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Belarus Weekly: Russia transfers additional air defense systems to Belarus

by Maria Yeryoma December 2, 2022 1:48 PM 5 min read
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (L) and his Belarusian counterpart Vladimir Makei held a meeting in Moscow. Makei suddenly died on Nov. 26, 2022, two days prior to a meeting with Lavrov. (Getty Images)
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Russia transfers additional air defense systems to Belarus.

Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko's aggressive rhetoric towards Ukraine continues, as he boasts that the ongoing war will mean the "complete destruction of Ukraine."

The European Parliament issued a motion to condemn the repression of Belarusian civil society by Lukashenko's regime, as well as Minsk's continued complicity in Russia's full-scale war.

In the aftermath of accusations that IKEA sources furniture made by Belarusian prisoners, investigations reveal similar circumstances for other European furniture giants.

Jailed opposition leader Maria Kalesnikava was transferred to intensive care after being held in solitary confinement.

The migrant crisis engineered by Lukashenko's regime continues, as Ukrainian border guards detain six South Asian migrants coming from Belarus.

Belarus' foreign minister dies "suddenly" at the age of 64.

Russia transfers 15 air defense systems to Belarus

Russia has transferred a large convoy of military equipment to Belarus, including at least 15 Tor-M2 surface-to-air missile systems and 10 engineering vehicles, Belarusian monitoring group Belarusian Hajun reported on Nov. 28.

According to the report, "this is not the last military convoy with a cargo of this type."

Up to 12,000 mobilized Russian recruits are stationed in Belarus, the Ukrainian military's National Resistance Center reported on Nov. 25.

Could mobilization, battlefield defeats cost Putin his regime?

Lukashenko: Continuing war means 'complete destruction of Ukraine'

In an interview on Nov. 23, Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko said that the continuation of Russia's war would mean the "complete destruction of Ukraine."

Lukashenko blamed Kyiv's so-called unwillingness to negotiate with Moscow as a reason for the ongoing war, saying that "everything is in Ukraine's hands." He also claimed that the war will last one or two years.

As a co-belligerent in Russia's full-scale war, Minsk has sought to exonerate Moscow for its actions, instead blaming Ukraine for the war.

Mykhailo Podolyak, an advisor to the head of Ukraine's Presidential Office, said Lukashenko's comments "demonstrate his absolute isolation from the real world."

Podolyak added that Russia does not have "years," but rather that "everything will end much faster, much more destructively for them," citing the recent liberation of Kharkiv Oblast and Kherson by Ukrainian forces.

European Parliament condemns repressions by Lukashenko's regime, complicity in Russia's war

On Nov. 24, the European Parliament filed a motion on the "continuing repression of the democratic opposition and civil society in Belarus." The motion also condemns the continued involvement of Lukashenko's regime in enabling "Russia's unjustified war of aggression against Ukraine."

The motion called for sanctions to be imposed on Belarus, as well as urged for the evasion of sanctions to be punished.

On Nov. 23, the European Parliament passed a resolution marking Russia as a "state sponsor of terrorism," saying Russia's deliberate attacks on civilian targets, including energy infrastructure, schools, and shelters, violate international law.

Russia has targeted Ukraine from Belarusian territory since the start of its full-scale war.

On Nov. 28, the European Council criminalized the evasion of sanctions. The impact that this will have on Belarus remains to be seen.

Jailed opposition leader Maria Kalesnikava transferred to intensive care

Jailed opposition leader Maria Kalesnikava was admitted into intensive care and underwent surgery, according to Belarusian officials, although they have not provided further details.

Kalesnikava's family told the Guardian that she is in a "grave but stable condition."

Kalesnikava worked alongside Belarusian opposition leaders Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya and Veronika Tsepkalo following the fraudulent 2020 Belarusian presidential election, in which incumbent autocrat Lukashenko was declared the winner.

She has been imprisoned for over two years after resisting expulsion from Belarus. While the Belarusian KGB attempted to force her to leave Belarus in 2020, she tore up her passport and returned to Belarus, where she was immediately detained and sentenced to 11 years in prison.

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya: ‘Toughest sanctions for Russia will be free, democratic Belarus’

Belarus' foreign minister dies at 64

Belarus' long-standing foreign minister, Vladimir Makei, died suddenly on Nov. 26, according to Belarusian state-controlled media Belta. Belarusian authorities provided no further details regarding the nature of his passing.

Makei had attended a conference of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) in Yerevan, Armenia, earlier in the week and had been scheduled to meet with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on Nov. 28.

While he had expressed pro-Western views prior to the fraudulent 2020 Belarusian presidential election, he remained a loyal supporter of Lukashenko and was a proponent of closer ties between Moscow and Minsk.

Investigation: European furniture giants profit from prison labor in Belarus

Earthsight published an investigation on Nov. 25 alleging that European furniture companies continue to purchase products from Belarus despite sanctions amid Russia's full-scale war. Many of the products sold by Belarus were made using forced labor in Belarusian penal colonies.

The London-based environmental and social non-profit organization said that European furniture companies, such as German Polipol, Austrian XXXLutz, and French BUT, are continuing to use Belarusian timber.

Earthsight also interviewed past and current political prisoners at a few of the Belarusian penal colonies, who reportedly "testified to torture and maltreatment," to the "compulsory nature of work in the woodshops," and to the "terrible working conditions."

While furniture imports from Belarus were not initially on the sanctions list, the EU added them in April.

A report published on Nov. 17 by French investigative journalism initiative Disclose alleged that IKEA has sold furniture made by prisoners serving sentences in Belarusian penal colonies under forced labor conditions.

Disclose, citing accounting records and witness interviews, claims that a minimum of 10 of IKEA's subcontractors in Belarus "had ties with penal colonies over the past 10 years."

In a statement on Nov. 21, IKEA said it is "investigating the claims," noting that it has "no evidence to substantiate the claims made in the news reports."

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Ukrainian border guards detain migrants at Belarusian border

Ukraine's Border Guard Service reported that it detained six citizens of Pakistan and Bangladesh at its border with Belarus on Nov. 25.

The migrants claimed that they had been driven to Belarus' border with Ukraine by men in military uniforms and were indicated where to go.

The migrant crisis engineered by Minsk started to unfold in May 2021, when Lukashenko said he was no longer willing to protect the EU's borders from migration and facilitated an influx of migrants to Belarus.

The crisis peaked in November 2021, when Belarus forced thousands of asylum-seekers to cross Belarus' border into the EU.

The EU states bordering Belarus and Ukraine have started to construct walls along their borders with Belarus.

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