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Belarus Weekly: Russia continues to conduct airstrikes against Ukraine from Belarus

by Maria Yeryoma August 5, 2022 2:25 PM 5 min read
Participants gathered for a rally in Aachen after the Charlemagne Prize ceremony. Three prominent civil rights activists from Belarus were awarded the International Charlemagne Prize on 26 May 2022. (Getty Images)
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Editor's Note: The Kyiv Independent is providing readers with a weekly roundup to help explain current events in Belarus. To receive the Belarus Weekly newsletter subscribe via this LINK.

Belarusian territory remains a staging ground for Russia’s military, as Russian airstrikes on Ukraine continue to be conducted from Belarus’ Zyabrovka air base.

Ukraine’s General Staff reports that Russia is sending its reconnaissance groups from Belarus to Ukraine.

Meanwhile, the head of the Russian proxies in Ukraine’s occupied Donetsk Oblast visits Belarus. While Belarus does not officially recognize Russia’s proxies in Ukraine, Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko hinted that he doesn’t oppose their existence.

For the first time, the Belarusian court sentences a person for attempting to join the Kastus Kalinouski regiment, a Belarusian formation fighting as part of the Ukrainian army against Russia.

A trial begins in Minsk against three men accused of plotting to assassinate Lukashenko and planning to conduct a coup d’état.

Belarus’ Deputy Foreign Minister dubs human rights a “utopia,” proposing that the implementation of human rights not be enforced at the international level.

Russia strikes Ukraine with Iskander missiles from Belarusian territory

On July 28, Russia launched missile strikes targeting Ukraine’s Chernihiv and Kyiv oblasts.

The monitoring group Belarusian Hayun counted at least 25 missiles fired from the Zyabrovka airfield in Belarus’ southern Homel region, which had allegedly been passed under Russian control, according to recent reports.

Belarusian Hayun suggests that based on the number of rockets fired, at least six Iskander rocket launchers may be stationed at Zyabrovka.

Yuri Ignat, a representative of Ukraine’s Air Force Command, said that the recent Russian attacks are carried out from three main directions – Iskander missiles fired from Belarus, planes loaded with Kh-22 rockets taking off from Russian Shaikovka airport, and Kalibr rockets launched from the Black Sea.

Russia launches reconnaissance groups into Ukraine from Belarus

Russia continues to use Belarusian territory as a staging ground for attacks on Ukraine.

According to the spokesperson for Ukraine’s General Staff Oleksandr Shtupun, Russia is moving reconnaissance units through Belarus and into Ukraine.

Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of Ukraine’s Presidential Office, reported that the border is now reinforced and equipped with modern tracking systems.

Belarus hasn’t commented on the allegations.

Top Russian militant visits Belarus

On July 27, the head of Russia’s proxies in the occupied regions of Ukraine’s Donetsk Oblast, Denis Pushilin, visited Brest, a regional capital in western Belarus.

Accompanied by the Russian Ambassador to Belarus Boris Gryzlov and Russian lawmaker Andrei Turchak, the militant claimed that "it’s time to liberate Russian cities, founded by Russian people,” referring to Kyiv, Chernihiv, Odesa, and other Ukrainian cities.

The group’s visit was not reported by the Belarusian state media. There are no official statements, and the head of the Brest region abstained from participation in the meetings.

Local analysts suggest that the visit was imposed by Russia.

Officially, Belarus hasn’t recognized Russian-controlled proxies in Russian-occupied Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, however, Lukashenko’s regime has made claims that the country is ready to do so if Russia asks.

Russia’s top militant announced that Belarus trades with Russian-occupied Donetsk. Earlier, Belarusian pro-government lawmakers visited the region together with propagandists from state-controlled media.

Belarusian court sentences man for attempting to fight for Ukraine

On July 29, the Brest Regional Court found Siarhei Vaitsiuk, 37, guilty of attempting to join the Kastus Kalinouski regiment, fighting as part of Ukraine’s Armed Forces.

Vaitsyuk was sentenced to 2.5 years for mercenarism. According to the prosecution, he allegedly tried entering Ukraine in April to join the regiment. The same charges are currently being pressed against another Belarusian.

Belarusians fighting for Ukraine are constantly pressured by the state. A week prior, human rights watchdog Viasna also reported attacks on family members of soldiers, who have already joined the Kalinouski regiment.

Belarus’ Deputy Foreign Minister calls human rights ‘utopian’

Speaking at the 2022 Beijing Forum on Human Rights on July 27, Belarus’ Deputy Foreign Minister Yury Ambrazevich stated that human rights are “utopian,” in that they cannot be implemented in practice and serve only to impose the West’s vision of the world on other states.

Ambrazevich instead suggested that compliance with international human rights norms should be reduced to voluntary, as it is acceptable for countries to have different standards for human rights.

While Belarus ratified the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the country has the worst global ranking for civil liberties, according to CIVICUS.

In 2021, Belarus was downgraded in CIVICUS’ rankings from “repressed” to “closed.” Belarus is on par with Syria, Saudi Arabia, China, and Iran in this respect.

Trial on alleged coup d’état, Lukashenko assassination plot begins in Minsk

A trial accusing three men of plotting to overthrow and assassinate Lukashenko began in Minsk on July 29.

Youras Ziankovich, a Belarusian lawyer, Aliaksandr Fiaduta, a political scientist, and Ryhor Kastusiou, head of the Belarusian Popular Front (BNF) opposition party and former aid to Lukashenko, were accused of an alleged coup d’état.

Zoom recordings purporting to show several people discussing the plot were aired on April 17 on Belarusian state-controlled TV channel ONT.

The prosecution accuses the individuals in the video of conspiring to recruit members of Belarus’ military to assassinate Lukashenko, seize control of critical infrastructure, and host new elections.

Lukashenko claimed the accused were intending to conduct an assassination similar to that of former President of Egypt Anwar Sadat. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov confirmed that the alleged assassination plot was discussed between Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Joe Biden.

On July 29, Fiaduta pleaded guilty to charges of “conspiring to seize power by unconstitutional means.”

Political activists accused of ‘terrorism’ go on hunger strike at trial

Political activist Mikalai Autukhovich is reportedly continuing the hunger strike he started on July 11 to protest not being permitted to correspond with his family.

According to his daughter, Autukhovich collapsed from hunger-induced weakness and requested an ambulance on July 26, to which the judge responded “you just need to eat.”

European Union’s diplomatic service spokesman Peter Stano said that Belarusian authorities’ treatment of Autukhovich is “inhumane,” noting that they must meet their “international human rights obligations.”

Autukhovich and 11 others were tried in Belarus starting May 18 for allegedly importing weapons and explosives from Ukraine, arson, and the creation and participation in an “extremist organization.” The latter charges carry the death penalty.

Another defendant in the case, Uladzimir Hundar, also began a hunger strike to protest the pre-trial process, where he says he was forced to undress and was brought into the courtroom in his underwear.

Lukashenko’s regime goes after opposition party members

On July 27, Belarusian authorities detained United Civic Party (UCP) head Mikalai Kazlou, UCP Minsk head Aksana Aliakseyeva, and UCP party member and activist Antanina Kavaliova on charges of “gross violation of public order,” punishable by up to four years in prison.

Aliakseyeva and Kavaliova are reportedly detained at the Okrestina detention facility in Minsk.

Former UCP party head Anatol Liabedzka says there are three potential reasons for the detentions.

First, the UCP party recently resumed operations in Belarus. Second, Kazlou reportedly declined to sign a non-disclosure agreement following a previous interrogation by Belarusian authorities. And third, the detentions may deliberately coincide with an upcoming conference in Belarus, meaning the Belarusian government might want to “flex its muscles” to dissuade other political actors from using the conference to incite dissent.

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