November 2 – November 8, 2015

Wiretapping controversy now in Belarus

The situation has not changed
Wiretapping controversy now in Belarus

The scale of the wiretapping allows assumptions that secret services were involved. Were these Russian secret services?

Last week, the Belarusian KGB arrested members of a criminal group which specialized on tapping government officials (mostly representatives of the law enforcement agencies – the Ministry of Interior, the Investigation Committee, the Ministry of Emergency Situations and Customs bodies), businessmen and journalists (from the state-owned and independent media).

According to the KGB press service, members of the group tapped offices, phones, as well as hacked email accounts, Skype, WhatsApp, Viber and social networks. This is the first disclosure of such crimes in Belarus and the first of such a large scale: more than 80 searches, 20 criminal cases under Article 203 of the Criminal Code – Violation of the secrecy of correspondence, telephone or other conversations, postal, telegraphic or other communications – were initiated against customers.

The information about customers of the wiretapping, which lasted three years, was not disclosed. However, the fact that the KGB officials made it all public probably means that they wanted to send a signal to some alleged customers. The scale of the group’s activities allows assumptions that it was somehow associated with the secret services. If these were the Belarusian secret services, the aggravation of the war between the law enforcement agencies had started. If, which is more likely, these were the Russian special services, this disclosure would be the first public suppression of their activities and a warning for the future.

Interestingly, there are some similarities between this case and a similar one in 2014 in Warsaw, reported by the Polish media.

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Once a week, in coordination with a group of prominent Belarusian analysts, we provide analytical commentaries on the most topical and relevant issues, including the behind-the-scenes processes occurring in Belarus. These commentaries are available in Belarusian, Russian, and English.

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