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Belarus Weekly: European Parliament calls for special tribunal for Putin, Lukashenko

by Maria Yeryoma January 27, 2023 3:16 PM 5 min read
Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko speaks during a press conference with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Dec. 19, 2022, in Minsk, Belarus. (Getty Images)
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The week marks the 160th anniversary of the 1863 uprising against Russian imperial rule.

The January uprising led by Kastus Kalinouski was an attempt to re-establish a joint Polish, Lithuanian, and Belarusian independent state.

The most prominent Belarusian military formation fighting for Ukraine bears his name.

Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko claims Ukraine offered to sign a non-aggression pact. Ukraine responded by saying it never planned aggression in the first place.

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Belarus Weekly

The European Parliament adopts a resolution for a special tribunal for Russian and Belarusian top military leadership, including Lukashenko.

A government-controlled committee will be established in Belarus to decide whether exiled dissidents can return to Belarus without the threat of prosecution.

Belarusian Parliament passed legislation to help eradicate the remaining political parties opposing the regime and switch the country to a de-facto one-party system.

The Belarusian KGB takes hostages to stop reports about Russian military movement on the railroads.

The wife of a political prisoner receives a 2-year sentence over an interview with local media that was retroactively labeled "extremist."

A street musician is on trial for singing a song in Ukrainian.

Lukashenko claims Kyiv asked Minsk to sign non-aggression pact

Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko claimed on Jan. 24 that he was asked to sign a non-aggression pact with Ukraine.

"They are asking us not to go to war with Ukraine in any circumstances, not to move our troops there," Lukashenko said. "They are proposing we conclude a non-aggression pact."

Lukashenko revealed the alleged proposal at a meeting of Belarusian state and law enforcement officials. He also once again spread a series of unsubstantiated claims.

He did not elaborate on the claim of some sort of pact.

"We did not intend and do not intend to attack Belarus," President Volodymyr Zelensky said in response to Lukashenko's mention of a proposed agreement. However, Zelensky did not directly respond to the allegations.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said he had "no information" regarding Lukashenko's non-aggression pact claims.

Belarus is a co-belligerent in Russia's full-scale war against Ukraine. Ukrainian intelligence reported on Jan. 25 that there are currently 5,800 Russian troops stationed in Belarus.

On Jan. 21, Ukrainian intelligence noted that "there is no threat from Belarus on a full-scale group operation."

Belarus to create state-controlled committee to 'welcome' exiled dissidents back into country

On Jan. 24, Belarusian dictator Lukashenko reiterated the need to return "fugitives" – the term used by Belarusian officials in reference to exiled opponents of the regime – back to the country.

Prosecutor General Andrei Shved announced the creation of an interdepartmental commission to decide whether a dissident can return to the country without facing charges.

Since 2020, hundreds of thousands of Belarusians have left the country.

40,000 Belarusians are residing in neighboring Lithuania. 86% of them reported fear for their safety in Belarus.

At least 100,000 Belarusians were part of the Polish Social Security system as of November 2022, according to Poland's Social Security agency.

The stagnant Belarusian economy is lacking at least 100,000 workers. Lukashenko has repeatedly been claiming that there should be a way for the "fugitives" to return home after "compensating for the damage."

Meanwhile, the Belarusian Border Committee reported detaining 52 "extremists" at the border upon returning to Belarus in 2022.

Political prisoner Tatsiana Kurylina, who believed the authorities' promise and returned to Belarus, now awaits trial facing up to 15 years behind bars for administering a Telegram chat.

Exiled opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya urged Belarusians not to trust the regime's promise.

Belarus passes bill further restricting political parties

On Jan. 25, the Belarus parliament passed a bill "On political parties and other public associations," imposing further restrictions on their creation and existence.

The bill raises the minimum number of political party members from 1,000 to 5,000 and requires that political parties' founders are born in and reside in Belarus.

According to Belarusian state news agency BelTA, political parties may be disbanded "in the event of war propaganda, terrorist, extremist, and other activities prohibited by the law, activities that harm the state (or) public interests, as well as the receipt of funds and other property from foreign sources."

The bill also proposes to "lift the ban on financing political parties from the central budget or local budgets," said BelTA.

Belarus in 2022: War, death, and a very grim place

More Belarusian railway saboteurs arrested

Three more Belarusian activists who were arrested for having disrupted the transit of Russian troops and equipment toward Ukraine have gone to trial in the city of Mahiliou.

According to human rights watchdog Viasna, the closed trials of Dzmitryi Klimau, Uladzimir Auramtsau, and Yauhen Minkevich began on Jan. 23. They are charged with treason and participating in "extremist activities."

At the beginning of Russia's full-scale war against Ukraine, Belarusian activists attempted to disrupt the transit of Russian supplies and personnel toward Ukraine.

The activists' actions are said to have helped thwart the Russian attack through Belarusian territory.

European Parliament calls for special tribunal for Putin, Lukashenko

The European Parliament, on Jan. 19, voted for the creation of a special tribunal that could prosecute Putin and Lukashenko for crimes of aggression against Ukraine.

The European Parliament noted that the tribunal "must have jurisdiction to investigate not only Vladimir Putin and the political and military leadership of Russia, but also Aliaksandr Lukashenka and his cronies in Belarus."

The vast majority of lawmakers backed the non-binding resolution.

President Volodymyr Zelensky welcomed the announcement, calling on "all our partners to support such a tribunal."

Wife of jailed journalist sentenced to two years in prison

Belarusian authorities sentenced Darya Losik, the wife of jailed journalist Ihar Losik, to two years in prison following an interview where she said her husband was illegally convicted.

The Belarusian Prosecutor General's Office claimed that Darya "positioned herself as the wife of a 'political prisoner'" in her interview with independent broadcaster Belsat, which Minsk has labeled an "extremist group."

Darya was convicted of facilitating so-called "extremist activity" one day after the trial started.

Ihar Losik, a freelance writer for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) and the author of a Telegram channel that was the mouthpiece for political protests in 2020, was earlier sentenced to 16 years in prison.

In July 2022, Losik was labeled a "terrorist" by the state.

Ihar and Darya Losik have a four-year-old daughter, Polina, who is reportedly staying with Darya's parents.

Belarusian musician taken to trial for singing Ukrainian song

Belarusian singer Meryem Herasimenka is on trial in Minsk.

She was detained in August 2022 for performing a song by Ukrainian band Okean Elzy on Minsk's Zybitskaya Street.

Herasimenka was accused of "actively participating in groups that grossly violate public order." If convicted, the singer could face up to four years in jail.

Belarusian law enforcement also published a recording in 2022 in which she is shown confessing to participating in the protests that followed the fraudulent 2020 Belarusian presidential elections and donating to Ukraine's military.

Following her detention in 2022, Belarusian authorities reportedly arrested several street performers.

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