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January 16 – January 22, 2023
Society and political parties

The regime ramps up repression ahead of a spring offensive against Ukraine

The situation got worse

Unable to apprehend exiled opposition leaders, the Belarusian authorities began holding show trials in absentia. The regime’s targets are participants in the 2020 protests and Belarusian anti-war activists (especially those who gather data regarding military movements on Belarusian territory. Meanwhile, the Joint Transitional Cabinet ensures that issues affecting repressed Belarusians abroad are not forgotten. Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya’s office is attempting to arrange talks with the regime on the release of political prisoners with the assistance of Switzerland.

The Belarusian regime launched in absentia trials against Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, Pavel Latushka, Maryja Maroz, Volha Kavalkova and Siarhei Dyleuski. They allege that the creation of the Coordination Council was unconstitutional because its primary goals are the coordination of protest activities, fomenting popular dissatisfaction and social tension, seizure of state power, and unconstitutional removal of the current political leadership. The Prosecutor General’s Office also filed a criminal case against Uladzimir Astapenka, the former Belarusian ambassador to Argentina and deputy head of the representative of the National Anti-Crisis Management, and Aksana Zaretskaya, a core member of the Coordination Council, has been prosecuted for gross violation of public order.

The members of the “Litesound” musical group were detained along with their parents based on a photograph taken during one of the peaceful Sunday marches in 2020.

Yanina Sazanovich, Dzmitry Navosha, Daniil Bogdanovich, Volha Vysotskaya and Valeria Zanemonskaya were tried in absentia regarding the “Black Book of Belarus case” and were each sentenced to 12 years imprisonment for inciting social hatred and illegal dissemination of private and personal data.

Viktar Savashevich, the creator and administrator of the 23.34 telegram channel, was sentenced to 11 years in a high-security penal colony.

Following the sentencing of their singer Meriem Herasimenka to 3 years of home detention for performing the song of the Ukrainian band Okean Elzy at the bar on Zybitskaya str., the KGB classified Tor Band from Rahačoŭ as an extremist group, added them to the list maintained by the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

Human rights activists recognised nine more political prisoners: Dmitry Adarochkin, Andrey Kupreev, Vadim Baranov, Nikita Malyar, Maxim Polyansky, Petr Petrush, Ruslan Krasov, Alexander Sinitsa, Alexander Trush, who were convicted for insulting Lukashenka, insulting a government official, threatening an official, and damaging property. A total of 1,444 people are currently recognised as political prisoners in Belarus.

The Yanushkevich publishing house, which specialises in the books in Belarusian, had its license to publish books in Belarus revoked.

The Minsk City Executive Committee is gathering information about Ukrainians working for the city “regardless of the date of moving to the Republic of Belarus.” Previously, Belarusian Railways collected similar information about its employees.

Mazyrian Vadzim Baranaŭ was sentenced to 3 years in a penal colony for sending a video of Russian military activities. A resident of Vorša was detained for filming a train with military equipment. The 15-year-old brother of the administrator of the Telegram channel “Community of Railway Workers of Belarus”, with 8 thousand subscribers, was detained by the KGB. The channel is known for publishing information regarding military transport between Belarus, Russia and Russian-occupied Ukrainian territories.

Meanwhile, the Belarusian opposition in exile focuses on assistance to the repressed, support for independent Belarusian media, hiring of repressed Belarusians by Western companies, European Investment Bank and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development support for Belarusian businesses in the EU, issuance of documents to Belarusians with expired passports, and support for Belarusian culture. After the participation of Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya in the World Economic Forum (WEF), a representative for Belarus was appointed. The next important step in cooperation with the WEF may be the creation of the Belarusian Global Shapers Hub in Vilnius or Warsaw.

Belarusian democratic forces also intend to submit proposals to the International Labour Organization (ILO) regarding implementing article 33 of the ILO statute. Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya informed the head of the ILO about the latest wave of repressions against Belarusian workers, emphasising the systematic violations of their rights, and discussed the recent convictions of independent trade union leaders, including Aliaksandr Yaroshuk, who is an ILO board member. In connection with the regime renunciation of an agreement that allowed Belarusians to file complaints with the UN Human Rights Committee, Tsikhanouskaya called on the UN to introduce new mechanisms to address the human rights crisis in Belarus. During a meeting with Martin Kandinas, the President of the National Council of Switzerland, Tsikhanouskaya asked for assistance organising talks with the regime on releasing political prisoners; however, there it is unclear if the regime has any interest in negotiating.

 

 

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