 Belarusian elections, and praising the Belarusians who protested against it.

31 year old IT worker Victor Kulinka has received a three year sentence for taking and sharing photos of Russian troops manoeuvring through Belarus in March during the ill-fated northern push by Russian troops towards Kyiv, only the most recent in an ongoing crackdown on dissidents and perceived opponents of the regime.

Amnesty International’s Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia Marie Struthers released a statement on behalf of the watchdog NGO decrying the conviction of human rights defenders Marfa Rabkova, Andrei Chapyuk and their eight co-defendants to multi-year prison sentences, calling on the Belarusian government to urgently end their campaign of repression against civil society activists

Chargée d’affaires of the EU delegation in Minsk Evelina Schulz was detained by Belarusian authorities after attending a public reading the charges brought against a number of Belarusian political prisoners. The EU registered is outrage at the incident as a breach of international diplomatic law, underscoring ever-worsening relations between the EU and Belarus.

The US Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) released a statement detailing the Belarusian government’s abuse of protesters, journalists, and activists following the August 2020 elections, and that these abuses continue to this day. The statement went on to call on the government to release its prisoners and end its repressive campaigns.

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya published an opinion piece in the Guardian calling on Western governments to increase their support for the Belarusian democratic opposition to President Lukashenko. Tsikhanouskaya framed Lukashenko as a Russian puppet and argued that removing him could not only provide an opening to democratic rule in Belarus but remove a tool by which Putin influences eastern and central Europe.

The UN Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights held a discussion condemning the Belarusian government’s actions following the 2020 elections, noting the many credible reports of torture and mass arrest which have been inadequately investigated by the Belarusian government.

The US State Department released a statement in praise of the release of  Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty journalist Aleh Hurzdzilovich, but that the release is only a step in the right direction and that all wrongfully imprisoned political prisoners must be released.

Four journalists from the independent Belarusian media organization BelaPAN were given multi-year long prison sentences by the Belarusian government for being a part of what it deemed an extremist organization. The Belarusian Association of Journalists condemned the sentences as politically motivated.

The Nobel Committee awarded their 2022 Nobel Peace Prize to human rights advocates in Eastern Europe, including imprisoned Belarus activist Ales Bialiatski, the Russian group Memorial and the Ukrainian organization Center for Civil Liberties. Bialiatski has been a long time advocate of human rights and democracy in Belarus, founding the Human Rights Center Viasna, before being detained along with thousands of others in the 2020 crackdown by the Belarusian government. The Belarusian Foreign Ministry condemned the decision and called it “politicized.”

Belarusian dictator Lukashenko accused Ukraine and its “owners” in the west of actively planning an attack on Belarus, and announced that Belarusian and Russian troops will be deployed along the Belarusian-Ukrainian border. Though some analysts fear this could mean Belarusian intervention, Lukashenko didn’t elaborate on the troops’ specific purpose, nor on the supposed threat Ukraine is plotting against Belarus.

Despite increasingly bellicose rhetoric and strong pressure from Putin for Belarus to contribute more directly in his invasion of Ukraine, a number of foreign policy analysts feel the changes of a full Belarusian intervention is unlikely. Speaking to The Guardian, Belarusian political analyst and non-resident scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Artyom Shraibman said, Putin, “cannot compel Lukashenko to commit political suicide,” and that he thinks, “Lukashenko will definitely try to resist any push into a full war.” Franak Viačorka, a senior adviser to Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya also expressed doubt, saying, “we don’t have any leads to this,” and that instead there are reports that, “military leaders are trying to calm down the troops saying they will not be embroiled in the war as the troops are very worried seeing the success of the Ukrainians.”

The leader of the human rights NGO Viasna Nikolai Avtukhovich has been sentenced to 25 years in jail for charges of terrorism and treason, along with a number of other activists from the same group. Avtukhovich took over leadership of Viasna after its founder and recent Nobel Peace Prize laureate Ales Bialiatski was jailed in 2020.

During State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel’s daily press briefing, Patel expressed the US’s dismay at the detainment of Darya Losik, the wife of a detained Radio Liberty journalist for supposedly facilitating extremist activities.

The International Civil Aviation Organization released a follow up report to their January investigation that found that Belarusian officials deliberately falsified the bomb threat that grounded Ryanair flight 4978 and resulted in the arrest of exiled dissident Roman Protasevich. In this newest report, the agency provided a play-by-play of the events, including the transcribed phone call between Belarusian air traffic controllers to the plane’s pilots, in which two officials from the Belarusian government are continually prompting the air traffic controller’s statements regarded the non-existent bomb.

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights released a statement from their Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation of Belarus Anaïs Marin, who said Belarus’s campaign of repression against dissidents and critics has forced thousands to flee the country, and that, “reprisals and persecutions undermine the safe exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the territory of Belarus.”

Independent journalist Aliaksandr Liubianchuk, who works for the Poland-based Belsat news network, was sentenced to three years in prison for being a part of an extremist group. According to the Associated Press Liubianchuk extensively covered the 2020 protests against President Lukashenko, and has been in custody since May.

13 of the 15 members of the UN Security Council, excluding only Russia and China, firmly condemned the Belarusian government’s grounding of Roman Pratasevich’s flight from Athens to Vilnius in May 2021, after being presented with a report from the UN affiliated International Civil Aviation Organization detailing the deliberate actions of Belarusian authorities to ground the plane without legitimate cause.

The Latvian Ministry of Interior has confirmed the Latvia government is extending the state of emergency first declared last August in three municipalities bordering Belarus, as it says Belarus continues to facilitate illegal immigration into the Baltic country. Latvia has also built hundreds of kilometres of fencing and border barriers since last year.

69 year old Ema Stsepulyonak is being put on trial for comments she made that allegedly insulted KGB Officer Dzmitry Fedasyuk who was killed in a shoot-out with an IT worker. 

Ukrainian presidential adviser Kyrylo Tymoshenko said Ukraine is building a 3 km barbed-wire-topped wall, along with sandbags and trenches, along its the border with Belarus, where Russian troops entered the north of Ukraine during the initial stage of the invasion. He provided photos of the construction already completed and said more defenses would be forthcoming

Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya told the AFP that, “Belarus is de facto under military occupation,” and that Lukashenko, “just has to agree with everything because he knows that without Putin’s support, he will not politically survive in Belarus.” Tikhanovskaya also continued to call on western governments to sanction Lukashenko’s government and support her opposition.

International watchdog Human Rights Watch condemned the Belarusian government for repeatedly arresting rights defender Nasta Lojka on “bogus” charges of petty hooliganism and sentencing her to her fourth 15 day incarceration in 3 months. HRW says Lojka first began being targeted by the government in retaliation for her attending the trial of members of the rights group Viasna.

French investigative journalism network Disclose released a report alleging that at least ten IKEA subcontractors since 2012 have had ties with Belarusian penal colonies, including juvenile and political prisoner penitentiaries. IKEA released its own statement stating the company takes claims of human rights violations seriously and will investigate.

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) released a statement expressing its disquiet of Belarus’s renunciation of the First Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which the organization says, “will deprive victims of human rights violations in Belarus, who have been denied justice domestically, of bringing their complaints before the Committee.”

Maria Kolesnikova, an opposition leader who rose to prominence during the 2020 protests in Belarus, was transferred to a Belarusian hospital with an unknown ailment. Kolesnikova was sentenced to 11 years in jail in 2021, and her social media account run by aides reported that she had been placed in solitary confinement earlier this month. The Belarusian government has not made any statements regarding Kolesnikova.  

Belarusian Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei was buried in Minsk after dying at 64 of a cause undisclosed by the Belarusian government. Though Makei was described by some analysts as more pro-western than other members of Lukashenko’s government, speculation as to his death on those grounds have found no evidence.

Following the sudden death of foreign minister Uladzimir Makei, a number of western officials have laid speculation surrounding the circumstances of his passing, including former British ambassador to Belarus Nigel Gould Davis who said, “there may be something very sinister behind his sudden and unexplained death.”. The Robert Lansing Institute claims that sources in Moscow reported that Russia was preparing an assassination attempt on Lukashenka, making an apparent connection to Makei’s death. In any event, Makei was seen by many western officials as their last link to the Belarusian government, and relations are not likely to improve in the near future.

IndustriALL, a multinational federation of unions representing 50 million mining, energy, and manufacturing workers, released a statement condemning the government of President Lukashenko for his harsh crackdown on independent union groups and its violations of human rights. The statement listed a number of the union leaders currently in Belarusian jails, calling on the government to release them and reaffirming their support for independent unions in Belarus.

While accepting the Nobel Prize on behalf of her husband Ales Byalyatski, Natallia Pinchuk said her husband dedicated the prize to the, “millions of Belarusian citizens who stood up and took action in the streets and online to defend their civil rights.” She continued that, “I know exactly what kind of Ukraine would suit Russia and Putin — a dependent dictatorship. The same as today’s Belarus, where the voice of the oppressed people is ignored and disregarded.”

The Belarusian National Assembly approved a bill that would allow the government to strip Belarusians accused of extremism of their citizenship. The current legal set up only allows naturalized Belarusian citizens, not native Belarusians, to be stripped of their citizenship if convicted of extremism charges, meaning the dozens of individuals and organizations charged with extremism may be in danger of losing their citizenships.

Belarusian human rights defender Nasta Loika, previously affiliated with the now-liquidated Belarusian Helsinki Committee, has been sentenced to her fourth consecutive 15 day jail sentence for charges of “petty hooliganism,” meaning she has been functionally imprisoned since 31 October.

Russian President Putin visited the Belarusian capital of Minsk for the first time since 2019, an event that has seem some in and out of Ukraine nervous Putin may pressure Lukashenko to join his war. The two leaders held a joint press conference announcing yet more joint military manoeuvres. A number of officials have warned this may be a cover for a potential second front in Ukraine, with the speculation leading Ukrainian President Zelenskyy to say, “Protecting our border, both with Russia and Belarus, is our constant priority,” and that, “we are preparing for all possible defence scenarios.”

Human Rights Watch released a statement condemning the recently passed amendment to Belarus’s citizenship law, warning that the charges needed to strip Belarusian citizens of their citizenship is similar to existing politically-motivated charges levelled against rights defenders and activists, including those who fled abroad.

Retired Belarusian swimmer and 3-time Olympic medal winner Aliaksandra Herasimenia, now living in exile in Lithuania, has been sentenced by a Belarusian court to 12 years in prison for creating, “an extremist formation,” in reference to her co-founding of the Belarusian Sport Solidarity Foundation, as well as her numerous criticisms of Lukashenko’s regime and Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Secretary of Belarus’s Security Council Alexander Volfovich said of a Ukrainian air defense missile that landed in Belarus, “there is little reason to believe that it entered our airspace by accident,” and accusing Ukraine of, “striving to provoke a regional conflict by any means.”

The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) released a statement saying they were, “gravely concerned” about the tax evasion charges brought against imprisioned Belarusian Nobel Peace Prize laureate Ales Bialiatski, saying of them, “the charges are simply politically motivated.” OHCHR added that they, “call for the charges against them to be dropped and their immediate release from detention.” Amnesty International called the trial a “shameful pretense,” and reiterated the call for Bialiatski’s release

International journalism and free-speech watchdog the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) condemned the Belarusian government for arresting Russian journalist Yekaterina Yanshina for attending the trial of a Belarusian journalist, with Gulnoza Said saying of the arrest, “Yekaterina Yanshina’s arrest during a political trial is a grim encapsulation of Belarusian authorities’ attitude toward dissenting voices and independent reporting.”

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the EU was going to continue to, “keep pressure on the Kremlin for as long as it takes with a biting sanctions regime,” adding that they will also, “extend these sanctions to those who militarily support Russia’s war such as Belarus or Iran.”

The Polish government announced the creation of a new military unit in the Podlaskie Voivodeship, a province that borders Belarus. This happened alongside increasing tensions over continuing border clashes with migrants attempting to cross into Poland from Belarus, where three bodies were found recently.

Exiled Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya says if Lukashenko attempted to mobilize the country to join in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, he would face, “massive disobedience, strikes and people fleeing Belarus as fast as they can,” though saying, “Lukashenko is already fully participating in the war,” by aiding Russia, “but the fact that our troops have not been sent to Ukraine is not because Lukashenko doesn’t want to participate. He knows Belarusians don’t see Ukrainians as enemies.”

Belarusian opposition leader and contested winner of the 2020 Belarusian elections Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya called the trial being held for her in abstenia a “farce,” and holds no legitimacy. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called the trial “politically motivated” and condemned the Belarusian government for, “continue[ing] to harass and repress peaceful protesters, the democratic opposition, journalists, unionists, activists, human rights defenders, and everyday Belarusians.”

International NGO Human Rights Watch released a report detailing the efforts the Belarusian government have taken in harassing  and imprisoning not only activists, journalists, and opposition leaders, but also their families, including Daria Losik, who last week was sentenced to 2 years after her husband, independent journalist Ihar Losik, was sentenced to 15 years in December of 2021, with Daria reporting being followed and harassed by government officials beforehand.

The Olympic Council of Asia announced that Belarusian and Russian athletes may be allowed to compete in the Asian Games, a step towards qualifying for the 2024 Paris Olympics, though the anthem, colors, and other identifying marks of the two countries remain banned, and athletes cannot be found to have, “violated the IOC’s peace mission by actively supporting the war in Ukraine.” Ukrainian athletes and athlete organizations have decried the move, with Ukrainian Athletes and Global Athletes releasing a joint statement saying this decision, “sends a message to the world that the IOC condones Russia’s brutal war and invasion of Ukraine.”

Deputy Ambassador of the Delegation to the Organization for Security and Co-operation Diedre Brown said before an OSCE meeting in Vienna the UK, “once again call for the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners in Belarus,” and that, “since the new year, the Belarusian authorities have already turned their attention to expanding their toolbox of repression. Lukashenko has signed new laws”

Independent journalist Andrzej Poczobut, working as a political commentator and producer of Nad Niemnem, a TV program focused on Belarus’s Polish community for the Poland-based independent broadcaster Belsat TV and Polish public broadcaster TVP Polonia, was sentenced to eight years in a penal colony for associating with “terrorist activities.” Polish officials, including Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, condemned the decision.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki announced via Twitter, “due to the important interest of state security, I decided to suspend until further notice from [11:00 GMT] on Feb. 10 this year traffic at the Polish-Belarusian border crossing in Bobrowniki,” one of only a few border access points remaining between the embittered nations. Belarus in turn condemned the closure, saying it will create more conjestion in remaining crossings.

US Ambassador Michael Carpenter to the Permanent Council of the OSCE in Vienna condemned the conviction of Polish journalist Andrzej Poczobut, going on to say, “we call for the immediate, unconditional release of Poczobut, Bialiatski, Stefanovich, and Labkovich, as well as leading political opposition figures…and the more than 1,400 political prisoners Belarus continues to unjustly incarcerate.  As a member of the OSCE community, Belarus committed to respecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, and it is well beyond time that it started doing so.”

President Lukashenko was hosted by Russian President Putin in Moscow, where the two commended the existing ties between the two countries. During their joint press conference, Putin said, “by pooling our efforts we will create synergy, it could be very efficient in some sectors and bring good results for both Belarus and Russia,” while Lukashenko offered to help build Russian jets in Belarusian factories.

Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya criticized the Ukrainian government for failing to coordinate with and recognize her exiled government, while the Ukrainian government has attempted to keep a middle ground with Lukashenko while noting to Politico that the Belarusian opposition, “exerts neither an organizational nor an intellectual influence on Belarusian society,” and can’t be relied on to garner support against Lukashenko.

President Lukashenko announced the formation of a volunteer paramilitary force, “in case of an act of aggression,” with Defence Minister Viktor Khrenin saying the force will have 100,000-150,000 volunteers, or more if needed. Lukashenko has repeatedly insisted his support for Russia’s war won’t involve Belarusians fighting unless they are attacked.

A spokesperson for the Polish Foreign Ministry Lukasz Jasina announced that two consuls and a border guard intermediary were told to leave Belarus. In response, the Polish Interior Ministry released a statement saying freight traffic at the Kukuryki-Kozlowicze border crossing will be suspended.  

The Polish Press Agency said that a spokesperson for Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told them the government was planning on dismissing the Belarusian defense attaché to the nation in retaliation for Belarus’s dismissal of Polish officials.

Belarusian authorities are seeking lengthy prison terms for the country’s exiled opposition leaders, with prosecutors demanding 19-year prison sentences for Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya and Pavel Latushka on charges of conspiring to overthrow the government, creating and leading an extremist group, inciting hatred and harming national security, as well as seeking 12-year sentences for Maryya Maroz, Volha Kavalkova and Siarhei Dylevski. Tsikhanouskaya called the charges, “personal revenge against me (and) others who are opposing the regime.

President Lukashenko met with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, renewing the, “all-weather and comprehensive” strategic partnership signed in February of last year. Both leaders praised the other and reinforced each other’s claims that the two nations are neutral in the conflict in Ukraine. On the 24th, Chinese Foreign Minister Qing Gang reiterated China’s support for Lukashenko, promising to, “work with Belarus to implement the important consensus reached by the two heads of state, maintaining high-level exchanges under the strategic guidance of both leaders, and deepening mutual political trust,” as well as to support Belarus against internal and external threats.

Belarusian President Lukashenko met with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing, where the two reaffirmed their respective nation’s commitment to strong ties via the, “China-Belarus All-Weather Strategic Partnership,” and during which Lukashenko stated his support for Chinese-led peace talks in Ukraine.

Belarusian Nobel Prize laureate and activist Ales Bialiatski was sentenced to ten years in a Belarusian prison for, “smuggling large sums of money and financing group activities that grossly violated public order,” a charge Amnesty International says are blatantly false, calling the sentencing a, “sham trial on politically motivated charges [and] is a blatant retaliation for Viasna’s human rights work.”

President Lukashenko says its government has caught what it alleges is a Ukrainian-affiliated saboteur along with at least 20 accomplices who damaged a Russian warplane stationed in Belarus. Both Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry and the Belarusian anti-government group BYPOL deny Ukrainian association in the attack.

Following the high profile attack on a Russian warplane earlier in the month, Belarusian partisans say they will continue their operations of sabotage against Russian military assets and Belarusian infrastructure being used by the Russian government, with the group who claimed responsibility for the plane attack the Association of Security Forces of Belarus, or BYPOL, promising to continue its fight against both Putin and Lukashenko despite steep punishments for those caught.

The Belarusian human rights group Viasna has warned that the Belarusian government has rounded up hundreds of people in the weeks following the plane attack near Minsk, authorities targeting opposition activists, journalists, medical workers, members of shooting sports clubs and even people working with drones and psychologists and psychiatrists 

UN High Commissioner on Human Rights Volker Türk released a statement urging the Belarusian government to cease its campaigns of oppression against its civil society and release political prisoners, saying, “our report paints an unacceptable picture of impunity and the near-total destruction of civic space and fundamental freedoms in Belarus,” and that, “the Government owes it to its people to bring a halt to this mass repression and to conduct impartial and transparent investigations to ensure that those responsible for grave violations are held accountable.”

Belarusian human rights organization Viasna claimed that Belarus’s border security forces are increasing along their border with Poland following what the Belarusian KGB claims was a terrorist attack.

Citing the UK’s most recent pledge for military aid and what he claims the West has already been doing for years, Russian President Putin announced that Russian tactical nukes will be housed in allied Belarus and will train Belarusian crews to man them, a plan which he says will be finished by July. Exiled opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, said the decision, “underlines the threat to regional security” from Lukashenko’s regime.

President Lukashenko confirmed Putin’s announcement that Russia is seeking to place Russian tactical nukes in Belarus, saying, “Putin and I will decide and introduce here, if necessary, strategic weapons, and they must understand this, the scoundrels abroad, who today are trying to blow us up from inside and outside, we will stop at nothing to protect our countries, our state and their peoples.”

Russia’s ambassador to Belarus Boris Gryzlov told Belarusian state media that the Russian government plans on placing its tactical nukes in stations close to Belarus’s borders with NATO countries, which include Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia, saying the weapons will be, “moved up close to the Western border of our union state,” in order to expand, “our defense capability, and it will be done regardless of all the noise in Europe and the United States.”

An activist for the nearly 300,000 Poles living in Belarus, Andzelika Borys, has been freed from house arrest and the charges brought against her for fomenting ethnic strife and condoning Nazism have been dropped. The Polish Foreign Ministry called her release, “the first good news coming from Minsk in a long time.”

Belarusian opposition leader and former ally of President Lukashenko Valery Tsepkalo was charged with being in an extremist group and discrediting Belarus, and sentenced to 17 years in prison. Tsepkalo is currently in exile after fleeing the country in 2020 when he and eight other politicians were barred from running against Lukashenko.

According to the now infamous leaked documents from US intelligence, Ukrainian agents may have been directly involved in the February 26 drone attack on a Russian plane in Belarus, despite both Ukraine and the Belarusian BYPOL group that took credit denying Ukrainian involvement.

Aleksei Moskalyov was sentenced in absentia to two years in prison by Russia and deprived of his parental rights following anti-war drawings by his 13-year-old daughter that led to online posts he made about the  invasion of Ukraine, and the Belarusian government has agreed to extradite him to Russia.

Belarusian dissident journalist Roman Pratasevich who was infamously arrested following the Belarusian air force forcing his commercial plane to land in response to a “bomb threat,” is already serving part of his 15 year sentence in Belarusian prison, but now faces new charges of leading an extremist organization, which may increase his time in prison to 25 years.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visited the borders of Poland and Belarus, and though he made no direct statements about Belarus or its position in the war, he thanked border guards for protecting Ukraine and urged them to be ready for anything.

The Belarusian Foreign Ministry announced that its military units and engineers sent to Russia to study the Iskander tactical nuclear weapons system that will be set up in Belarus have completed their training and are returning. No definitive date has been given for when the transfer will take place, but previous Russian statements indicate the construction of the systems in Belarus could be finished by the end of July.

The sports ministers of the UK and France, the latter of whom is hosting the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics, have called on the International Olympic Committee to ban Russian and Belarusian athletes from competing in the 2024 games, with UK Minister for Culture, Media, and Sport Lucy Frazer saying, “the links between state, military and sport in Russia and Belarus are root and branch,” while French Sport Minister Amelie Oudea-Castera said, “none of us should countenance the idea of a Ukrainian athlete being forced to share a pitch, a court, a field, a starting line with state-sponsored athletes from Russia and Belarus.”

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