The review reflects the main trends in the use of “anti-extremist” and “anti-terrorist” laws in Belarus from July to September 2022. We analyze the publications of state media, pro-government Telegram channels, independent media, and human rights organizations. State bodies and state media continued to use “extremism” as an instrument of political pressure and persecution of civil society representatives.
During the three months analyzed, new repressive practices have been employed under the guise of fighting “extremism.” Legislation has been amended to allow deprivation of citizenship and confiscation of property of dissidents who left the country. People who speak out against the war continue to be prosecuted for “incitement of hatred.” People have been charged with “treason against the state” for transferring information about the movement of the military to Telegram channels. The period of July-September 2022 was marked by opening the first case on the “denial of the genocide of the Belarusian people” for “incorrect” interpretation of history. First sentences for attempting to “disrupt the referendum” were imposed. Patreon accounts and opposition stickers began to be recognized as “extremist materials,” while professional chats started to be recognized as “extremist formations.” Bookstores started to be fined for selling “extremist” books, websites were blocked for mentioning “terrorists” in their content, and people were forced to remove forbidden tattoos.
From July to September 2022, the Belarusian authorities considered three legislative changes directly or indirectly related to “extremism.” The changes concerned the the possibility of restricting people from leaving Belarus for the following reasons: if this contradicts the interests of the “national security,” in order to conduct trials in absentia against people who fled abroad being accused of “extremism,” as well as in order to adopt the rules on depriving such people of their Belarusian citizenship. The Belarusian authorities continue to use the rules of law as a repressive tool. Such changes are aimed at even greater oppression, intimidation, and persecution of the dissidents.
On 23 June 2022, the National Legal Portal published a draft law on amending a number of Belarusian laws, in particular, the law “On the procedure for leaving the Republic of Belarus and entring the Republic of Belarus.” This act expands the list of grounds on which the right to leave Belarus may be restricted. Besides other reasons, exit may be restricted if it “contradicts the interests of the national security of the Republic of Belarus” or if an administrative process is being carried out against a person for offenses against the governance procedures, including those within the framework of the “political” articles of the Code of Administrative Offenses (hereinafter – Administrative Code), for example, under Articles 24.3 (“Disobedience to a lawful order or demand of an official representative in the exercise of one’s official powers”) and 24.23 of the Administrative Code (“Violation of the procedure for organizing or carrying out mass events.”) More details about this change can be found in our thematic overview.
On 21 July 2022, A. Lukashenko signed Law No. 199-3 “On Amending the Criminal Procedure Code of the Republic of Belarus,” which introduces the possibility of conducting special (in absentia) trials of people who are accused under a number of “extremist” and “terrorist” articles who reside abroad and “evade” visiting the body conducting the criminal process. In order to initiate such proceedings, two conditions must be met simultaneously:
- a person was charged under one of the 43 articles of the Criminal Code, many of which are used for “political” persecution:
- crimes against peace, human security, war crimes (for example, genocide and inciting hatred, as well as the rehabilitation of Nazism and the denial of the genocide of the Belarusian people);
- terrorism (including the financing of terrorism and assisting it);
- illegal actions with radioactive materials and poisons; related to transport and transport routes; to ammunition and weapons, provided that they are committed within the framework of crimes related to terrorism and war crimes;
- mass riots;
- taking hostages and buildings;
- most crimes against the state (treason, conspiracy, espionage, sabotage, calls to harm national security).
- the foreign state refused to extradite the accused or did not respond to the Belarusian General Prosecutor’s Office within six months from the date of the request for extradition.
The list of Articles of the Criminal Code on which proceedings can be initiated in absentia does not include “defamatory” Articles (insulting representatives of the authorities; slander; discrediting), a number of “extremist” Articles (actions grossly violating public order; creation of an extremist formation; financing an extremist formation).
The Chairman of the Investigative Committee Dmitry Gora claimed that one of the main goals of the adoption of this law was to create legal grounds for the confiscation of property of political emigres which remains on the territory of Belarus. He believes that the conversion of such property into state revenue will allow to “at least partially cover the damage that has been caused to the country.”
On 27 September 2022, the Investigative Committee initiated the process of the first “special proceedings” in a criminal case: five defendants are accused of administering the “Black Book of Belarus” Telegram channel, which publishes personal data of government officials. The Committee also published a “List of people against whom special proceedings have been initiated and called to the criminal prosecution body.” By doing so the Investigative Committee demands the physical presence of the defendants in order to carry out investigative actions. Under the new law, this procedure of notification is considered to be a proper notice. On 28 September 2022, the Investigative Committee announced the completion of the preparation of the materials for the start of “special proceedings” in relation to the leaders and participants of the “Belarusian Sports Solidarity Fund,” “Coordination Council,” human rights center “Viasna,” opposition Telegram channel NEXTA, as well as in relation to the participant of the 2020 presidential campaign Valery Tsepkalo.
On 21 September 2022, a draft plan for a law was published to amend the law “On Citizenship of the Republic of Belarus.” After consideration of this bill in the Parliament and signing by A. Lukashenko, it will be possible to deprive people of the citizenship of the Republic of Belarus on the basis of two conditions:
1) if a sentence has entered into force against a person, confirming his participation in “extremist activity” or infliction of “grievous harm to the interests of the Republic of Belarus” by him. The law explains that “extremism” will mean a list of crimes, consisting of 55 Articles of the Criminal Code. This list almost completely repeats the list of crimes for which in absentia proceedings can be carried out, although it has a number of minor differences. Thus, despite the absence of the possibility of conducting inabsentia proceedings on such charges, citizenship cannot be revoked for participation in an “extremist formation” or administering it, financing “extremist activity” or assisting it, participating in an armed conflict on the territory of a foreign state.
2) such a person resides outside Belarus.
It was also possible to deprive of citizenship for “extremism” before – the previous version of the Law allowed doing this only in relation to persons, who were convicted under one of the 24 Articles of the Criminal Code and received citizenship not by birth, but as a result of admission to the citizenship of the Republic of Belarus. Whereas now, citizenship can also be deprived of people, who received it by birth and for a much wider list of acts. The new law also stipulates that “in the event that legal facts relevant for making decisions on citizenship issues arose before this Law entered into force, then decisions on citizenship issues are made in accordance with this Law.” This means that people can be deprived of citizenship for actions that were committed before the Law entered into force, including for activities in 2020-2022, disapproved by the authorities. Thus, the Law has retroactive effect and, at the same time, increases responsibility, which contradicts Article 104 of the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus, which states that the laws shall not have retroactive effect, except in cases where they mitigates or cancels the responsibility of citizens.
It is obvious that the two legislative changes mentioned above are elements of a complex mechanism created to punish people who are persecuted on political grounds, but who are abroad and are beyond the reach of law enforcement agencies. It should be mentioned that the authorities also announced more radical measures against people who fled abroad, which were not included in the final draft of the Law. In particular, the head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs Ivan Kubrakov suggested a ban on the entry of Belarusians who were deprived of citizenship for “extremism” for 30 years as a “preventive measures.”
The Chairman of the Council of the Republic, Natalya Kochanova, also announced the soon-to-be-adopted amendments to the laws on the activities of political parties and other public associations. She mentioned that the amendments will include norms on “inciting hatred, extremism.”
At the beginning of September 2022, A. Lukashenko announced the preparation of an amnesty draft dedicated to the Day of National Unity, which, according to the Presidential Decree, is celebrated on September 17. On 6 September 2022, Prosecutor General Andrey Shved claimed that at least 8,000 people would be released under the amnesty. He noted that the Prosecutor General’s Office was strongly against the amnesty act extending to “persons who encroached on the sovereignty, independence, constitutional order of the country in 2020-2021,” however, Lukashenko gave orders “to approach this issue individually, and first of all through the institution of pardon.” Shved added that some people who “committed crimes related to extremism” could be released, but only on condition of repentance and appeal to the president for pardon. As of the end of September, it is not known about the release of political prisoners under an amnesty, except for several cases – for example, the release of “Radio Svoboda” journalist Oleg Gruzdilovich and human rights activist Tatyana Lasitsa. They, however, were released not under a mass amnesty, but under an individual pardon decree.
The period was marked by the participation of state authorities representatives in international events dedicated to the fight against “nazism,” “extremism,” and “terrorism.” On 23 August 2022, a representative of the Prosecutor General’s Office, Igor Moroz, took part in the First International Anti-Fascist Congress. In his report, he spoke about the actions taken against the rehabilitation of nazism in Belarus – in particular, about the newly introduced responsibility for the rehabilitation of nazism, “including in such forms as discrediting the role of the USSR in the war and glorifying nazi ideology, demonstrating nazi symbols, glorifying nazi criminals.” He also mentioned the investigation of the criminal case on the genocide of Belarusians (in which, in his opinion, Lithuania and Latvia did not provide the necessary support) and the new law that criminalizes the denial of the genocide of the Belarusian people. On August 9-11, 2022, Minsk hosted a seminar for representatives of the Commonwelath of Independent States countries named “Risk Assessment of the Non-Commercial Organizations Sector,” which raised the issue of the fight against the financing of terrorism through non-profit organizations. During this seminar, the representative of the State Control Committee Vyacheslav Reut, stated that “Belarus already has a certain negative experience in 2020, when non-profit organizations were involved in illegal activities.” According to Reut, the authorities will soon conduct a “national risk assessment” in the Non-Commercial Organizations sector in order to “focus on organizations being at high risk: of being involved in terrorism financing.
On 9 August 2022, Mikhail Bedunkevich, Deputy Head of the Main Directorate for Combating Organized Crime and Corruption (hereinafter – GUBOPiK), shared statistics on protest-related criminal cases from 2020 to 2022 in an interview:
- 12 facts of “financing of extremist activities” were revealed;
- 100 people were involved in the “Peramoga Plan,” recognized as an “extremist formation;”
- 160 administrators of “extremist” Telegram channels were revealed;
- 372 Internet resources were recognized as extremist materials, as a result of which 500,000 people unsubscribed from key “destructive” Telegram channels.
He also admitted that 79% of the people who are on the wanted list for protest-related cases reside abroad.
On 11 August 2022, at a meeting of the Central Office of the Investigative Committee, it was stated that from 9 August 2020 to 1 July 2022, the Committee initiated more than 11,000 criminal cases on “extremism-related” grounds. On 18 April 2022, the Deputy Chairman of the Investigative Committee stated that since August 2020, more than 8,500 “extremism-related crimes” were documented in Belarus. Thus, based on the official data of the Investigative Committee, it can be concluded that in just less than three months, 2,500 “extremist” cases were additionally opened.
On 24 August 2022, the head of the Investigative Committee Department in Minsk stated that in the first half of 2022, more than 280 people were detained on suspicion of participating in mass protests in August 2020. 238 people were charged and a measure of restraint in the form of detention was applied to them. Supposedly, the charges are brought under “protest” Article 293 (“Mass riots”) and 342 of the Criminal Code (“Actions grossly violating public order”). The Investigative Committee also claimed that investigators in Minsk managed to create a “criminalistic video library, which includes thousands of files, thanks to the analysis of which more than 1,400 participants of the street terror have already been identified.”
“Extremism” and the war in Ukraine
This is the third overview in which we document incidents related to Russian aggression against Ukraine with the support of the Belarusian authorities. In the previous overview for April-June 2022, we also observed the use of anti-extremist legislation to prosecute those who disagree with the war and the fact of dragging Belarus into military action. The trends continue: the courts announce sentences for “rail partisants” (2 sentences), for the transfer of information about Russian military equipment (14 sentences) and for the desire to fight on the side of Ukraine (8 sentences).
Arbitrary mass detentions in the areas of Belarus bordering Ukraine
On 25 July 2022, information appeared about random mass detentions in Mozyr, Narovlya, Khoiniki, Yanov, and Drogichin. Pro-government resources reported the arrests of “extremists, nazis, near-football fans” and “especially dangerous criminals,” although the only reason for such arrests was subscriptions to opposition Telegram channels. Detainees are known to have been subjected to torture and degrading treatment. “Confession tapes” with detainees, filmed under pressure from the law enforcement representatives, appeared in pro-government resources.
Criminal cases against volunteers, who expressed a desire to fight on the side of the Ukrainian army
Minister of Foreign Affairs Vladimir Makei claimed that Belarusians fighting in Ukraine “will be punished according to the relevant wartime laws, regardless of whether it happens in Belarus or in those regions, according to the laws of those entities on whose territory they are fighting.” He added that “retribution for such people will be inevitable.” It is known about 8 sentences, 2 lawsuits that have already been started, and 1 detention against potential volunteer fighters under Article 361-3 of the Criminal Code.
On 28 July 2022, the first sentence was passed for trying to take part in the war on the side of Ukraine. Brest Regional Court sentenced a local resident to 2.5 years in a general regime penal colony for trying to join the Kalinovsky battalion, which is a part of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. The prosecution used search queries about the battalion on the defendant’s computer and phone, correspondence with acquaintances from Poland about joining the unit, as well as the testimony of a taxi driver and border guards, whom he also informed of his intention, as evidence of the unlawful intentions. On 30 August 2022, Brest Regional Court sentenced a 1st grade student to 2.5 years in prison. He was detained while trying to cross the border with Ukraine bypassing checkpoints. Correspondence with the Telegram bot of Kalinovsky battalion was found on his phone. At the trial, the defendant claimed that he was going to avoid using weapons at all costs and wanted to provide first of all medical and technical support for the unit.
This period was also marked by the initiation of 6 new criminal cases under this Article. On 4 July and 25 August 2022, the Investigative Committee announced the initiation of investigations into attempts to participate in the war in Ukraine by contacting Telegram bots. In the public affairs office of the Committee, such people are called “potential mercenaries” and “rebels” who “fell under the influence of false information about the ongoing special operation.” Moreover, on 12 August 2022, pro-government sources reported the detention of a citizen of Belarus, who in 2019 “left to fight against Luhansk independent republic and Donetsk independent republic,” and, upon returning to the country, “was collecting intelligence for foreign intelligence agencies.”
One case is known when the detention of a potential Kalinovsky battalion volunteer did not result in criminal prosecution, but was limited to a “preventive conversation” with the GUBOPiK employees.
Expressing disapproval with the actions of Russia equated with inciting hatred on ethnic and national grounds
On 8 July 2022, a “confession tape” appeared, in which a detained resident of the Minsk region under pressure admits that he subscribed to “destructive Telegram channels” and left insulting comments about police officers and the Russian military.
On 27 July 2022, Mogilev Regional Court sentenced a local resident to 3 years in prison under articles on slander of Lukashenko (Part 2 of Article 367 of the Criminal Code) and on inciting social discord (Part 1 of Article 130 of the Criminal Code). The charges were based on his posts on social networks, in which he expressed his opinion about the history of Belarus and his attitude towards Russia. In one of the comments, he claims that “Poland is the brother of Belarus, Ukraine is its sister!”. Earlier, the man was included in the List of persons involved in terrorist activities.
On 28 July 2022, information appeared about the detention of an underage employee of the sports media “Pressball,” who stated on his personal YouTube channel that “Belarusians have always fought with Russia,” and also left “negative comments towards the Russians about the special operation in Ukraine.” On 2 August 2022, the Minsk City Prosecutor’s Office filed a criminal case against a 32-year-old Minsk resident accused of inciting hatred (Part 1 of Article 130 of the Criminal Code) because of his publications that “undermine trust and respect for the military and law enforcement representatives of the Russian Federation.” A resident of Grodno and a student from Minsk were also detained for insulting the Russian military.
On 19 August 2022, a resident of the Grodno region was sentenced to 4.5 years of imprisonment for insulting Lukashenko (Article 368 of the Criminal Code), violence against a governmental official (Article 366 of the Criminal Code), and inciting hatred. According to investigators, his statements on social media in February 2022 about the Russian military constitute “inciting national hatred.”
On 23 August 2022, in the framework of the Article 130 of the Criminal Code, a TikTok user was detained for posting videos in support of Ukraine and against the Russian military on her page. On 2 September 2022, another person was detained for supporting Ukraine on TikTok, while on a “confession tape” he was forced to admit supporting Russia.
On 13 September 2022, information appeared about the detention of the administrator of the VKontakte group called “ZA ADZINUYU DZARZHAUNUYU MOVU U Belarusi!” (“For the only official language in Belarus!”), who is accused of “cultivating hatred towards the Russian language.”
Punishments for other comments related to war
On 1 July 2022, the Kirovsky District Court sentenced a local student to 6.5 years in a medium-security prison under Part 3 of Article 361 of the Criminal Code (“Appeals to harm national security”) and Article 368 of the Criminal Code (“Insulting the President”). The woman was accused of forwarding a text that harshly criticized the actions of Vladimir Putin and Alexander Lukashenko in the context of the war in Ukraine. Earlier, in June 2022, she was included in the list of persons involved in terrorist activities.
On 6 July 2022, a Minsk resident was detained, who said that the installation of the memory of the Second World War “Victory Train” is “a traveling circus of Russian victory obsession.” A criminal case has been initiated against him, but the exact charges remain unknown.
On 11 July 2022, the Vitebsk District Court sentenced a man to 1 year and 9 months in prison for posting his anti-war poem on TikTok. He was convicted under Article 368 of the Criminal Code (“Insulting the President”), since, according to the prosecution, the poem contained words “which insulted Lukashenko, humiliated his honor and dignity.”
On 14 July 2022, a military and political observer Yegor Lebedok, the author of a popular analytical Telegram channel, was detained. According to pro-governmental sources, he was detained for “recording various videos with “expert opinion,” throwing mud at the Russian and Belarusian army.” On 29 July 2022, information appeared about the initiation of a criminal case under Article 361-4 against Lebedok for giving interviews to media recognized as extremist formations.
On 25 August 2022, the General Prosecutor’s Office initiated a criminal case against the deputy of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine Oleksey Goncharenko for his statement that “Lukashenko will hang on a pole on the next Ukrainian Independence Day” in response to Lukashenko’s resonant congratulations on the Independence Day of Ukraine, in which he “wished for a peaceful sky above Ukraine.” The case was initiated under Articles on discrediting Belarus (Article 369-1 of the Criminal Code) and on the threat of violence against Lukashenko (Part 2 of Article 366 of the Criminal Code).
Recognition of resources critical of Russia’s aggression as extremist materials
On 13 July 2022, Facebook account of a Vitebsk resident, with a number of posts criticizing Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, was recognized as extremist by a court decision. On 27 July 2022, the Leninsky Court of the city of Mogilev recognized social media accounts of an adviser to the Office of the President of Ukraine, Alexey Arestovich, as “extremist materials.” The decision concerned Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Telegram accounts.
Cases of “acts of terrorism” for inflicting damage to railway tracks
On 10 August 2022, the court of Bobruisk district and the city of Bobruisk imposed severe sentences upon three men and two women accused of terrorism and insulting A. Lukashenko. The men were found guilty of committing acts of a “terrorist nature.” According to investigative authorities, they were involved in the arson of the shooting area of a local military unit, and disposed of explosive devices found near the railway. The men were sentenced to imprisonment of 14 to 16 years in a high-security colony. In the same case, two women were sentenced to two years of imprisonment and two years of supervised release, respectively, on charges of arson of a straw man figuring Lukashenko. On 16 September 2022, a resident of Vitebsk was sentenced to 15 years of imprisonment for planning to disable railway traffic safety systems. This illustrates the practice of imposing harsh punishments even for the planned actions.
Nevertheless, the practice of prosecution for damaging railway tracks is not consistent and in some cases such actions were not interpreted by law enforcement officers as an “act of terrorism.” For example, on 11 July 2022, the court of the Polotsk district sentenced a local resident to 3 years of imprisonment under part 1 of Article 309 of the Criminal Code (“Intentional damage to a vehicle or means of communication”) for damaging the locking mechanism and committing arson of a relay cabinet on the way “Farinovo-Zagatye.”
On 7 August2022, according to the human rights defenders of the Human Rights Center “Viasna,” security forces committed raids in the city of Ivanovo and Ivanovo district in order to find those involved in sabotage on the railway tracks in Brest region. Special purpose police unit (OMON) officials carried out arbitrary detentions in public places and resorted to the disproportionate use of physical force.
On 7 July 2022, a criminal case against three “rail guerillas” coming from Svetlogorsk on charges of arson against a battery-relay cabinet, which caused damage to the railway amounting to 54 thousand rubles (about $ 21,000), was submitted to the court. The charges were brought under Article 289 of the Criminal Code (act of terrorism), Article 309 of the Criminal Code (disabling transport routes), Article 361-1 of the Criminal Code (participation in an extremist formation) and Article 356 of the Criminal Code (treason). On 15 July 2022, a case against a resident of Stolbtsy, who made a bonfire on the railway tracks “in order to destabilize the normal operation of railway transport” and “to influence the decisions taken by the authorities of Belarus,” was referred for the court hearing. The charges were brought under articles 289 and 309 of the Criminal Code.
On 19 August 2022, a criminal case against a resident of Osipovichi on charges of participating in an “extremist formation” (part 3 of Article 361-1 of the Criminal Code) and preparing an act of terrorism (part 2 of Article 289 of the Criminal Code) was referred to the court by the Prosecutor General’s Office. According to the investigative authorities, the accused joined the “Peramoga Plan” initiative, and then decided to commit arson against a section of the railway track using a homemade Molotov cocktail.
Spreading information about Russian troops recognized as the promotion of “extremism”
During the analyzed time period, a number of sentences were rendered on grounds of sending photos of military equipment to “extremist” Telegram channels, including the “Belaruski Gayun” channel, designed to monitor military activity in Belarus. Sentences were imposed under Article 361-4 of the Criminal Code (“Promotion of extremist activity”).
Within three months, 14 sentences were reported to be rendered. For example, on 14 July 2022, Brest Regional Court sentenced Intex-press journalist Yuri Gontsarevich to 2.5 years of imprisonment for sending photos of aircraft to the Telegram bot of the Radio Svaboda media outlet. On 19 July 2022, Gomel Regional Court sentenced a minor local resident to 3 years of imprisonment for a video recording the movement of Russian equipment.
On 30 August 2022, it was reported that a resident of the Gomel district was charged with state treason (Article 356 of the Criminal Code) for communicating information to the Telegram channel, which is “controlled by a foreign organization.” This was the first time when the mentioned article was applied in the case of spreading information about military facilities. Unlike Article 361-4 of the Criminal Code, which provides for an imprisonment of up to 6 years, article 356 of the Criminal Code prescribes imprisonment for a term of up to 15 years.
At least 7 cases of detentions during the “raids” by security forces in the border areas with Ukraine also became known. For example, on 6 August 2022, in the city of Yelsk, Special Purpose Militia Unit (OMON) officers committed raids across the city searching for people spreading photos of the movement and unloading of military equipment at a local station on the media.
Sentences for anti-war graffiti
Despite the fact that the Law “On Countering Extremism” does not directly attribute the desecration of buildings and damage to property (Article 341 of the Criminal Code) to extremist activity, the Law provides that acts against public order and public morality can be equated with extremism if they are aimed at inciting hostility. This is probably the rationale behind the actions of law enforcement officials when they consider cases launched under this article in statistics reports on “extremist” crimes. The analyzed period was marked by 6 sentences under this article against people who made “extremist inscriptions” and inscriptions in support of Ukraine on buildings.
On 5 July 2022, a resident of Gomel was sentenced to three months of arrest for making a wall inscription insulting Russia’s President Vladimir Putin. The accused confessed to the offense and said that he was outraged by the situation in Ukraine. On the same day, the Kobrin court sentenced a local resident to 2 years of probation for inscriptions “Glory to Ukraine,” “Death to the rashist occupiers,” and others. On 30 July 2022, it was reported that a housing and utilities services worker was sentenced to 1.5 years of probation for making inscriptions “No war,” “No war!,” “Luka,” “killer!” in the garage near the local bathhouse. On 16 August 2022, the court of the Moskovsky district of Brest sentenced a 57-year-old woman to 1.5 years of imprisonment in a standard regime colony under Article 341, Article 339 (“Hooliganism”), and 368 (“Insulting the President of Belarus”) of the Criminal Code. According to the investigative authorities, the woman spread white-red-white ribbons and flags across streets in Brest, and also made anti-war inscriptions in pencil and chalk.
Detentions for “unauthorized events” expressing support for Ukraine
A resident of Gomel, who organized a holiday for children of Ukrainian refugees, was fined for “violating the procedure for holding mass events” (Article 24.23 of the Administrative Code). Two residents of Novopolotsk were detained for a photo placed in a frame resembling the flag of Ukraine and an anti-war action during a school assembly. A Belarusian State University (BSU) professor was detained for participating in protest actions and raising funds for support of the Ukrainian army. Meriem Gerasimenko was detained for performing Ukrainian songs (according to the security forces, this amounted to a crime under Article 130 of the Criminal Code), as well as for transferring money for purchasing a combat drone “Bayraktar” for the army of Ukraine. On 15 September 2022, the Ministry of Internal Affairs reported on the detention of 5 Minsk residents for placing a white-red-white flag and the flag of Ukraine on a 19-storey building.
During the analyzed period, criminal prosecution of online commentators for “inciting social hostility” proceeded, charges were brought under articles “on denial of the genocide of the Belarusian people” and “inciting national hostility” for undesirable interpretation of history, cases of “discrediting” were launched in response to dissemination of undesirable information about current state policy. People advocating for fair elections results were charged with “interference with the exercise of electoral rights,” and people resorting to direct actions of any scale were charged with “terrorism.” Creation of opposition media resources or registration thereof proceeded to be classified as “creating or participating in an extremist formation.” Financial assistance to “extremist” information resources or foundations, and any kind of interaction with resources or foundations thereof were classified as “financing extremism” and “promoting extremism” respectively. The same actions inconsistently lead to the application of different articles of the Criminal Code.
Article 130 of the Criminal Code “Incitement of racial, national, religious or other social enmity or discord”
Leak of data concerning security officials
De-anonymizing personal data of government representatives to opposition resources is still classified as “inciting social hostility.” People were also prosecuted for posting personal data and providing any assistance to media resources via which such data is disseminated. Within three months, cases of 5 sentences, 12 detentions, and 2 investigations for the described actions were reported. Both employees of companies and departments who had access to personal data and sent it to opposition channels on a massive scale, and people, who once publicizes the data of one or more security forces officials, were subjected to prosecution.
On 4 August 2022, an ex-employee of the cadastral agency was sentenced to 6.5 years in prison with deprivation of the right to hold organizational and administrative positions for a period of 5 years. On 15 July 2022, a Brest resident was sentenced to 6 years of imprisonment and fined with 3,200 rubles ($1,200) for engaging in development of software designed to print and disseminate information about state officials. On 5 September 2022, a former employee of the Investigative Committee from Novopolotsk was sentenced to 7 years in prison. On 5 September 2022, the final charge was brought against the administrator of the platform “23.34,” who, according to the investigation, stored data of more than 17 thousand officials. On 14 September 2022, the case against a person, who distributed the data of 16 thousand security forces officials, was submitted for the court hearing.
On 11 August 2022, the alleged administrator of the Telegram channel “Grodno for Life,” who “distributed personal data of more than 2,000 police officers,” was detained. Three cases of detentions of state officials, who distributed information about their former colleagues, were reported: for example, a former employee of the prosecutor’s office, who communicated prosecutor’s office employees’ personal data to the Black Book of Belarus channel, was detained. It was also reported about the case of detention for not only personal data, but also official documents.
The practice of punishing people for transferring personal data of government officials remains inconsistent. People can be sentenced under Article 130 of the Criminal Code (with a penalty of up to 12 years of imprisonment) or under the “not extremism-related” article 203-1 of the Criminal Code (“Illegal actions with respect to information about private life and personal data” – up to 5 years of imprisonment). For example, on 3 August 2022, Vitebsk Regional Court sentenced a local resident to 4.5 years in prison under a number of “political” articles, including Article 203-1 of the Criminal Code and Article 361-1 of the Criminal Code for leaking data of “more than 1.5 million Belarusians” and managing channel recognized as an “extremist formation” respectively. On 15 August 2022, a resident of Mogilev was sentenced to 3 years of imprisonment in a penal colony under articles 203-1, 368, and 369 of the Criminal Code. The punishment was grounded on reacting with a “like” to a video about a policeman in Odnoklassniki, because of which the video was displayed on the user’s page.
Analyzed period was marked by the detention of lawyers Mikhail Makarov and Anastasia Saganovich, who were defenders in the case of “Revolutionary Action.” According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, they shared personal data of employees of GUBOPiK, the Investigative Committee, the Prosecutor’s office and judges adjudicating this criminal case, in “extremist” Telegram resources. In this case, the charges were brought under Article 407 of the Criminal Code (“Disclosure of information of the inquest, preliminary investigation or closed court hearing”).
Within the period of three months, cases of 24 sentences and 2 investigations for strong critical comments in messengers and social networks with regard to state officials and law enforcement structures in general, as well as for comments calling to the use of force when resisting security forces, were reported. According to the security forces, such comments amount to “inciting other social enmity.”
For example, on 21 July 2022, a resident of Minsk was sentenced to 3 years of imprisonment for comments regarding military personnel, carrying out peacekeeping activities in the Republic of Kazakhstan in January 2022. According to the prosecutor’s office, the comments contained “insults and information discrediting military personnel.” On 2 August 2022, Gomel Regional Court sentenced a local resident to 3 years in prison for a post on social networks in which he called the policemen “subhumans” and expressed the hope that they would “bear responsibility for crimes committed against their people.” On 10 August 2022, a Gomel resident was sentenced to 2.5 years of imprisonment for comments “negatively assessing” the employees of the Ministry of the Interior, judges and state officials. On 7 September 2022, a resident of Staryje Dorogi was sentenced to 7 years of imprisonment for critical comments.
We have also become aware of 23 cases of detentions. For example, on 26 July 2022, a Brest resident was detained for comments in the chat “Country for Life” containing “calls for the murder of police officers, terror against their family members.” On 2 August 2022, a former employee of the Investigative Committee from Pruzhany was detained for “inciting hatred” and “threatening GUBOPiK officials with javelins.” On 19 August 2022, a person, who, according to GUBOPiK employees, left more than 1,500 comments and various calls of a political nature (“Let’s go out for a walk! Do not be afraid,” “Workers, we will support you until the end, do not give up!,” “We are waiting for people’s patience to burst and we will start slaughtering and burning those slaboviki” (author’s note: slaboviki – contemptuously about security forces representative violently dispersing peaceful gatherings), was detained. On 22 August 2022, a female resident of Minsk was detained for leaving “700 comments in the most radically-minded chats, “mostly insulting and calling to death of people she didn’t know.”
“Zeltser’s case” and comments about other dead security officers
Within the framework of the “Zeltser’s case,” new sentences were passed under Articles 130 and 369 of the Criminal Code (“Insulting a representative of the authorities”) for making insulting comments addressing Dmitry Fedosyuk – the murdered State Security Committee (hereinafter – the KGB) employee. On 3 August 2022, representatives of the Investigative Committee announced that, since the date of the incident, they handed 57 criminal cases over to the prosecutor’s office to refer them for consideration in court under article 130 of the Criminal Code, although previously cases of at least 200 detentions were reported.
Within three months, 27 sentences were rendered for negative online comments about the mentioned incident. Except for imprisonment, the courts often additionally imposed a fine as “compensation for moral harm.” Most of such cases were considered in closed hearings, therefore only some cases can be studied in detail.
On 13 July 2022, Minsk Regional Court sentenced a local resident to two years in a penal colony and a fine of 100 basic units (about $ 1300) – he reposted a video recording of Zeltser’s shootout with KGB officers and commented it with “It’s time to take out the trash.” On 5 August 2022, Gomel Regional Court sentenced a resident of Cherikov to 3.5 years in a penal colony for the comment “The people broke the match open” – the court considered that the man “called for a fight against law enforcement agencies” and “glorified the actions of a terrorist who killed a KGB officer.” On 11 August 2022, the Minsk City Court sentenced a Minsk resident to 2.5 years in prison for the comment “The killer will end up in hell.” (author’s note: ad lit. – “The earth will be concrete for the killer,” figurative expression antonymic to “May one rest in peace”). On 12 August 2022, Grodno Regional Court sentenced the former head of the Ministry of Emergency Situations to 1.5 years in prison for reacting with “like” to an “offensive” comment about a deceased KGB officer. On 21 August 2022, the Minsk City Court sentenced him to 3 years in a penal colony and a fine of 200 basic units (about $ 2500) for the comment “These were gestapo officers who were killed, civil servants do not break into doors, he came with a sword and died of the sword alike,” which the prosecution regarded as “cultivation of anti-state sentiments” and “a tendency to express delight in the murder of a police officer.” On 26 August 2022, Brest Regional Court sentenced a local resident to 2.5 years in prison for the comment “One more or fewer police officers doesn’t make a difference. [They have no business] breaking into other people’s houses without an invitation.” On 12 September 2022, a resident of Grodno was sentenced to 4 years of imprisonment not only under Article 130 of the Criminal Code, but under Article 361 of the Criminal Code (“Calls for punitive actions or other harm to national security”).
People who have left comments about other cases of the death of security forces are subjected to prosecution. On 11 July 2022, Mogilev Regional Court sentenced a resident of Bobruisk to 4.5 years in a penal colony for a TikTok video shooting them commenting on the death of pilots in the crash of a military aircraft in Baranovichi. On 22 July 2022, pro-government channels reported a wave of detentions under Article 130 of the Criminal Code for “insulting comments” with regard to the employee of the Ministry of the Interior from Baranovichi, engaged in suppressing peaceful protests there, who died as a result of the accident.
Inciting national hostility
In addition to criminal cases for inciting national hostility against Russians, another case is known. On 31 July 2022, the Polish newspaper Rzeczpospolita shared details of the criminal case against Andrzej Poczobut, journalist and activist of the Union of Poles in Belarus. As we know, Belarusian Prosecutor’s Office qualified Poczobut’s comments about Soviet aggression against Poland on 17 September 1939, as “incitement to ethnic hatred.” Also, the article about one of the commanders of the Polish anti-communist underground in the Hrodna region, published in 2006, and the article where the journalist described how the protests were dispersed on the night of August 9-10, 2020, were qualified as “incitement of hatred.” On August 17, 2022, it became known that the journalist was additionally charged under Article 361 of the Criminal Code.
On 17 August 2022, a video of a detained Vizor illustrator artist was published. It has been reported that he was involved in creating protest stickers for Telegram. According to law enforcement reports, experts concluded that the stickers “incite hostility.”
Article 130-1 of the Criminal Code “Rehabilitation of Nazism”
On 26 August 2022, Vitebsk regional court sentenced a man who had been “lured away from Russia” by GUBOPIK employees to 4.5 years in prison. In addition to Article 130 and a number of defamation articles, the man was accused of “rehabilitation of Nazism.” According to the prosecution, since 2018, he posted materials on “VKontakte,” expressing a positive attitude towards the fighters of the collaborationist formations “Belarusian Border Defense” and “RONA.” Through his posts, the man allegedly “glorified the Nazi and neo-Nazi ideology,” as well as “formed a positive attitude towards the activities of German soldiers during the occupation of Belarus.”
On 15 September 2022, the Investigative Committee announced the completion of the investigation against a resident of Homel on charges of “rehabilitation of Nazism” and “establishment of an extremist formation” (Article 361-1 of the Criminal Code). According to investigators, the man created a Telegram channel for the promotion of Nazism, in which he posted images of Nazi symbols, photos, and videos of Hitler’s speech, as well as anti-Semitic and racist statements.
We also know about a sentence for promoting Nazism, which was qualified as “inciting hostility.” On 9 August 2022, Homel regional court sentenced a resident of Rechytsa to three years in a general regime colony for publishing memoirs of a Nazi general and a photo of himself in the uniform of a Nazi officer. The man noted that ten years ago, he had participated in the shooting of Russian films in Russia, during which he was photographed in Nazi uniform. He also explained that he posted the memoirs of the Nazi general on social networks because he was interested in the topic, in particular how the Nazis committed their crimes and how they justified their actions.
Article 130-2 of the Criminal Code “Denial of the Genocide of the Belarusian People”
The law “On the genocide of the Belarusian people,” which establishes criminal liability for denying the genocide of Belarusians during the Second World War or in the postwar period, was signed on 5 January 2022. For a more detailed analysis of this law through the prism of international legal standards, please see our legal review.
The first case under the new Article 130-2 of the Criminal Code was first brought on 26 August 2022, against the media publications “Flagstock” and “Zerkalo.io.” “Flagshtok” published material in which it was claimed that on one of the maps of Homel, published on the website of the local Department of Capital Construction (DCK), there is a note about the place of mass burials of victims of political repressions in 1937. The article stated that, according to the Prosecutor’s office, there were Nazi victims in this grave, and the facts of shootings in 1937 do not correspond to reality. This material was also reprinted by “Zerkalo.io.” After a while, the “resonant” map was removed from the DCK website, and a criminal case was filed against the media.
Article 191 of the Criminal Code “Interference with electoral rights, with the right to participate in a referendum, or with the right to legislative initiative of citizens, or with the work of the Central Commission of the Republic of Belarus for Elections and National Referendums, electoral commissions, referendum commissions, commissions for voting on the recall of a deputy”
Attempts to interfere with a referendum also qualify as “extremist activity” under Article 1 of the Law on Counteracting Extremism.
On 3 August 2022, the Investigative Committee announced that the office had completed its investigation of seven people accused of attempting to disrupt the national referendum on amendments to the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus, which was held in February 2022. The defendants are accused of mass distribution of emails to members of election commissions and referendum participants on behalf of state organizations in order to “influence the minds of citizens.” Earlier, the Investigative Committee reported that criminal proceedings were initiated under Articles 191 and 349 of the Criminal Code (“Unauthorized access to computer information”).
The period was marked by the first convictions under this article – a total of 4 sentences were handed down for distribution of leaflets before the referendum. On 19 August 2022, a resident of Brest was sentenced to three years in a medium-security prison for sending letters with an appeal to count votes honestly; two residents of Minsk were also given identical sentences for distributing leaflets with the same requests. On 20 September 2022, the Central district court sentenced three Minsk residents – one of the defendants in the case was sentenced to 5 years of “home chemistry” (a temporary measure of restraint of liberty) and the rest – to 4 and 6 years of jail. On 28 September 2022, four more Minsk residents were sentenced to imprisonment of up to 2.5 years.
Article 289 of the Criminal Code “Acts of Terrorism”
On 23 June 2022 Baranavichy court sentenced a retired individual to 12 years in a reinforced regime colony and deprived him of his military rank of “lieutenant colonel” under article 289 of the Criminal Code and article 295-3 (“Illegal actions with flammable materials.”) He was found guilty of throwing three Molotov cocktails at cars near a local military unit. On 5 September 2022, a former KGB officer was sentenced to 16 years in prison for setting fire to two BelToll road toll system portals.
Article 356 of the Criminal Code “Treason against the State”
This article is not included in the description of the Law “On Combating Extremism” but is classified as “extremist activity” by Article 19 of the Law “On Citizenship.”
During the analyzed period, the article was used to punish independent journalists. On 13 July 2022, Homel regional court sentenced Belsat journalist Katerina Andreeva to 8 years and three months in minimum security penalties under Part 1 Article 356. The political prisoner was found guilty of “giving state secrets of the Republic of Belarus to a foreign state, international or foreign organization or their representatives.” It is unknown which actions the court interpreted as treason against the state, as the trial was held behind closed doors. On 14 September 2022, Hrodna Regional Court sentenced “Novy Chas” journalist Denis Ivashin to 13 years and one month in prison. Due to the closed trial, details of the case remain unknown, but charges may have been brought for his investigative journalism.
On 9 August 2022, a new criminal case under Article 356 of the Criminal Code was initiated against the owner of the national symbols store “SYMBAL.BY.” Pavel Belous was previously recognized by human rights activists as a political prisoner. The pro-government sources claim that “he and his accomplices had been performing the tasks of foreign states and organizations for several years for remuneration, promoting the idea of “Polish peace” and pumping hatred into the country’s electorate against the state.” Pavel was also charged with supplying people with protest symbols and coordinating activities aimed at a violent seizure of power.
On 22 August 2022, the KGB sent to court a criminal case against members of the strike movement “Rabochy Ruch,” recognized as an “extremist formation.” According to the investigation, members of the movement transmitted to the U.S. and Lithuanian intelligence agencies the official information about state-owned enterprises, which concerned “the ways they took to circumvent” the sanctions. Also, the defendants in the case are accused of planning to block the production activities of the Belarusian Metallurgical Plant (BSW) and Hrodna Azot. In total, the case involves 14 people, 10 of whom are accused of “treason against the state” and “calls for sanctions” (Article 361 of the Criminal Code).
Article 357 of the Criminal Code “Conspiracy or Other Acts Committed with the Purpose of Seizing State Power”
On 5 September 2022, Minsk Regional Court passed sentence in the “conspiracy case.” Political analyst Aliaksandr Feduta and the chairman of the Belarusian Popular Front Party Ryhor Kastusiou were sentenced to 10 years of imprisonment, while lawyer Yury Ziankovich was sentenced to 11 years. Also, as part of the case, the court sentenced Ziankovich’s office employee Volha Golubovich and activist Denis Kravchuk to 2.5 years in jail under Article 342 of the Criminal Code. The defendants were accused of attempting to organize a coup d’etat, as well as to murder Alexander Lukashenko and members of his family. Earlier, the KGB reported that there were nine people in the case, but five of them were abroad.
On 28 September 2022, Minsk city court sentenced former journalist of Belteleradiocompany and member of the Coordination Council of the opposition Ksenia Lutskina to 8 years in prison. Ksenia planned to create “alternative television” on YouTube together with other journalists who had quit the state channels. According to the investigation, she prepared and edited various statements on behalf of the Coordination Council, which were then filled in the opposition Internet resources in order to destabilize the situation in Belarus.
On 11 August 2022, pro-government sources reported on the detention of the brother of Deputy Commander of Kalinovsky battalion. He was allegedly leaving critical comments on the Internet and distributing “white-red-white attributes,” in connection with which he faces a lengthy prison sentence “for calling for a forceful seizure of power, insulting security officials and participation in an attempted coup d’etat.” It is not known whether a criminal case on charges of coup d’etat was initiated.
Article 359 of the Criminal Code “Act of terrorism against a state or public figure”
On 28 August 2022, the General Prosecutor’s Office sent to court the criminal case against five members of the informal organization Civil Self-Defense Units of Belarus, recognized as terrorists in Belarus. They are accused of various acts prevented by law enforcement officers: an explosion at a military communications center in Vileika, sabotage in the forestry, and an attempt on a state journalist Ryhor Azarenok. The charges include a number of terrorist articles: Article 289, 290-2 (“Support of terrorist activity”), 290-3 (“Preparation for terrorist activity”), 290-4 (“Participation in a terrorist organization”), 359 (“Act of terrorism against a state or public figure”). The defendants could face up to 20 years in prison.
On 28 September 2022, Minsk City Court passed a decision in the high-profile case of the informal initiative “Busli Latsats” (“Storks Are Flying”), recognized as a terrorist in Belarus. Six defendants in the case were sentenced to 8 to 15 years imprisonment for “terrorist acts against the state and public figures,” “participation in a terrorist organization,” “inciting social hatred,” and other crimes. According to the charges, the defendants were involved in damaging the car of a judge of the Barysau district, puncturing the tires of a correspondent of the state mass media, throwing stones at the apartment of an employee of the Minsk prosecutor’s office, and damaging video surveillance systems in Frunzenski district of Minsk.
Article 361 of the Criminal Code “Calls for restrictive measures (sanctions), other actions aimed at harming the national security of the Republic of Belarus”
On 30 September 2022, Minsk City Court sentenced the developer of an application for boycotting a business loyal to the authorities and de-anonymizing security forces under the name “Belscan” to 8 years in prison. According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, in addition to distributing the personal data of the security forces, this application allowed identifying manufacturers of goods by barcode and checking their affiliation to Belarusian state-owned enterprises. The agency believes that the program contains calls for action against national security. The charges were brought under Articles 130, 203-1, 342 and 361 of the Criminal Code.
On 10 August 2022, the Investigative Committee “reported” on the completion of the investigation against members of the group of “extremists” from Soligorsk, who are accused of using “extremist inscriptions and images” and distributing “printed protest-themed products.” In addition to other “political” articles, the defendants were charged under Articles 130 and 361 of the Criminal Code.
The period was marked by the detentions of representatives of civil society within the framework of this article: activist Alexander Ivanov and journalist Yevgeny Merkis were detained (later the charge was reclassified as “promoting extremism “).
On 26 September 2022, pro-government sources reported the detention of an employee of the Grodno Azot enterprise for critical comments calling for sanctions. The man was punished with 15 days of arrest, and an expert examination was appointed regarding his comments. It is also known about the charging under this article to a resident of Pinsk, previously detained only on an administrative case.
Article 361-1 of the Criminal Code “Creation of an extremist formation or participation in it”
36 cases of criminal prosecution are related to the registration in the Telegram bot of the “Plan Peramoga” (“The Victory Plan”). This initiative was recognized as an “extremist formation” together with BYPOL in November 2021, and in September 2022 it was recognized as a terrorist organization. Despite this, pro-government sources claim that the persecution of detainees is still carried out within the framework of “extremist” legislation, since people were registered in the chatbot before the initiative was recognized as “terrorist.” It is also known about two criminal cases against people who interacted with other opposition resources. A resident of Kobrin was detained for registering in the chatbot of the channel “Motolko Pomogi” (“Motolko Help”), and a case may be initiated against a Minsk priest under Article 361-1 of the Criminal Code for being subscribed to “extremist” channels and sending information to their bots (usually responsibility for such actions comes under Article 361-4 of the Criminal Code).
This article continued to be used to punish administrators of opposition resources recognized as “extremist formations.” We have come to know about 5 sentences against such people, one completed investigation and one detention. At the same time, cases have been recorded when the channel is recognized as an “extremist formation” after the detention of the alleged administrator under Article 361-1 of the Criminal Code.
Gomel Regional Court sentenced the administrator of the cultural and historical Telegram channel “Rezystans” to 3 years in a high-security colony. According to the prosecution, he published posts in which he discredited and insulted the authorities, reprinted extremist posts, posted Nazi symbols, and also portrayed Russians in a negative light. The same court sentenced the owner of the YouTube channel “The Third Region of Belarus” to 5 years in prison for videos containing “anti-state information and propaganda of resistance to the authorities,” as well as a fine and compensation to the injured policemen in the amount of 8,200 BYN (about $3,275). We have also learned about the detention of a Minsk resident who administers 30 opposition Telegram chats. Despite the ban of the UN Human Rights Committee, Russia granted the request of the Prosecutor General’s Office of Belarus to extradite Yana Pinchuk to the Belarusian authorities, who is accused in under Articles 130, 361 and 361-1 of the Criminal Code for the administration of the “extremist” channel “Vitebsk 97%.”
The practice of prosecution under Article 361-1 of the Criminal Code has expanded for comments in chats recognized as “extremist formations” – 2 cases are currently known to us (relating to comments in chats recognized only as “extremist material,” administrative responsibility usually comes if they did not contain insults). It is known about one arrest for subscribing to such channels: for example, a resident of Minsk was detained after a video where he reads “extremist” publications was “leaked” to the security forces.
The period was marked by the persecution of journalists of independent media recognized as “extremist formations.” On 3 August 2022, the ex-journalist of the “Belsat” was sentenced to 5 years in prison. She worked at the publication before the rendered decision of the Ministry of Internal Affairs on recognizing it as “extremist.”
The article continued to be used to punish civil activists. On 6 September 2022, Minsk City Court issued the sentence in the case of “Revolutionary Action” against the human rights defender of the Human Rights Center “Viasna” Marfa Rabkova, a volunteer of the organization Andrey Chepyuk, as well as 8 activists of the anarchist movement. Charges were brought under 10 articles of the Criminal Code, including “creation and participation in an extremist formation,” despite the fact that the organization “Revolutionary Action” was recognized as an “extremist formation” only 8 months after the detention of all the defendants in the case. All the defendants in the case were punished with long terms of imprisonment and large fines. Marfa Rabkova was sentenced to 15 years and a fine of 700 basic units ($8800), Andrei Chepyuk – to 6 years and a fine of 500 basic units ($6300). Members of the anarchist movement were sentenced to terms ranging from 5 to 17 years in prison.
On 19 September 2022, Yelena Lazarchyk, an activist of the “European Belarus,” was sentenced to 8 years in a penal colony under Articles 130, 342, 361-1 and 368 of the Criminal Code. Due to the fact that the trial was held behind closed doors, it is unknown participation in what kind of “formation” she was charged with.
Article 361-2 of the Criminal Code “Financing extremist activities”
On 17 July 2022, Grodno Regional Court sentenced a resident of Mozyr to 8 years of imprisonment under nine articles of the Criminal Code. He was found guilty of inciting hostility (Article 130 of the Criminal Code), preparing for mass riots (Article 293 of the Criminal Code), illegal possession of weapons (Article 295 of the Criminal Code), insulting a representative of the authorities (Article 369 of the Criminal Code), and other articles. The sentence also includes Article 361-2 of the Criminal Code – charges were brought for transferring money in cryptocurrency to the administrators of “extremist” Telegram channels.
On 29 August 2022, Minsk City Court began considering a criminal case against the A1 press secretary – he is accused of abuse of official authority (Article 424 of the Criminal Code) and financing of an “extremist formation” (Article 361-2 of the Criminal Code). In the “confession video,” filmed under pressure from the security forces, he claimed that “he is familiar with Anton Motolko and had been providing him with information related to his professional activities since July 2020.”
On 7 September 2022, the store’s director and the ex-head of the marketing department of the popular shoe store “Sneakerhead” were detained on charges of “financing extremist activities.” In the “confession” video, they said that part of the store’s income was transferred to the fund for assistance to political prisoners. On 27 September 2022, a man was detained on charges of “financing extremism and replenishing the pockets of organizations parasitic on this topic.”
Article 361-4 of the Criminal Code “Promotion of extremist activity”
The practice of applying this article is to punish people who send information to the bots of opposition channels and independent media. Pro-government sources claim that any forms of cooperation with “extremist” resources, including registration in the bot, correspondence with representatives, giving interviews, providing other information, leaving comments and others, constitute a criminal offense under this article. In addition to the sentences for sending information about the Russian army on the territory of Belarus, it is known about 1 court decision and 3 detentions under this article.
On 18 July 2022, Grodno Regional Court sentenced a large resident from Pruzhany to 5 years in prison under 6 “political” articles of the Criminal Code, including the article on “promoting extremist activities” – the woman gave information about “officials who carried out criminal prosecution against her family” for remuneration.
On 25 August 2022, information appeared about the detention of a resident of Brest, who spoiled his ballot at the referendum, wrote insults on it and sent a photo to an opposition resource. On 26 August 2022, a resident of Kalinkovichi was charged for posting “a video file in which he called for the disruption of the work of the Belarusian Railways and law enforcement agencies” on the Telegram channel .
Article 369-1 of the Criminal Code “Discrediting the Republic of Belarus”
On 25 July 2022, human rights activists learned that a resident of Brest region was sentenced to 1.5 years in a general regime colony under Article 369-1 of the Criminal Code. He was accused of posting a video on Viber that contained “deliberately false information about the economic and social situation of the Republic of Belarus.”
It is known about 4 sentences under this article in relation to detainees in the “Zeltser case.” For example, on 2 August 2022, the court of the Zhabinkovsky district of Brest region sentenced a local resident detained in the “Zeltser case” to two years in a general regime colony under Article 369-1 of the Criminal Code. Initially, the charge was brought under Articles 130 and 369 of the Criminal Code, but then the security forces changed the Articles in the charge to 369-1 of the Criminal Code. At the same time, it is unknown exactly how the man “discredited” the Republic of Belarus with his comments about the death of a KGB officer.
On 14 September 2022, Polina Polovinka, the wife of political prisoner journalist Dmitry Luksha, was detained under articles 342 and 369-1 of the Criminal Code. Then on 5 October 2022, the Prosecutor General’s Office announced the referral to court of a criminal case “on discrediting” against her, her husband and his videographer. They were accused of creating “fake” stories for the Kazakh channel “Khabar 24”: according to investigators, the journalist’s wife, hiding her face, introduced herself as a Syrian citizen and, on the basis of a pre-prepared text, spoke on camera about non-compliance with the rights of migrants, dissatisfaction with their basic needs, a shortage of food and water. The journalist was also accused of taking a video about the shortage of goods abroad and using a voiceover to report that the video shows the situation in Belarus.
During this period, we continued to observe “raids” by security forces to detain people subscribed to opposition resources or spreading information from them. We have recorded trends in mass arrests for tattoos on oppositional or neo-Nazi themes, punishments of bookstores for “extremist publications” in catalogs, re-arrests of convicts for “distribution of extremist materials.”
Article 19.10 of the Administrative Code “Propaganda or public display, production, distribution of Nazi symbols or paraphernalia”
GUBOPiK employees continued to detain (the security forces use the term “denazify”) alleged supporters of the ideas of Nazism, fascism, as well as football fans. During the analyzed period, pro-government sources reported at least 50 detentions under this article, including 35 cases of detentions of people for thematic tattoos who promised to remove such tattoos from the body after serving their sentence on “confession videos.” On 24 August 2022, a Minsk resident was sentenced to 15 days for a tattoo with the image of Adolf Hitler, despite the fact that the man claimed that it was not Hitler, but the Belarusian poet Yanka Kupala. It is also known about the detention of a representative of the Roma ethnic group for a neo-Nazi tattoo, despite the fact that the Nazi ideology aimed at the persecution and destruction of this nationality. On 6 July 2022, a Brest tattoo artist was detained, who made a prohibited tattoo to a client.
It is known about one criminal case under Article 341-1 of the Criminal Code (“Distribution of Nazi symbols and paraphernalia”) – this article is used to punish people repeatedly (more than twice a year) convicted under Article 19.10 of the Administrative Code. A criminal case was initiated against a resident of Gomel, who did not reduce the prohibited tattoos after the request of GUBOPiK employees. Also, the pro–government security forces announced the initiation of the first criminal case under Article 130 of the Criminal Code for Nazi tattoos – in their opinion, the swastika and the text of the tattoo contained signs of racial and national enmity.
It is known about detentions for distributing Nazi symbols and publications justifying Nazism on the Internet, as well as for “cutting and drawing Fascist paraphernalia,” posting photos of “leaders of the Third Reich,” photos with a Nazi greeting, a photo with Nazi tattoos on the background of a monument to defenders of the Fatherland, ultra-right paraphernalia, a screensaver on the phone in the form of Nazi runes. Also, a resident of Minsk was detained for buying the book “Blood-red Snow. Notes of the Wehrmacht machine gunner “Hans Kinshermann,” despite the fact that at the time of detention it was not recognized as “extremist materials.”
Article 19.11 of the Administrative Code “Distribution, production, storage, transportation of information products containing calls for extremist activities or promoting such activities”
During the analyzed period, pressure on legal entities, in particular bookstores, in whose catalog printed publications recognized as “extremist materials” were discovered by the prosecutor’s office officials, increased.
On 5 July 2022, the court of the Leninsky district of Mogilev imposed a fine of 150 basic units (about $ 1,900) on the bookstore ODO “Asveta” since two “extremist” books among those sold in the store were discovered, including “Military History of Belarus. Heroes. Symbols. Colors” by Viktor Lyakhor.
On 8 July 2022, the Prosecutor’s office of the Leninsky district of Minsk ordered the chitatel.by online bookstore to stop selling books included in the Republican List of Extremist Materials. On 5 August 2022, it became known that the Prosecutor’s office of the city of Minsk instructed a number of bookstores (booklover.by, bestbooks.by, oz.by) and trading platforms (Wildberries) to stop selling “a book included in the Republican List of Extremist Materials.” According to one of the bookstores, instruction regarded a book by Konstantin Zalessky “Heroes of the Luftwaffe,” which, as of the time of the order, was not listed as an extremist material. On 2 September 2022, “War with the internal enemy” by O. Platonov and “Veles is the God of the Rus. The Unknown History of the Russian People” by A. Belov, recognized as extremist materials by virtue of court decision in 2008 and 2014 respectively, were spotted by the prosecutor’s office on svet-favora.by and av.by online platforms.
Despite the fact that all stores complied with the prosecutor’s office’s order, according to the information released on the state body’s website, an administrative process was launched against all the bookstores under Article 19.11 of the Administrative Code.
In July-September 2022, we became aware of 99 arrests for the distribution of “extremist materials.” Besides, 26 people were detained for subscribing to “extremist” Telegram channels, as well as for leaving any comments in such channels. At the same time, provision of the Administrative Code applied as a ground for bringing responsibility, is unknown, since subscribing to “extremist” resourceS is legally still not punishable. Nevertheless, other “political” articles of the Administrative Code are often invoked to punish subscribers of “extremist” resources, including Article 24.3 (“Disobedience to the request of an official”), Article 24.23 (“Violation of the procedure for organizing mass events”). Except for principal type of punishment in the form of huge fines and arrests of up to 15 days, convicts’ mobile phones recognized as “instruments of offenses” are commonly confiscated under Article 19.11.
Sweeping phone searches of those previously detained for participating in protests and awarded administrative sentences became common. It is known that “raids” by GUBOPiK were carried out in Lelchitsy, Loev and Bragin, as well as in Grodno region.
Religious figures proceeded to be subjected to persecution: on 8 July 2022, a priest from Smorgon was fined 640 rubles. On 18 July 2022, a priest from Vitebsk was sentenced to 15 days under Article 24.23, and two days later, the term of arrest was extended for another 15 days under Article 19.11 for “participating in the “free_vtb” Telegram chat. On 22 July 2022, two Minsk church members were detained and sentenced to 10 days of arrest each: one of them was found liable under Article 19.11 and the other – under Article 19.1 (“Petty hooliganism”). Besides, their texts of the prayers were confiscated. On 26 August 2022, the priest’s wife (“presbytera”) was awarded a huge fine for posting a photo of her husband with a watermark of an “extremist” media outlet on social networks. An Orthodox priest from Minsk, who spoke up for political prisoner Igor Losik and conducted memorial service after the murder of Roman Bondarenko, was also sentenced three times for a total of 44 days.
Another target group persecuted under this article are local activists and human rights defenders. For example, Polotsk activists Viktor Stukov and Ilya Bogdanov, human rights activist Vladimir Telepun and many others were found responsible for “extremist reposts.”
The practice of holding people accountable for reposts made even before the reposted materials were listed as extremist continues. On 13 July 2022, it became known about the court trial of a resident of Ivanovo who posted a publication of Radio Liberty on his Facebook page in 2017 – he was awarded a fine of 960 rubles, despite the fact that the respective Facebook account was listed “extremist” only on 3 December 2021. On 26 July 2022, the Novopolotsk court fined a local resident 800 rubles for reposting an article about the death of poet and artist Michal Anempadistov in 2018 – at that time the article was published by one of the independent media, only a few years later listed as an “extremist material.” On 4 August 2022, a mother of many children from Pruzhany was fined 960 rubles for a link posted in social networks two years ago.
The practice of assigning a separate punishment for each repost of “extremist materials” continues. For example, a mother of three children in Ivanovo was tried three times in six days, as the police were ordered to submit three protocols to the court so that the woman could be awarded fines three times. Since 15 June 2022, activist from Novopolotsk Andrey Golovyrin has been sentenced 5 times in a row to 15 days of arrest, amounting to 75 days in total for forwarding “extremist materials.” The musician Igor Banzer and the priest Vladislav Bogomolnikov were also arrested for a total of 45 days and 44 days respectively.
Three cases of detentions of people who demonstrated “extremist symbols” not online, but in real life, were reported. On 26 July 2022, a man was detained in Brest for wearing a T-shirt with a four-letter word symbolizing a negative attitude towards police officers printed on it. On 26 August 2022, a resident of Minsk was detained for a tattoo with the same word (recognized as “extremist material in 2018). On 2 August 2022, at the Viva Braslav music Festival, security forces detained a visitor “for demonstrating extremist symbols.” The attention of the security forces was attracted by his tattoos with the symbol of anarchism and the coat of arms “Pogonya.” These symbols are not included in the Republican List of Extremist Materials.
Amendments to the Republican List of Extremist Materials
In July-September 2022, information on 112 new court decisions on the recognition of materials as extremist (compared to 99 in the previous period) was included in the Republican list of Extremist Materials published on the website of the Ministry of Information. A total of 217 information materials were banned (compared to 235 materials during the previous three-month period), 82 of which are Telegram resources. As of 1 October 2022, the List includes 2,436 materials.
For the first time, the List encompassed a webpage on Patreon platform, where authors of the works of art provide access to their works by paid subscription. For example, “Partyzanskaya Khvalya” (“Guerilla Wave”) page was recognized as “extremist.” Also, the court for the first time recognized a set of Telegram stickers was also recognized as “extremist” for the first time – the court decision regarded sets of stickers named “Luka” and “Sasha 3%.”
The following independent media resources were recognized as “extremist materials:” “mirrors” of the website and social networks of the Charter’97 media outlet, the Facebook group and YouTube channel of the hrodna.life media outlet, the “Borisov-info” website, “EX_PRESS.BY” account on Odnoklassniki Telegram chat and social networks accounts of “Flagpole” mediaoutled, “Media-Polesie” chat, “Pershy Regien” (“First Region”) Telegram channel, “Bobruisk Courier” website, as well as the channel “TOK | TALK” of “Nasha Niva,” posting interviews with civil society activists. The list also includes two websites of the Polish media “PolskieRadio.” A website aggregating regional news posted in the Belarusian segment of Telegram for them to be accessible even for non-subscribers of the respective Telegram channels, was also banned.
The websites and social networks of the by_culture foundation promoting belarusian culture, “SYMBAL.BY” store selling national symbols, “BNR 100” and “Hodna” civil campaigns as well as Telegram channel of “Bely Legien” (“White Legion”) patriotic organization were recognized as “extremist materials.” The list also encompassed Instagram accounts of the Coordination Council, Belarusian House in Warsaw, and Belarusian Diaspora in Hamburg, as well as two web-pages of the “Country for Life” Foundation.
The practice of listing local opposition chats (city chats, chats of districts and streets) from virtually all regions of Belarus as “extremist” continued. The List also encompassed 3 Telegram channels and 2 Instagram accounts of strike committees – “Naftan against Extremism” and “We are Miners” channels, the channel of the Vitebsk Technological University “VSTU,” as well as the Instagram accounts of the Belarusian Metallurgical Plant (BMZ) and the Belarusian State University of Informatics and Radioelectronics (BSUIR). Resources publishing satirical content were also affected – the “Belarusiana” channel, posting political memes, was recognized as “extremist material.” As for the most popular opposition resources, the list encompassed the social networks accounts of the “Belarus of the Brain” (“Belarus Golovnogo Mozga”) channel and “Cyberpartisan” Youtube channel. The chat, publishing personal data of participants of pro-government car rallies, was also labeled “extremist.”
The period was marked by listing social networks accounts of individuals posting information dissenting from the state policy. Some of the accounts were labeled “extremist” following the detention of their owners. For example, the list encompassed the Facebook account of Anatoly Bukas, containing links to various political petitions, account political prisoner and activist Igar Lednik, as well as accounts of Ganna Skachok and Aliaksandr Pancialiej, which might previously posted oppositional content. Besides, Borisov District Court listed VKontakte accounts of the local copy shop “Fox” (“Lisa”) and of its female owner, who was detained for participating in protests and was shot on video tearing off the white and red wallpaper.
A number of small bloggers publishing opposition videos on YouTube were also included in the list. Besides, 8 videos about protest actions in Krupki, an investigation by the Belarusian Investigative Center investigation of the “orthopedists’ case,” a video recording political prisoner Igor Losik meeting his daughter were recognized as “extremist.”
The list also included social networks of the satirical non-existent state “Veishnoria,” which first appeared during military exercises of Russia and Belarus “West-2017.” The period was also marked by the prohibition of resources on environmental topics – the Telegram channel of the non-profit environmental organization “Ecodom” and the news resource “Green Portal” were recognized as an “extremist material.” The website of the Psychological center “Reflections,” which made one historical post, got into the list.
During the analyzed period, 2 books were recognized as “extremist materials.” “A short course in the History of Belarus IXX – XXI centuries” by Anatoly Taras, which described the events of domestic history from a national point of view, as well as another book by Taras “Belarus at the crossroads.” The list also included the popular science publication “Heroes of the Luftwaffe. The first Personal Encyclopedia” by Konstantin Zalessky, which tells about famous pilots of the Third Reich and the German Air Force. On 26 August 2022, it was reported that the books of the Nobel laureate Svetlana Alexievich were also being checked for the presence of “extremism.”
The list includes anarchist resources – Telegram channels “Fighter Anarchist,” “Reborn B,” “Black Cross of Belarus,” as well as website “Anarchy Today.” The List also included neo-nazi content – page “Vadim Shilko” in the Odnoklassniki network, TikTok channel “Walter Grett” belonging to the same user, as well as the chat “White Brotherhood.” At the end of September 2022, Telegram stickers with the common name “Adolf Hitler” and “The Uprising of the Third Reich” were recognized as “extremist materials.”
It should also be noted that pro-government resources continued to spread the narrative that the white-red-white flag and the emblem “Chase” are “extremist symbols,” despite the fact that these symbols are not included in the list.
Changes in the List of Organizations, Formations, Individual Entrepreneurs Involved in Extremist Activities
At the moment, the List of organizations, formations, individual entrepreneurs involved in extremist activities (hereinafter – the List) includes 91 formations, recognized as such by the decision of the Ministry of Internal Affairs or the KGB. In three months, the list has been replenished with 22 positions. Criminal liability is provided for the creation, leadership, or participation in an “extremist formation” – up to 6 years of imprisonment under Article 361-1 of the Criminal Code.
At the end of September 2022, 9 regional media and nationwide online resources were included in the list. During the analyzed period, 2 independent media were recognized as “extremist formations:” “Eyraradia | Euroradio” and “Charter’97.” The List also includes the chat “Belsatayshchyna,” probably related to the media resource “Belsat.”
During this period, 14 opposition Telegram channels were recognized as “extremist formations,” most of them were recognized from the Grodno region (6 channels) – “Proud Grodno residents,” “Proud Volkovysk residents,” “Proud Slonim residents,” “Grodno 97%,” “Lida 97%,” and “volkovysklife.” The list also includes another major opposition channel “Basta!.”
Civic initiatives have been added to the list: the executive body “United Transitional Cabinet” created by Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, youth democratic movement “Malady Front” (“The Young Front”), VKontakte community called “For the Adzinaya dzyarzhaynaya Mova Belarus” (“For the unified state language of Belarus”), which popularized the use of the Belarusian language. Also, by the decision of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, chat “Belaruskiya Advakaty” (“Belarusian Lawyers”), in which Belarusian lawyers coordinated the provision of legal assistance among themselves, was recognized as an ” extremist formation.” At the time of recognition as “extremist,” the chat was deleted. The practice of recognizing independent trade unions as “formations” continued – by the decision of the KGB, the “Professional Union of Belarusians in Britain” was recognized as such.
On 23 September 2022, the List included social networks of the Belarusian detachment “Kalinovsky Regiment” and its structural units (battalions “Volat,” “Terror,” “Belaruski Yanki,” and others).
The list includes 2 private closed Telegram chats “OktiaborsiDistrict2020” and “HATA.” Also, a YouTube channel called “Maxim Shabutsky” was recognized as an ” extremist formation.”
Changes in the List of Citizens of the Republic of Belarus, Foreign Citizens or Stateless Persons Involved in Extremist Activities
The List of citizens of the Republic of Belarus, foreign citizens or stateless persons involved in extremist activities was first published on 23 March 2022, and since then has been actively updated by hundreds of people against whom the sentence on “extremist articles” entered into force.
At the end of September 2022, there are 573 people in this List (150 people were added in the last three months). Most of all additions relate to the sentences on “defamatory” and “protest” articles of the Criminal Code. 30 people were included in the List on the basis of Article 369 of the Criminal Code (“Insulting a representative of power”), 28 people – under Article 130 of the Criminal Code (“Incitement to hostility”), 22 people – under Article 368 of the Criminal Code (“Insulting a representative of power”), and 22 people – under Article 342 of the Criminal Code (“Actions grossly violating public order”).
Some elements of crimes in this list are not directly classified by the Law “On Countering Extremism” as “extremist activity:” Article 188 of the Criminal Code (“Slander”), 339 of the Criminal Code (“Hooliganism”), 341 of the Criminal Code (“Desecration of buildings and damage to property”), and 367 of the Criminal Code (“Slander against the President of the Republic of Belarus”). It is likely that the security forces consider some crimes under these articles to be “extremism,” since, according to their version, they were committed on the grounds of inciting hostility.
The peculiarity of this period is supplementing with the List by citizens of foreign countries, in particular the Russian Federation, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Germany, Estonia. There are still cases when a person is included both in the “extremist” and “terrorist” lists at the same time, due to similar reasons for replenishment (for example, this happened to a former political prisoner from Lida). The list also included Dmitry Dudoit, who committed suicide on 5 January 2022 while serving his sentence at the “chemistry.”
Changes in the List of Organizations and Individuals Involved in Terrorist Activities
Over the past six months, the List of Organizations and Individuals Involved in Terrorist Activities included almost exclusively by people from Belarus. In three months, 47 new people were included in the list, 45 of whom are connected to Belarus. The grounds for inclusion in the terrorist list remained similar to the List of Citizens of the Republic of Belarus, Foreign Citizens or Stateless Persons Involved in Extremist Activities.” At the moment, there are 174 people with Belarusian citizenship on the list. In the period of July-September 2022, the basis for inclusion in the list of people continued to be not only “an act of terrorism,” but also Articles 130 of the Criminal Code (“Incitement to hostility”) or 342 of the Criminal Code (“Actions grossly violating public order”). People on the list face financial restrictions: the enlisted persons are prohibited from making money transfers, and people who served their sentences are unable to use their telephone and bank accounts and cannot open new accounts.
The period was marked by adding non-media people involved in a variety of political crimes. There is no information in the media about most of the people included in the list. It is known that the list continued to be supplemented with the defendants in the “Zeltser case” – for example, a resident of Brest and a resident of Slonim. It also includes people, convicted of oppositional or critical comments, for example, a resident of Vitebsk. It is also known about the administrators of oppositional Telegram chats from Mogilev and Petrikov. The list also includes “rail partisans” – a resident of Vitebsk, accused of planning to disable railway safety systems, and a resident of Stolbtsy, who is charged with arson on railway tracks.
Two Yemeni citizens were added to the List – the commander of the Houthi troops who carried out attacks on ships in the Red Sea, as well as a Houthi security officer accused of torture and illegal arrests.
The period was marked by one new Belarusian “terrorist” organization. On 31 August 2022, the Supreme Court, at the request of the Prosecutor General of Belarus Andrei Shved, recognized the opposition organization of former security forces “BYPOL” with its structural units “Situatsyna-analytychny tsentr” (“Situational Analysis Center”) and “Mobilizationny Plan Peramoga” (“Mobilizayion Plan Peramoga”) as terrorist. According to the prosecutor’s office, “the organization’s activities are connected with the formation of ideas of radicalism in society and the inciting of citizens to extremist activities in order to change the constitutional order of Belarus illegally.” It is alleged that the organization participated in the planning of terrorist and extremist actions. Thus, people who have registered in the chatbot of the “Plan Peramoga” after the decision of the Supreme Court are likely to be detained not under Article 361-1 of the Criminal Code (“Participation in extremist formation”), but under article 290-4 of the Criminal Code (“Creation of an organization to carry out terrorist activities or participation in it”).
Liquidation of organizations on “extremist grounds”
According to the human rights center “Viasna,” from 14 July 2021 to 14 July 2022, 857 public organizations in Belarus were liquidated or are in the process of liquidation. According to human rights organizations Lawtrend and OEEC, the public sector has lost 880 non-profit organizations since 2020. Many of the organizations are being liquidated for involvement in “extremist activities.” For example, on 14 June 2022, Vitebsk Regional Court liquidated the civil association “Polotsk Jewish Cultural Center.” The reason for the liquidation was likely “extremism,” since earlier one of the center’s projects (a YouTube channel that published information about the study and revitalization of former Jewish towns in Belarus and Poland) was recognized as extremist materials.
Access restriction to Internet resources
On 9 July 2022, the Ministry of Information blocked the website of the media resource Arche for “reposting extremist materials.” The department did not specify which materials became the basis for blocking the media resource. It is known that the resourse’s newspaper of the same name publishes information on historical, political and social topics. On 22 July 2022, the website of the media resource “Belarusians and the Market” was blocked, due to the publication of links to “extremist materials.” Portal about Minsk and Belarus “Blizko.by” were blocked because of the mention in one of the publications of Anton Motolko, included in the list of “terrorists.”
On 28 July 2022, information appeared about the blocking by the Unet.by provider pages of the BYSOL Foundation in the LinkedIn social network. A representative of the provider said that such a measure was taken by the decision of the Ministry of Information. Earlier, the foundation was recognized as an “extremist formation” in Belarus, and the foundation’s social media accounts – as “extremist materials.” On 7 August 2022, access to the website of the Polish Radio and the news site Green Portal were blocked after the Internet resource was included in the “list of extremist materials” (blockages occur on average a week after being recognized as “extremist materials”).
Also, for unknown reasons, probably also because of “extremism,” the website of “Square of Changes,” websites of the publications “Evening Bobruisk,” “Bobruisk Online,” “mirrors” of the website of the Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ) and the media resource “Reform.by.” During this period, the resources of support of political prisoners were blocked: by the decree of the prosecutor of the city of Minsk, access was restricted to the sites “vkletochku.ogd” and “politzek.me,” and then to the Napishi.life resource. The news website “belprauda.com” and the website “sport-podpis.club,” which contains a list of signatories of the letter of the sports community in support of the authorities, were also blocked.
Despite the active “fighting” of the Ministry of Information with resources that publish links to “extremist materials,” it is noted that the body itself has repeatedly left prohibited links in its publications. Thus, Reform.by’s journalists noticed that in one of the publications of the ministry there is a link to the TUT.BY’s website, recognized as “extremist materials.”
Warnings and registration for “extremism”
On 6 July 2022, political prisoner Mikalai Statkevich was registered in the colony as “prone to extremism.” On the same day it became known that political prisoner Igor Losik was put on two preventive records at once: as “suicidal and self-harming” and as “prone to extremism and other destructive actions.”
On 1 August 2022, political prisoner involved in the “Autukhovich case,” Vladimir Gundar, was placed in a punishment cell for 6 days because during regular inspections he refused to say that he was “prone to extremism.”