7 August 2021 in Geopolitics, Human Rights


The red and white flag no longer flies. The cities of Belarus are full of new red-green flags – the symbol of a ‘new’ old government. The protests have calmed down with the arrival of winter, but it only takes a little something to set them off again. The toll is horrifying: in six months of protests, more than 30,000 people have been arrested, more than 220 of them have been convicted for political reasons[1], so that now, on 17 July, 561 political prisoners are in cages, 68 of them women[2].

On 29 June 2020, Amnesty International calls for the release of Viktor Babaryko, Sergey Tikhanovskiy and 8 others, detained only for peacefully exercising their human rights[3]. But this is not enough. In May, during street demonstrations in support of those convicted in political trials, armed men in plain clothes beat up and arrested more than 200 people, and between 19 and 21 June, the date of the trial against Viktor Babaryko, another 360 people were imprisoned[4]. At the trial, on 6 July, the former head of Belgazprombank was sentenced to 14 years of hard labour[5]. Dmitriy Laevskiy, Babaryko’s lawyer, was disbarred, “because he justified the innocence of other defendants in Viktor Babaryko’s case and demanded their acquittal during the court debates on 22 and 23 June[6].

Sergey Tikhanovskiy (Svetlana Tikhanovskaya’s husband) is still in prison, arrested on 29 May 2020 and still awaiting trial on charges of gross violation of public order and inciting social hostility – he faces up to 15 years in prison[7]. The “evidence” of his guilt: Tikhanovskiy, author and host of the YouTube and Telegram channels “Country for Life”[8] (still active), created in March 2019 to report on social problems and corruption, provided the content of interviews with opposition politicians and criticised the work of state officials, after which he ventured to run for office and finally supported his wife in an attempt to change the country’s fate.

He holds firm and has no regrets: “If the people are persistent, things will not last long. I will stay in prison as long as the people allow it, because power belongs to the people[9]. His trial will be held behind closed doors in the pre-trial detention centre in Gomel – this is the decision of the court[10]. The German federal government has unsuccessfully demanded the release of Tikhanovskiy and other political prisoners[11], the trials are going on.

Old Belarusian peasant women cross the border into Lithuania[12]

The country, increasingly oppressive, is emptying out, people are running away, depressed, with the nightmare that, at any moment, someone will knock on the door[13]. Those who could – left. At first, it was thought that it would be for a month or two, now everyone has to face the fact that they will probably never be able to go back. One hopes, of course, that the government changes and the country can be rebuilt[14]. A popular attitude is set in the film “MINSK”, which shows the events of the past year from the point of view of a young couple[15].

The Belarusian people are, by nature, horses that pull their carts all their lives without question. It is a rational and pragmatic culture, not very emotional. Irritation is hidden deep inside everyone, the community is based on mutual assistance: you help me, I help you, as far away from the government as possible. A stagnant country, like Russia’s endless countryside. To find strength and hope, there are journeys: fortunately, Poland, Lithuania and Germany are close by, or in Ukraine, Moscow or St Petersburg[16].

COVID has put an end to all this, people have been forced to open their eyes and face the harsh reality. No state aid for anyone, you only get by with solidarity and cooperation. The government didn’t help, so many people died without anything happening. It was at this point that the volunteer movements began: young people began to exchange objects and services, supporting each other. And it soon became clear that the society is responsive, empathetic, friendly, and that the leaders are outside the government, which consists only of shameful bureaucrats. The desire for art exploded: galleries, theatres, cafes, nature conservation associations, and secretly a beautiful and different Belarus began to emerge – what should have been the beginning of the end of the regime[17].

European Union sanctions

Ryanair flight 4978, forced to land in Minsk to allow the arrest of Roman Protasevich[18]

The world is not standing idly by: the forced landing of a Ryanair Athens-Vilnius flight in Minsk on 23 May 2021, operated to arrest journalist Roman Protasevich[19], was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Those responsible for the hijacking – the minister of defence, the minister of transport, the head of aviation and the head of air traffic control, have been placed on the international sanctions list[20]. The new EU blacklist, adopted on 21 June 2021, welcomed by Belarusian opposition leaders, includes 78 persons and 7 organisations[21] (a total of 166 persons and 15 entities[22]) including the worst hounds of the regime, such as:

(a) Mikhail Gutseriev – a Russian businessman, sponsor and long-time friend of Lukashenka, chairman of the board of directors of the Safmar Group, which is the only Russian oil company that continued to supply oil to Belarusian refineries during the energy crisis between Moscow and Minsk[23] (when Lukashenka accused Russia of fulfilling its obligations for only 25%)[24]. He is building two new fertiliser plants (‘Slavkali’ and ‘Slavneft’) for USD 2 billion, for which Lukashenka wants to change the name of Lyuban to Gutserievsk in his honour[25];

(b) Alexei Oleksin (Aleksin) – one of Belarus’ leading businessmen, whose Bremino Group receives numerous financial and tax benefits and is active in the oil (Energo-Oil), real estate, logistics, tobacco (Inter Tobacco), retail and finance sectors and others: a friend of both Lukashenka’s father and his son Viktor. He owns a property, Alexandria 2, in the Mogilev region[26], called the ‘presidential residence’[27]. After the imposition of sanctions, Oleksin sold the properties he had in Latvia (biofuels and beer), officially owned by his wife Inna and eldest son Dmitrijs, and closed himself off there[28];

  1. c) Sergei Teterin (Tsiatseryn) – president of the Belarusian tennis federation, Lukashenka’s former assistant for sporting matters, an entrepreneur in Lukashenka’s inner circle, with interests in spirits (Belglobalstart, which has built a multifunctional business centre opposite the presidential palace), food and TV advertising[29]. He also has a house in Alexandria-2 and, in 2017, bought 21 hectares of land in a nearby village – Khimy, in the Vitebsk region[30];
  2. d) Alexandr Shatrov – CEO and the owner of LLC Synesis which provides the Belarusian authorities with surveillance systems (Kipod, in use in Moscow, Baku and Astana) [31], which use facial recognition software[32]. The system is used for repression of the opposition;
  3. e) Alexander Zaitsev – co-owner of the Bremino Group[33] and the Sohra Group (which has been granted the right to export the production of state-owned enterprises such as tractors and trucks to Africa and the Persian Gulf. He is also Viktor Lukashenka’s former assistant for national security matters[34].

Sergey Teterin (left) and Lukashenka (centre)[35]

The list includes the president’s son Dmitriy Lukashenka (who controls some companies through the public association President’s Sports Club) and his other son Viktor’s wife Liliya (involved in several corruption cases with the companies Dana Holdings, Dana Astra, the Belkhudozhpromysly group and Eastleigh Trading[36]). In addition to this proscription list, on 4 June the European Council introduced a ban on Belarusian carriers flying over EU airspace[37]. Svetlana Tikhanovskaya welcomed the move, hoping it is “a powerful signal” that will “influence the regime to have to seek dialogue with civil society“. “Sanctions are more powerful when they are unified,” she added, after Canada (which decreed sanctions against 17 Belarusian individuals and five companies) [38], the UK (against two more companies and 11 individuals) [39] and the US imposed similar measures[40].

The new restrictions do not only concern entities and persons: new measures prohibit the export of communication monitoring technologies to Belarus. Stopping trade in petroleum products, raw materials and equipment for tobacco production and tobacco products. Access to EU financial markets is severely restricted for Belarus. The import, purchase, transfer to the EU of potassium from Belarus is banned from 25 June[41]. This is a huge blow to BelarusKaliy OAO Soligorsk[42], which is one of the world’s largest producers (20% of world exports[43]). The ban on the sale of cigarettes affects the president personally: “Cigarette smuggling is not a mafia-type activity in Belarus – the top brass of the presidential administration sits down with the smuggling bosses to share the loot“, said an EU source[44].

The European Investment Bank has discontinued cooperation contracts[45], and the EU has not ruled out a further expansion of the sanctions list: former presidential candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya presented her proposals for new restrictive measures to EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg[46]. Anatoly Kotov, another famous activist, who now lives in Warsaw, said that the sanctions were designed to damage the income of Lukashenka’s nomenklatura as the smuggled money goes directly into the President’s secret bank accounts[47].

But Natalia Koliada, strategic director of the NGO Creative Politics Hub, in exile in London, believes the blacklist of oligarchs is too short: there are at least 20 more regime office-bearers who deserve sanctions – them and their families[48]. Koliada also criticised the UK and US sanctions: Lukashenka is believed to keep most of the money in Abu Dhabi, Koliada said the US has the power to pressure the Emirates to seize his “loot“. He called the British list “an unprecedented hypocrisy” and a “disaster” because it does not contain Gutseriev and his clan – the most important of Lukashenka’s financial sponsors[49].

Lukashenka, for his part, thinks that Western politicians are “unbalanced” and have “lost their sense of reality“, and calls on Russia and Ukraine to help him settle the matter. He assured that Belarusians will defend their land (yes, but from him…), and stresses that the world is not limited to the European Union – there are “enough responsible countries” with which Belarus continues to cooperate closely[50]. Surely he means Russia and Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin.

Russian and Chinese complicity

Alyaksandr Lukashenka and Xi Jinping[51]

Europe has been clear. Luxembourg’s Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn said he was counting on the international process to undermine Alyaksandr Lukashenka: “The European Union has shown that it can do it when it wants to. Anything else would be disastrous, of course. We are proving that Stalinism and state terrorism have no place in the 21st century[52]. According to him, the new sanctions are “painful and, hopefully, so painful as to bring the regime to its knees“. He added: “My wish is – we cannot decide this – that Lukashenka will one day answer before an international tribunal for the suffering he has inflicted on his people[53]. The Union even got Austria, whose banks are very active in Belarus, to veto the ban on new bank loans at first. But its government has now bowed to pressure from the other 26 member states[54].

The Swiss-German NGO ‘Libereco Partnership for Human Rights’[55] collects donations and organises medical and psychological treatment, also in Germany, for those who have fled Belarus: “On the other hand, we are trying to put pressure on European states to extend sanctions against the Lukashenka regime and at the same time support more ordinary Belarusians[56]. The German Evangelical Church (Ekd), in December 2020, also launched a campaign together with a Belarusian human rights organisation in Viasna (Spring), and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Ostereuropakunde (Dgo), a German society for Eastern European studies[57].

According to Belarusian Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei[58]: “The West has unleashed a financial and economic war against us, but Belarus can count on strategic partners: Russia and China[59]. And he is right. Despite everything, Putin has kept the airspace open (even proposing new Belavia flights to Russian cities) [60] and threatened retaliation against the European Union[61]. Putin, of course, doesn’t like Lukashenka, but he is delighted with Minsk’s industrial assets[62], from Belaruskali[63] to the Minski Traktarny Zavod tractor factory[64]. In May 2021, Putin and Lukashenka negotiated a $1.5 billion loan[65]. So much for European sanctions.

Diplomatic relations between Belarus and China, on the other hand, have a long history, beginning in January 1992 and consolidated in September 2016, when the leaders of the two countries signed a joint declaration for a comprehensive strategic partnership[66]. Lukashenka began courting China back in the 1990s, as soon as he realised that his integration project with Russia had failed[67]. Since Beijing launched the Silk Road Economic Belt in 2013, Belarus has become a strategic country for the Chinese in negotiations with the European Union[68]. The result: since 2009 there has been a $15 billion credit line in favour of Minsk[69]. The loans are issued with the condition that at least half of the funds will be used to pay Chinese contractors and buy Chinese equipment[70]. In return, now that Lukashenka is teetering, Beijing is supporting him, both in words[71] and with Chinese-made missiles[72].

The two countries also cooperate in other areas, such as education. The Belarusian State University (BSU) alone has 1,000 Chinese students (the same number as Russian students), and in 2019 there were more than 3,000 Chinese students in all of Belarus[73]. Every year, the number of applicants from China continues to grow, and Belarusian students, as a foreign language, prefer to study the Chinese language[74].

Chinese A200 missiles, produced in a factory in the village of Baranavichy and then sold all over the world[75]

The main joint project between the two countries is the Velikiy Kamen industrial park. It is a 112 km2 complex near Minsk. It is not only a concentration of production facilities, but also an economic zone with a special regime. Residents are offered attractive conditions: exemption from VAT on imports, land and property taxes for 50 years, and income tax benefits. It is not only Chinese companies that are interested: Velikiy Kamen attracts businessmen from the EU, Russia and Belarus itself[76], so much so that experts believe that this Free Zone will soon become the main hub for Chinese goods entering the EU[77].

Another fruit of the Sino-Belarusian alliance is the Belji car assembly plant for Chinese Geely cars, which opened in 2011[78]. The Export-Import Bank of China has earmarked 158.7 million dollars for this project, guaranteed by the Belarusian Ministry of Finance; another 90 million dollars were given by Geely itself[79]. The controlling share of the company (59.19%) is in the hands of BelAZ, 39.64% is in Chinese hands, and the remaining 1.15% is held by JSC Borisov Automotive Equipment Plant[80]. But the most important joint project for Beijing is the factory for mobile intercontinental ballistic missile systems[81].

Press repression

Repression of Lukashenka’s critics continues a year after the elections[82]

The Lukashenka regime has persecuted journalists and the independent press throughout its 27 years in power[83]. According to the Reporters sans Frontières (2020) NGO report, Belarus ranks 158th out of 180 in the world press freedom rankings. Compared to 2019, Minsk has dropped five points[84]. At the beginning of July 2021, the head of the Russian Security Council, Nikolay Patrushev, visited Minsk and the systematic elimination of independent media began in Belarus. On 13 July, Lukashenka flew to see Putin – and the next day security forces attacked human rights activists with arrests and searches[85].

Lukashenka would do anything to keep power in his hands, surveying crowds of protesters and journalists from above, from his helicopter, with a rifle in his hand[86]. But this is not the only problem the Belarusian media have faced in the last two years: access to the Internet has been blocked, journalists working for foreign media have had their accreditation withdrawn, a number of non-state newspapers have been denied the opportunity to publish in Belarus and have been excluded from the state subscription and distribution system. Tut.by, Belarus’ most popular online publication, with over 60% of the Internet audience, was stripped of its media status[87].

In spring, the parliament passed several laws threatening the normal functioning of the media in Belarus. Live broadcasts from protests are now banned, and police officers may prohibit journalists from taking photos and videos. The notion of extremism and terrorism has also been significantly broadened[88]. In July, Belarus enacted a series of laws against the publication of ‘illegal’ content, so it now takes very little to be accused of extremism. Many Telegram channels and chats have been declared extremist[89], and their participants have received sentences of 5 to 9 years in prison[90]. This is why many online newspaper sites prevent comments under articles: not to endanger their readers (as ‘Onliner’ did) [91]. All interviews or opinions published are entered under made-up names, so as not to endanger the authors[92].

Journalists are persecuted, their houses devastated, their computers confiscated, they are arrested for a wrong word, criticism of the regime, for displaying the flag in the window – as happened to “Tribuna” journalist Aleksandr Ivulin, who was charged under Article 342 of the Criminal Code (organisation and preparation of actions that seriously violate public order) and faces up to four years in prison[93]. On the 9th of July, the editor-in-chief of the newspaper “Nasha Niva”, Egor Martynovych, was beaten by the guards (he has been in prison for 10 days without charges[94]) until his head was injured: an ambulance arrived and he was taken to the Investigative Committee, where he is interrogated, while the website of the newspaper is blocked[95]. But the list of persecuted journalists is endless…. [96]

An example: the journalist Katya Borisevich was released from prison on 19 May 2021 after a year and a half imprisonment, obtained for an article on the fact that there was no alcohol in the blood of Roman Bondarenko, a protester beaten to death in the street, on the charge of revealing medical secrets that caused serious consequences[97]. From the point of view of the Belarusian authorities, the article caused “an increase in tension in society, created an atmosphere of distrust towards the competent state bodies, incited citizens to aggression and illegal actions[98]. In other words, the “tension in society” was caused not by the fact of Roman Bondarenko’s violent death or the fact that his killers go unpunished, but by the article saying that the man beaten to death by the police was sober…

12 November 2020: People in Minsk lay flowers and candles on the spot where Roman Bondarenko was beaten to death by the police[99]

There are at least 18 journalists behind bars (the figures change every day) [100], as in Vietnam (18), worse than in Syria (14), Turkey (11), Israel (11), Iran (14), Russia (7) and Iraq (5) [101]. According to Iryna Khalip, the correspondent of Novaya Gazeta in Minsk, “Belarusian journalists have always been powerless and defenceless. We are not dealing with a suddenly awakened power that has decided to destroy journalism. We are dealing with the usual attitude of the authorities towards journalists and freedom of speech[102]. The more secure the regime feels, the stronger its power, the lower the level of repression – and vice versa.

The attacks, which began in mid-July, have affected the whole of civil society, from groups fighting for the rights of political prisoners to those crowdfunding for medical care and helping doctors fight the coronavirus. More than 40 organisations were liquidated[103]. Lukashenka vowed that the raids against NGOs will continue, because to him they are “bandits and foreign agents“. “A raiding operation is underway,” Lukashenka said. “Do you think it’s easy? There are thousands of people working for them, and their brains are distorted and brainwashed by foreign money[104].

In October 2020, Alyaksandr Lukashenka and Mikhail Gutseriev appeared at the opening of an Orthodox church sponsored by Gutseriev. According to media reports, when striking employees of the Belarusian state-owned media were dismissed in August 2020, a number of Russian journalists sympathetic to the regime were flown to Minsk by Gutseriev and housed in his Minsk Renaissance Hotel[105]. But Russian journalists who do not sympathise to the government remain outside; they are banned from entering Belarus[106].

In addition, Pavel Legkiy (Deputy Minister of Information of Belarus until December 2020, later appointed Minister Counsellor at the Embassy of Belarus in Moscow[107]) and his colleagues try to dictate to the Russian media how to correctly report events in Belarus: for years, embassy officials have been calling editorial offices and categorically demanding the removal of “incorrect” articles or threatening retaliation[108].

What the “Three Girls” do

16 July 2020: Maria Kolesnikova, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya and Veronika Tsepkalo announce a joint campaign[109]

Writing a year ago, we left Svetlana Tikhanovskaya confident, full of ideas and initiatives, about to meet with world political leaders[110]. After last summer’s protests, she and her group managed to achieve important results: Tikhanovskaya’s advisor for international affairs, Franak Vyachorka, reports that sanctions have been imposed on more than 200 people linked to the Belarusian regime; many people beaten and mutilated by the Lukashenka police have been hospitalised; the hockey championship has been cancelled, but also all aid and support programmes that financed the dictatorship[111]. Svetlana Tikhanovskaya is currently in the United States, at the invitation of the State Department, to meet with congressional leaders. The United States will, she hopes, play a mediating role in the negotiations between the authorities in Minsk and the opposition[112]. Svetlana is also meeting President Joe Biden, which has great symbolic value for Belarusians[113].

Veronika Tsepkalo left the country with her husband and two children and lives in Riga, where Valeriy founded the Belarusian Democratic Forum[114] and Veronika the Belarus Women’s Foundation[115]`. Maria Kolesnikova, the head of the electoral headquarters of first Viktor Babaryko and then Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, was arrested in September 2020 and in February 2021 received the German human rights prize of the Gerhart & Renate Baum-Stiftung (10,000 euros) [116], and before that the Stuttgart Peace Prize 2021, the city where she had lived for 12 years[117]. Gerhart Baum compared Kolesnikova to the Russian opponent Alexei Navalny: both tried to change the situation in their country and ended up in prison as “victims of state arbitrariness[118].

Maria writes: she does not lose heart, she is fine, she writes and reads a lot and, from the anguish of her cell, she is trying to get a criminal investigation into her kidnapping and arrest[119]. She is sure that she will be free and that she will be able to engage in politics in a new free and democratic Belarus[120]. At the beginning of July 2021, the case against Maria Kolesnikova and Maksim Znak (another member of the Coordination Council) was brought to the regional court in Minsk[121]: both are accused of attempting to seize power and running an extremist organisation[122]. Both face up to 12 years in prison[123]. So, although the “three girls” are divided, each is doing what she can for the cause. Svetlana Tikhanovskaya and Veronika Tsepkalo stay in touch, but Maria unfortunately does not receive their letters either[124]. Divided, but united…

The “Hybrid Aggression” strategy

Lithuanian soldiers build a barbed wire barrier on the border with Belarus[125]

According to official data published by the Government of Lithuania, since the beginning of 2021, 2603 migrants have been apprehended at the border with Belarus, including Iraqis, Congolese, Iranians and refugees from other countries[126]. On 2 July, the Lithuanian authorities declared a state of emergency: the number of people trying to illegally cross the Lithuanian border from Belarus has increased almost 20 times in one year[127]. In comparison, there had been 74 in 2020 and only 37 in 2019[128]. It is the response of Lukashenka who, responding to EU sanctions, had announced that Belarus would no longer help the EU in the fight against illegal immigration[129].

On 7 July 2021, Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Szymonte accused the Belarusian authorities of practising a strategy of “Hybrid Aggression”[130], i.e. fighting Lithuania by creating internal problems, without the use of weapons[131] – and announced Lithuania’s intention to build a 30-kilometre-long border fence with Belarus[132]. Estonia has sent 100 km of barbed wire to Lithuania to support this project[133]. The damage is still there: the whole thing is costing Vilnius EUR 42 million a year[134]. The European Border Agency (Frontex) decided to launch an emergency operation on the Belarusian border: additional border guards, helicopters, patrol cars and special agents were sent to Lithuania ‘to reinforce the EU’s external border’[135].

Emanuelis Zingeris[136], a member of the Seimas Homeland Union-Lithuanian Christian Democrats party, proposes to prosecute the actions of the Belarusian government in international courts: “Migrants from the Middle East, especially Iraq and Africa, who are purposely directed to the Lithuanian border by the Belarusian regime, are tempted by promises that there is an easy way to enter Western Europe, and they pay the organisers thousands of dollars for this journey. The Belarusian authorities also take part in this bargain: migrants from the Belarusian state tourist agency “Centrkurort” buy travel packages that include airline tickets, accommodation in Minsk and accompaniment to the Lithuanian border. Iraqis and Syrians who buy tickets through this agency automatically receive Belarusian visas[137].

Zingeris continues: “Many illegal migrants who cross the border into Lithuania have no identity papers – they are chased out of Belarus and handed over to smugglers. In Belarus, almost everything is controlled by the government, in particular by Alyaksandr Lukashenka, and these things, including the involvement of the state tourism agency, could not have happened without Mr Lukashenka’s blessing. It is not only a state strategy of illegal migration, but also a real state-supported human trafficking[138].

Since 15 July 2021, Belarus has allowed people from 73 non-European countries to enter the country without a visa, officially to vaccinate against the coronavirus[139]. The Belarusian state tourist company has an agreement with Iraq[140]: every buyer of a trip must leave a deposit of 4 thousand dollars in Iraq in case of non-return. If the traveller does not return, but crosses the EU border, the deposit is transferred to the Belarusian consulate in Baghdad: since there are already almost 900 illegal migrants from Iraq in Lithuania, the Belarusian regime has already cashed at least 2 million euros with this trick[141].

The Lithuanian government’s announcements fall on deaf ears: don’t come, you will be returned to your homeland. You are involved in a crime, you will not receive asylum, nor will you be granted refugee status. You will have lost the money you gave to the travel agency, and it will have been for nothing. The reality is different: the migrants are locked up in refugee centres, they are quarantined for two weeks, then a car (promised by Belarus) arrives and takes them away from Lithuania, towards the West… The cost of a journey from Kurdistan, with a 3-4 day stop in Minsk, via Lithuania to Germany, costs between 6,000 and 15,000 dollars[142]. Only a few days ago (from 1 August 2021), Frontex started to implement the decision of Interior Minister Agne Bilotaite: illegal migrants are sent back to Belarus[143].

The refugee camps are overflowing, however, and Lithuania has asked the EU for help[144], with Spain[145] and Poland[146] offering to take over some of the illegal immigrants, not least because, alongside those from outside Europe, 161,000 have fled their country between August and December 2020 and are weighing on the reception organisations of the other EU countries and Ukraine[147]. The Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis has proposed to his EU colleagues to impose a fifth package of sanctions on Belarus for inciting the migration crisis – this package would cover tourist companies, airlines and organisations controlling migration flows[148].

What can happen now?

Video sent by Kristina Timanovskaya for help before being sent back to Minsk[149]

The European Union is acting on a knife’s edge. One false step, and Belarus could rejoin Russia, as Putin would like[150] – there may be no other choice. This is demonstrated by the recent case of the Belarusian athlete Kristina Timanovskaja, who was ordered to be repatriated before the competition (only for having spoken about the situation in her country), has been treated by Minsk as a clinical case: the girl is said to be in “an unstable psychological condition[151], even though she has not been examined by any doctor[152]. On the TV Channel Belarus-1, Grigory Azarenok suggested sending the girl to a “refugee camp” occupied by “two hundred strong men from the Middle East[153]. We know it’s propaganda, but we understand her terror: fortunately, the end of Poland gave her political asylum[154]. But they saved her only because she was outside Belarus and in the sight of the whole world. Her husband was forced to leave the country in a hurry, but nobody could have helped him[155].

According to Valeriy Tsepkalo and his wife Veronica “Belarusians are disappointed that the Russian leadership is helping Lukashenko. Russian public opinion was very sympathetic to Belarus and what was happening there. We hoped that Russia would play a role in the democratisation of Belarus. Lukashenka has shown many times that he stands with Russia only as long as it is in trouble. He is not exactly a reliable ally, politically speaking. Of course, Belarusians also understand that on the one hand there is an official Kremlin policy, and on the other hand there is the sympathy of Russian public opinion[156].

Lukashenka no longer has any cards to play, except to blackmail the whole world by holding the population hostage and increasing the degree of violence if necessary. There is no longer any economic policy, all the aid Belarus receives goes to pay for the military apparatus, and it is obvious that the European Union cannot enter Minsk with tanks. The opposition tries to reach agreements with as many international organisations as possible, but these are unfortunately very bureaucratic, which is why so many privately financed civilian support funds have formed in Belarus.

After more than a year, Lukashenka can no longer hope that the tide of protest will stop. But his character tells him that there is only one way forward: carry on, whatever it takes. People in the streets hope it will all be over before Christmas: it is unique in recent history that a person who is truly hated by everyone, considered toxic even by his own allies, with no strategy, no credibility, with the only power to hurl troops at defenceless people, and no idea about tomorrow, is in charge. Its parliament, in June, announced a revision of the constitution[157], but it is a spotty pyre and, in fact, neither Lukashenka nor the people have devoted more than a minute to that piece of paper. The break was in the summer of 2020, when the people voted against Lukashenka and he did not leave.

The option of a successor (as happened in similar circumstances in Kazakhstan) creeps into the minds of the powerful – even in Belarus. It would not be a problem to guarantee the dictator a peaceful old age somewhere in Russia. But he trusts no one and thinks he can only stay alive as long as he holds the lives of nine and a half million citizens in his hands. We don’t even know if there are forces within the army that are getting tired of this situation and would be ready to revolt. The options are few: either Putin annexes Belarus; or there is a coup d’état by actors whose names and faces are currently unknown; or the international community manages to convince the old fool to surrender – and it is clear that we are all hoping for the latter. What is certain is that this cannot go on indefinitely.


[1] 09.02.2021 Six months of protests in Belarus: Lukashenko hasn’t gone, people are tired, what next? DW News, see more: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p1se2ZgsRJU

[2] https://www.belaruswomen.org/en/ ; https://www.belaruswomen.org/en/political-prisoners

[3] 29.06.2020 Belarus: Growing crackdown on human rights ahead of presidential election, Amnesty International Public statement; see more: https://www.amnesty.org/download/Documents/EUR4926202020ENGLISH.pdf

[4] 29.06.2020 Belarus: Growing crackdown on human rights ahead of presidential election, Amnesty International Public statement; see more: https://www.amnesty.org/download/Documents/EUR4926202020ENGLISH.pdf

[5] https://www.dw.com/ru/ne-tolko-babariko-kakie-eshhe-gromkie-sudebnye-processy-zhdut-v-belarusi/a-58209206

[6] https://euroradio.fm/ru/zashchitnik-babariko-zayavil-chto-ne-znaet-gde-nahoditsya-eks-bankir

[7] https://belaruspartisan.by/politic/486205/ ; https://www.bbc.com/russian/features-57593640

[8] YouTube channel of Sergey Tikhanovskiy: https://www.youtube.com/c/%D0%A1%D1%82%D1%80%D0%B0%D0%BD%D0%B0%D0%B4%D0%BB%D1%8F%D0%B6%D0%B8%D0%B7%D0%BD%D0%B8/featured

[9] https://www.dw.com/ru/tihanovskij-spustja-god-aresta-budu-sidet-stolko-skolko-pozvolit-narod/a-57691479

[10] https://www.dw.com/ru/v-zakrytom-rezhime-pod-kamery-gossmi-za-chto-v-belarusi-sudjat-tihanovskogo/a-58030375

[11] https://www.dw.com/ru/v-mid-germanii-prokommentirovali-nachalo-suda-nad-tihanovskim/a-58024824

[12] https://lithuaniatribune.com/belarus-hesitant-about-facilitated-border-crossing-with-lithuania/

[13] https://kyky.org/hero/pora-zanimat-mesta-v-pervom-ryadu-shraybman-dal-pervoe-intervyu-o-lichnom-i-o-tom-kak-lyudi-iz-rezhima-gotovyatsya-provozhat-lukashenko

[14] https://euroradio.fm/ru/dumal-eto-na-mesyac-belorusy-kotorye-uehali-i-nadeyalis-skoro-vernutsya

[15] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NxqziFKy61M

[16] https://meduza.io/feature/2021/05/19/my-tak-mnogo-sdelali-i-ne-smogli-pobedit

[17] https://meduza.io/feature/2021/05/19/my-tak-mnogo-sdelali-i-ne-smogli-pobedit

[18] https://www.flightradar24.com/blog/ryanair-flight-4978-to-vilnius-forcibly-diverted-to-minsk/

[19] https://www.ilpost.it/2021/06/25/roman-protasevich-sofia-sapega-arresti-domiciliari-bielorussia/ ; https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-57607580

[20] https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=OJ:L:2021:219I:FULL&from=EN

[21] https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=OJ:L:2021:219I:FULL&from=EN

[22] https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2021/06/21/belarus-fourth-package-of-eu-sanctions-over-enduring-repression-and-the-forced-landing-of-a-ryanair-flight/

[23] https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=OJ:L:2021:219I:FULL&from=EN

[24] https://www.rbc.ru/economics/06/02/2020/5e3be6489a7947af0b4334fc

[25] https://www.forbes.ru/profile/mihail-gutseriev ; https://www.rbc.ru/technology_and_media/23/06/2021/60d1db5a9a7947d54e4625a7 ; https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=OJ:L:2021:219I:FULL&from=EN

[26] https://mogilev.online/2020/04/16/138256.html

[27] https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=OJ:L:2021:219I:FULL&from=EN

[28] https://euroradio.fm/ru/semya-oligarha-oleksina-prodala-svoi-evropeyskie-biznesy

[29] https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=OJ:L:2021:219I:FULL&from=EN

[30] https://mogilev.online/2020/04/16/138256.html

[31] https://dev.by/news/kipod-by

[32] https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=OJ:L:2021:219I:FULL&from=EN

[33] https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=OJ:L:2021:219I:FULL&from=EN

[34] https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=OJ:L:2021:219I:FULL&from=EN

[35] https://mogilev.online/2020/04/16/138256.html

[36] https://euobserver.com/world/152217 ; https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=OJ:L:2021:219I:FULL&from=EN

[37] https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2021/06/21/belarus-fourth-package-of-eu-sanctions-over-enduring-repression-and-the-forced-landing-of-a-ryanair-flight/

[38] https://ria.ru/20210622/lukashenko-1738156364.html?in=t

[39] https://ria.ru/20210622/lukashenko-1738156364.html?in=t

[40] https://euobserver.com/world/152217 ; https://www.bbc.com/russian/news-57555158

[41] https://ria.ru/20210625/sanktsii-1738521306.html ; https://euobserver.com/world/152194

[42] https://kali.by/company/

[43] https://euobserver.com/world/152194

[44] https://euobserver.com/world/152194

[45] https://ria.ru/20210625/sanktsii-1738521306.html ; https://euobserver.com/world/152194

[46] https://ria.ru/20210625/sanktsii-1738521306.html

[47] https://euobserver.com/world/152217

[48] https://euobserver.com/world/152217

[49] https://euobserver.com/world/152217

[50] https://ria.ru/20210622/lukashenko-1738156364.html?in=t

[51] https://china.mfa.gov.by/ru/bilateral/

[52] https://ria.ru/20210621/sud-1737886823.html?in=t

[53] https://ria.ru/20210621/sud-1737886823.html?in=t

[54] https://euobserver.com/world/152194

[55] https://www.lphr.org/ ; https://riforma.it/it/articolo/2020/12/17/un-innocente-nulla-e-peggio-delloblio

[56] https://www.lphr.org/en/europa-muss-das-belarusische-terror-regime-stoppen/ ; https://www.dw.com/ru/pisma-dengi-shefstvo-pravozashhitnik-o-pomoshhi-politzakljuchennym-belarusi/a-56361087 ; https://www.dw.com/ru/konvejer-repressij-v-belarusi-chto-govorjat-v-germanii/a-58294257

[57] https://riforma.it/it/articolo/2020/12/17/un-innocente-nulla-e-peggio-delloblio

[58] https://mfa.gov.by/ministry/senior_staff/

[59] https://www.gazeta.ru/business/news/2021/07/19/n_16264700.shtml

[60] https://www.rbc.ru/politics/29/05/2021/60b264e49a7947a3b8d1529e?

[61] https://foreignpolicy.com/2021/06/21/putin-lukashenko-belarus-sanctions/

[62] https://foreignpolicy.com/2021/06/21/putin-lukashenko-belarus-sanctions/

[63] https://www.kali.by/en/

[64] http://belarus-tractor.com/en/

[65] https://www.rbc.ru/politics/29/05/2021/60b264e49a7947a3b8d1529e?

[66] https://china.mfa.gov.by/ru/bilateral/

[67] https://lenta.ru/articles/2020/07/20/lukashenko/

[68] https://lenta.ru/articles/2021/06/08/nezavidnyi_partner/

[69] https://sputnik.by/20181211/Chaynataun-pod-Minskom-iz-Kitaya-perevozyat-dazhe-babushek-1039098581.html

[70] https://lenta.ru/articles/2021/06/08/nezavidnyi_partner/

[71] https://ria.ru/20210525/mid-1733776209.html

[72] https://russian.rt.com/ussr/article/749540-belorussiya-lukashenko-kitai-si-tszinpin-raketostroenie

[73] https://sputnik.by/20190313/Bolee-3-tysyach-studentov-iz-Kitaya-uchatsya-v-Belarusi-1040481576.html

[74] https://times.bntu.by/news/8247-kitayskih-studentov-na-angliyskom

[75] https://belarusdigest.com/story/not-all-roads-lead-to-moscow-belarusian-arms-industries-between-russia-and-china/

[76] https://industrialpark.by/ ; https://lenta.ru/articles/2021/06/08/nezavidnyi_partner/

[77] https://expert.ru/expert/2020/39/shelkovyij-tupik-kitaya/

[78] http://belgee.by/

[79] https://expert.ru/expert/2020/39/shelkovyij-tupik-kitaya/

[80] http://belgee.by/belgee/o-predpriyatii

[81] https://lenta.ru/articles/2021/06/08/nezavidnyi_partner/

[82] https://www.dw.com/ru/konvejer-repressij-v-belarusi-chto-govorjat-v-germanii/a-58294257

[83] https://www.golosameriki.com/a/belarus-press-freedom/5871377.html

[84] https://rsf.org/fr/belarus

[85] https://euroradio.fm/ru/soyuznoe-negosudarstvo-zachem-lukashenko-letal-k-putinu-strim-v-1300 ; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cvhAljT6Nmg

[86] https://foreignpolicy.com/2021/06/21/putin-lukashenko-belarus-sanctions/

[87] https://www.dw.com/ru/chto-proishodit-s-tutby-i-drugimi-media-v-belarusi-vzgljad-iznutri/a-57552373

[88] https://www.dw.com/ru/chto-proishodit-s-tutby-i-drugimi-media-v-belarusi-vzgljad-iznutri/a-57552373

[89] https://tech.onliner.by/2021/07/12/eshhe-10-chatov-i-kanalov-telegram-obyavleny-ekstremistskimi

[90] https://reform.by/242278-10-uchastnikov-radikalnyh-chatov-poluchili-ot-5-do-9-let-kolonii

[91] https://tech.onliner.by/2021/07/12/onliner-otklyuchaet-kommentarii

[92] https://meduza.io/feature/2021/05/19/my-tak-mnogo-sdelali-i-ne-smogli-pobedit

[93] https://t.me/tribuna_by/20689

[94] https://t.me/nashaniva/30819

[95] https://t.me/nashaniva/30496 ; https://novayagazeta.ru/articles/2021/07/09/nasha-niva-glavreda-izdaniia-egora-martinovicha-izbili-pri-zaderzhanii

[96] https://www.dw.com/ru/konvejer-repressij-v-belarusi-chto-govorjat-v-germanii/a-58294257 ; https://reform.by/242279-v-redakciju-regionalnoj-gazety-v-molodechno-prishli-siloviki

[97] https://www.dw.com/ru/chto-proishodit-s-tutby-i-drugimi-media-v-belarusi-vzgljad-iznutri/a-57552373

[98] https://www.dw.com/ru/chto-proishodit-s-tutby-i-drugimi-media-v-belarusi-vzgljad-iznutri/a-57552373

[99] https://www.faz.net/aktuell/politik/ausland/junger-mann-in-belarus-nach-pruegel-gestorben-17051187.html

[100] https://www.bbc.com/russian/media-57289898

[101] https://www.reporter-ohne-grenzen.de/barometer/2021/journalisten-in-haft

[102] https://www.golosameriki.com/a/belarus-press-freedom/5871377.html

[103] https://t.me/viasna96/6303

[104] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/jul/23/belarus-ngos-condemn-government-crackdown-after-black-week-of-raids

[105] https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/IT/TXT/PDF/?uri=OJ:L:2021:219I:FULL&from=EN

[106] https://kyky.org/hero/mne-pishut-chto-otrezhut-golovu-lichnyy-vrag-lukashenko-dmitriy-bolkunets-o-zachistkah-neugodnyh-i-epohe-posle-diktatora

[107] https://tomin.by/news/cult/21744-pavel-legkij ; https://marketing.by/novosti-rynka/pavel-legkiy-osvobozhden-ot-dolzhnosti-pervogo-zamestitelya-ministra-informatsii/

[108] https://kyky.org/hero/mne-pishut-chto-otrezhut-golovu-lichnyy-vrag-lukashenko-dmitriy-bolkunets-o-zachistkah-neugodnyh-i-epohe-posle-diktatora

[109] https://kyky.org/hero/ya-absolyutno-tochno-budu-politikom-kyky-zadal-kolesnikovoy-tihanovskoy-i-tsepkalo-odinakovye-voprosy-vot-chto-oni-govoryat

[110] https://www.glistatigenerali.com/diritti-umani/come-tre-ragazze-potrebbero-salvare-la-bielorussia/ ; https://www.glistatigenerali.com/diritti-umani_partiti-politici/lo-strazio-degli-abbandonati-la-bielorussia-non-si-arrende-al-tiranno/

[111] 09.02.2021 Six months of protests in Belarus: Lukashenko hasn’t gone, people are tired, what next? DW News, see more: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p1se2ZgsRJU ; https://www.svoboda.org/a/svetlana-tihanovskaya-nahoditsya-s-vizitom-v-ssha/31365775.html

[112] https://reform.by/242030-svetlana-tihanovskaja-pribyla-v-ssha ;

[113] https://www.dw.com/ru/vstrecha-bajdena-c-tihanovskoj-bolshe-chem-simvolism/a-58696745

[114] https://www.dw.com/ru/valerij-i-veronika-cepkalo-lukashenko-vedet-sebja-kak-terrorist/a-56475900 ; https://web.archive.org/web/20210429195217/https://rebenok.by/articles/together/psychology/29118-chetyre-mesyatsa-ne-razbirala-chemodany-veronika-tsepkalo-o-pereezde-v-rigu-i-vospitany-synovei.html

[115] https://www.belaruswomen.org/en/

[116] https://www.dw.com/ru/marii-kolesnikovoj-vruchena-nemeckaja-premija-v-oblasti-prav-cheloveka/a-56489939

[117] https://www.dw.com/ru/marii-kolesnikovoj-prisuzhdena-shtutgartskaja-premija-mira/a-58250614

[118] https://www.dw.com/ru/marii-kolesnikovoj-vruchena-nemeckaja-premija-v-oblasti-prav-cheloveka/a-56489939

[119] 09.02.2021 Six months of protests in Belarus: Lukashenko hasn’t gone, people are tired, what next? DW News, see more: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p1se2ZgsRJU

[120] https://kyky.org/hero/ya-absolyutno-tochno-budu-politikom-kyky-zadal-kolesnikovoy-tihanovskoy-i-tsepkalo-odinakovye-voprosy-vot-chto-oni-govoryat

[121] https://belsat.eu/ru/news/05-07-2021-delo-marii-kolesnikovoj-i-maksima-znaka-postupilo-v-sud/

[122] https://belsat.eu/ru/news/25-06-2021-genprokuratura-napravila-v-sud-delo-kolesnikovoj-i-znaka/

[123] https://belsat.eu/ru/news/05-07-2021-delo-marii-kolesnikovoj-i-maksima-znaka-postupilo-v-sud/

[124] https://kyky.org/hero/ya-absolyutno-tochno-budu-politikom-kyky-zadal-kolesnikovoy-tihanovskoy-i-tsepkalo-odinakovye-voprosy-vot-chto-oni-govoryat

[125] https://www.lrt.lt/naujienos/lietuvoje/2/1447941/sakaliene-po-apsilankymo-uzkardoje-is-zmoniu-surenkami-pinigai-suplesomi-dokumentai-ir-nurodoma-kryptis

[126] https://belsat.eu/ru/news/25-07-2021-v-litve-zaderzhali-eshhe-133-migranta-na-granitse-s-belarusyu/

[127] https://rus.delfi.ee/statja/93976779/evrosoyuz-napravit-v-litvu-vertolety-dlya-kontrolya-granicy-s-belarusyu

[128] https://euobserver.com/world/152305

[129] https://rus.delfi.ee/statja/93976779/evrosoyuz-napravit-v-litvu-vertolety-dlya-kontrolya-granicy-s-belarusyu

[130] https://www.lrt.lt/ru/novosti/17/1449984/seim-litvy-priznal-nelegal-nuiu-migratsiiu-iz-belarusi-gibridnoi-agressiei

[131] https://www.asil.org/insights/volume/21/issue/14/hybrid-warfare-aggression-and-coercion-gray-zone

[132] https://www.lrt.lt/ru/novosti/17/1452513/zhivoe-miaso-gibridnoi-voiny-rassledovanie-o-potoke-migrantov-v-litvu

[133] https://novayagazeta.ru/articles/2021/07/24/estoniia-otpravit-v-litvu-100-km-koliuchei-provoloki-dlia-steny-na-granitse-s-belarusiu-v-samoi-litve-ne-khvataet-materialov

[134] https://www.lrt.lt/ru/novosti/17/1448590/ukreplenie-granitsy-s-belarus-iu-oboidetsia-litve-v-42-mln-evro

[135] Migrante illegale sugli aiuti militari bielorussi, Lukashenko e le condizioni in Lituania, DW, Youtube, see more: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EYHHpPf2V-4

[136] https://www.lrs.lt/sip/portal.show?p_r=35299&p_k=2&p_a=498&p_asm_id=43

[137] https://www.lrt.lt/naujienos/lietuvoje/2/1449535/tarp-seimo-nariu-siulymu-del-neteisetos-migracijos-problemos-ideja-akcentuoti-rezimo-remiama-prekyba-zmonemis

[138] https://www.lrt.lt/naujienos/lietuvoje/2/1449535/tarp-seimo-nariu-siulymu-del-neteisetos-migracijos-problemos-ideja-akcentuoti-rezimo-remiama-prekyba-zmonemis

[139] Migrante illegale sugli aiuti militari bielorussi, Lukashenko e le condizioni in Lituania, DW, Youtube, see more: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EYHHpPf2V-4

[140] Migrante illegale sugli aiuti militari bielorussi, Lukashenko e le condizioni in Lituania, DW, Youtube, see more: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EYHHpPf2V-4

[141] https://www.lrt.lt/ru/novosti/17/1452513/zhivoe-miaso-gibridnoi-voiny-rassledovanie-o-potoke-migrantov-v-litvu

[142] https://www.lrt.lt/ru/novosti/17/1452513/zhivoe-miaso-gibridnoi-voiny-rassledovanie-o-potoke-migrantov-v-litvu ; https://news.zerkalo.io/life/348.html?tg

[143] https://news.zerkalo.io/economics/1120.html

[144] https://www.lrt.lt/ru/novosti/17/1452513/zhivoe-miaso-gibridnoi-voiny-rassledovanie-o-potoke-migrantov-v-litvu

[145] https://www.lrt.lt/ru/novosti/17/1447216/prem-er-ispanii-prokommentiroval-problemy-s-litvy-s-migrantami

[146] https://www.lrt.lt/ru/novosti/17/1449131/pol-sha-sobiraetsia-pomoch-litve-s-migratsionnym-krizisom

[147] https://svaboda.azureedge.net/a/31370211.html

[148] https://www.lrt.lt/ru/novosti/17/1449713/anushauskas-canktsii-za-organizatsiiu-potoka-migrantov-mogut-zatronut-i-aviakompanii ; https://www.lrt.lt/ru/novosti/17/1449743/glava-mid-litvy-chleny-es-sklony-odobrit-novye-sanktsii-belarusi

[149] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KgwM7U7F654

[150] http://www.asianews.it/notizie-it/Putin-vuole-liberarsi-di-Luka%C5%A1enko-53540.html

[151] https://www.gazzetta.it/olimpiadi/01-08-2021/olimpiadi-bielorussa-timanovskaja-rimpatriata-forza-chiede-aiuto-cio-420101065755.shtml

[152] https://kyky.org/hero/doveli-do-isteriki-muzh-timanovskoy-rasskazal-kak-pokinul-belarus-i-chto-ih-semya-budet-delat-teper

[153] https://news.zerkalo.io/life/1103.html?popular_desktop=

[154] https://kyky.org/hero/doveli-do-isteriki-muzh-timanovskoy-rasskazal-kak-pokinul-belarus-i-chto-ih-semya-budet-delat-teper

[155] https://kyky.org/hero/doveli-do-isteriki-muzh-timanovskoy-rasskazal-kak-pokinul-belarus-i-chto-ih-semya-budet-delat-teper

[156] https://www.dw.com/ru/valerij-i-veronika-cepkalo-lukashenko-vedet-sebja-kak-terrorist/a-56475900

[157] https://ksds.by/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/predlozheniya_po_izmeneniyu_konstituczii.pdf

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