The IMF awarded a payment totaling $1 billion to Belarus despite the lack of recognition of the current Belarusian government by the international community. The move comes shortly after the new economic sanctions have been imposed on Belarus and amid the talks about the need for even stricter ones, which makes the timing very inappropriate. “Belarus’ regime will use the money allocated by the IMF on repressions and not to support its people” tweeted Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya in response.
Hackers, known as the Belarus Cyber Partisans, in collaboration with defected law enforcement officials from BYPOL, got access to drone footage from protest crackdowns, the Interior Ministry’s mobile phone surveillance database, and databases for passports, motor vehicles, and more. The Partisans say they intend to undermine the regime at every level and eventually topple it. The information obtained by the group could serve as a crucial piece of evidence in any future investigations of the regime authorities.
The Malady Front (Young Front) leader Dzianis Urbanovich and two of his associates, Vital Tryhubaw and Siarhej Matskojts, were arrested in the southeastern region of Belarus on August 26 for “taking part in mass disorder” in the city of Mazyr last August.
Veranika Tsapkala, the wife of a former presidential candidate Valery Tsapkala, keeps fighting Lukashenka’s regime after she and her husband were forced to flee Belarus following the 2020 presidential elections. Now in Greece, she dedicates much of her time to the Belarusian Women’s Fund, collecting testimonies from women who were imprisoned or faced human rights abuses. The case constructed based on the testimony has already been sent to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
In a stunning blow to the concept of Belarusian sovereignty, Lukashenka drops some hints that the pillar statue of neutrality may be removed in the next draft of the Belarusian constitution. Having lost all wiggle room after the complete relationship shutdown with the West, Lukashenka has no choice but to succumb to Russian pressure.
“Belarus is on the front line of the struggle between autocracy and democracy. International support has been heartening, but more can be done,” writes Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the exiled democratic leader of Belarus, in her recent op-ed for The New York Times.
Belarus and Russia
The director of the Russian federal service for military-technical cooperation said that Russia is prepared to consider the possibility of supplying the air defense systems S-400 Triumf and Pantsir-S1 to Belarus. He remarked that Belarus was interested in a wide range of Russian military products and that bilateral military-technical cooperation has been developing steadily.
Repressions in Belarus
The “protest drummer” Aliaksej Sanchuk was the only person in the group who couldn’t escape abroad and was handed a stiff six-year prison sentence by the regime. Here’s an interview with his wife.
Aug 24: Belarus tightens grip on lawyers
Lawyers in Belarus keep facing pressure and harassment from the government. The attorneys who defended pro-democracy protesters receive threats from security forces saying they should leave the country or face repercussions, including possible license revocation and arrest.
Belarusian authorities have shut down the Belarusian Association of Journalists, the country’s largest independent journalists’ organization. The move represents a continuation of a crackdown waged by Lukashenka’s brutal apparatus against any form of dissent. This month, the authorities jailed 30 journalists, raided multiple newspapers, and closed PEN Belarus, a writers’ organization headed by Nobel literature laureate Svetlana Alexievich.
Many Belarusian activists who took part in the early days of the democratic protest in Belarus now find themselves in exile, fleeing repressions of the Lukashenka regime. Having escaped the persecution, Belarusians often do more to keep the democratic movement alive inside Belarus. Exiled activists continue to provide accurate information to the civil society in the country, coordinate small-scale protests, and spread the news of the latest abuses of the Lukashenka regime.
Belarus and Europe
Poland plans to erect a fence on its border with Belarus to halt the flow of migrants, mainly from Iraq and Afghanistan, seeking entry to the European Union. Poland, along with Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, accuses Lukashenka’s regime of waging a “hybrid war” by using migrants as a tool to cause instability in the E.U.
The Lukashenka regime continues to smuggle undocumented migrants across E.U. borders. More than 2,000 undocumented migrants from the Middle East and Afghanistan have crossed into Poland from Belarus in the last month alone. In a joint statement, Poland and the Baltic states denounced the use of refugees as weapons and called to defend the Eastern border of the E.U. Lithuania has already proposed that the E.U. sanction Belarusian citizens and companies which it says are helping migrants cross into the E.U. member states.
A humanitarian crisis is unfolding in no man’s land on the border of Belarus with Poland. As Lukashenka continues to play the cruel game of human trafficking by delivering migrants to the borders of the E.U., this group of mostly Afghan refugees appears to be seeing the worst of it. Out in the open, with little or no protection against the rain, the people are deprived of basic necessities like using toilets. With both sides blaming each other, even access by the doctor is blocked for this group of refugees.
NATO’s Counter Hybrid Support Team will assist with analysis, risk assessment, and communication strategies during the Belarus-Lithuania border crisis. The NATO team will be composed of a small group of experts and arrive in Lithuania in September.
The E.U. and the U.K. sanctions do not ban Belarus’ largest export category of potash products. Products that do not contravene E.U. sanctions appear set to continue to transit through neighboring Lithuania if the necessary financing can be secured. It is not immediately clear if European commercial banks are willing to cooperate with BPC (Belaruskali trader) due to the extraterritorial nature of the U.S. sanctions. The European Commission said it is “in principle” against this effect of the U.S. sanctions. Still, BPC is confident that transshipment will continue.
Wales manager Robert Page commented on the decision to make his side play their World Cup qualifier against Belarus in Russia next month. The Wales national team is unable to travel to Belarus because of the travel restrictions imposed after the forced Ryanair plane landing.
The country has completed the 2021 harvest, threshing 6.2 million tonnes of grain, compared with 7.2 million tonnes in 2020.