“Eastern Europe Geopolitical Watch – From January 8 to January 14, 2022”

10/01/2022: Lukashenko suggested strengthening the CSTO’s peacekeeping capacity in light of events in Kazakhstan

At a special session of the CSTO Collective Security Council on January 10, Alexandre Lukashenko took the opportunity to suggest strengthening the CSTO’s peacekeeping capacity. He thus justified this proposal by recalling that the President of Tajikistan, Emomali Rahmon, had repeatedly warned of the risks and threats associated with the emergence of dormant cells of Islamist terrorists and extremists in the Central Asia region, risk that would have been undervalued. During the session, it was pointed out that professional terrorist fighters would have led the demonstrators to Kazakhstan.

11/01/2022: Belarusian reactions to the publication of the audio recording of the exchange of May 23, 2021 between the Belarusian air traffic controller and the Ryanair Boeing 737-800 pilot

On January 11, in response to the publication of the audio recording of the 23 May 2021 exchange between the Belarusian air traffic controller and the Ryanair Boeing 737-800 pilot, Andrei Motolko, deputy head of the Minsk Department of the Belarusian Commission of Inquiry, told the media that the recording had been modified. He stated that several sound tracks would have been combined and would have left traces of digital modification. The audio recording had also made the Polish side react, which had commented on the possible presence of a Belarusian KGB officer who then gave instructions to the air traffic controller. 

The audio track was recorded during the hijacking of the Ryanair Boeing 737-800 line flight from Athens to Vilnius. The political opponent Roman Protasevich, passenger on board, was arrested once the plane was forced to land under the pressure of a Belarusian MiG-G 29 fighter aircraft. The event was set against the backdrop of tensions of the Belarusian “Color Revolution”, and caused an unprecedented diplomatic crisis between the Republic of Belarus and the West, followed by US and European sanctions. The Belarusian authorities then declared that they had identified the risk of a bomb attack, which is why it was decided to intervene on the initial trajectory. However, the investigation has not yet verified all the statements, and the audio recordings of the exchange in question are essential evidence for the resolution of the case.

11/01/2022: Belarusian diplomatic rapprochement in Italy 

On January 11, the Belarusian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sergeï Aleinik, was in diplomatic representation in Italy where he met with Benedetto Della Vedova, Undersecretary of State of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, during a visit to Rome. Sergeï Aleinik took the opportunity to meet with the Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Qu Dongyu. These meetings made it possible to address bilateral economic cooperation issues, current relations with the European Union, but also the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals and the means to guarantee global food security. Namely that Belarusian agricultural production is one of the pillars of its economy and identity. On January 10, Sergeï Aleinik also attended the annual New Year audience of Pope Francis I, after which he was able to exchange with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State of the Holy See. Interreligious dialogue and interaction within international organisations were discussed.

11/01/2022: Transfer of the opponent Maryya Kalesnikava to a correctional colony

On January 11, Maryya Kalesnikava, the opposition activist who had accompanied the «color revolution» alongside Svetlana Tsikhanouvskaya after being coordinator of the electoral campaign of the former leader of Belgazprombank, Viktar Barbaryka, who had been sentenced to 11 years in prison in September, was sent, according to law activists, to correctional colony N°4.

11/01/2022: The upcoming Belarusian referendum is the subject of citizen proposals

Within the framework of the referendum which will soon be organized in Belarus, the head of the presidential administration of Belarus, Igor Segueïenko, confirmed, on January 11, during a dedicated meeting, that more than 4000 proposals for amendments and additions to the Constitution of Belarus were received from the population. According to him, these proposals come from different categories of citizens, and are collected and synthesized by the Legal Information Centre. He said that some would be examined at the Constitutional Commission. Popular interest would be mainly focused on social policy and the functions and powers held by the Belarusian People’s Assembly. Igor Lutsky, deputy head of the administration of the Belarusian president, recalled, during a meeting with representatives of the Gomel Oblast this same day, the importance of the Constitution as a guarantee of the independence and sovereignty of Belarus. He confirmed that the new provisions had already been discussed and that the new Constitution should soon be submitted to a referendum.

11/01/2022: Two women cross-country skiers claim to have been expelled from competitions for political reasons

The cross-country skiers Sviatlana Andryiuk and Darya Dolidovich, were supposed to participate in the Beijing Olympics next month, but claim on this January 11 to have been banned from competition by the authorities. Sports officials from the Belarusian Ski Union allegedly accused them of supporting the opposition to the Belarusian presidential power. Their ISF code, which allows the identification of athletes to participate in competitions supervised by the International Ski Federation (ISF), was desactivated last month. It should be noted that Darya Dolidovich is the daughter of Sergei Dolidovich, seven-time Olympic cross-country ski champion and who participated in opposition demonstrations following the 2020 presidential elections. His participation in the movement had led him to leave his job following pressure. The sports competitions are the theater of the current Belarusian political stakes. One remembers the Belarusian sprinter Krystina Tsimanouskaya who, at the Tokyo Olympics last year, refused to take a return flight after being expelled from the Games following comments against the national team coaches and who had subsequently found asylum in Poland.

12/01/2022: Lithuania terminates its potash transport contract with the state-owned company Belaruskali 

On January 12, Lithuania terminated a transport agreement between its state-owned railways and Belaruskali, the Belarusian public potash producer, following US sanctions on the Republic of Belarus since last August. Belarusian potash continued to be transported via Lithuania, not subject to EU sanctions on Minsk. The issue had provoked internal political unrest in Lithuania, to the point of risking the resignation of two ministers, Ingrida Simonyte, the Prime Minister, and Gabrielius Landsbergis, Minister of Foreign Affairs. 

12/01/2022: Belarusian diplomatic rapprochement in Vietnam 

Following the visit to Hanoi of Mikalai Barysevich, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belarus, ministerial consultations of the Republic of Belarus and Vietnam were held on January 12 during which he was able to meet the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Vietnam, Bui Thanh Son. It was indicated that another meeting of the Intergovernmental Committee on Trade and Economic Cooperation would be held shortly. Events celebrating the 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two States are to be expected, and proposals for joint projects in various fields of education, science, culture and tourism have been made. The interaction between Belarus and Vietnam within international organizations was also discussed. On January 11, Mikalai Barysevich also had the opportunity to meet with Vietnam’s Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade, Dang Hoang An. Joint actions to combat Covid-19 were also reportedly discussed.

12/01/2022: Belarusian Investigation Committee confirms statements of Emil Czeczko about the massacre perpetrated by Polish forces on the Polish-Belarusian border area 

On January 12, the Investigative Committee of Belarus, which is responsible for organizing the collection of information and the registration of cases of disappearances of citizens travelling in Western Europe, declared that the Polish military Emil Czeczko, who had taken refuge in Belarus after being sentenced to 6 months in prison in Poland for intimidating his mother, confirmed to the investigators that organized murders took place in the Polish-Belarusian border area, resulting in more than 240 deaths. The dead are believed to be migrants seeking refuge in Poland, including women and children, as well as two foreign volunteers. Polish soldiers would allegedly have buried the bodies in graves prepared for this purpose. In particular, the Committee disclosed these statements on its Telegram channel. In addition, it was confirmed that investigators were working to gather objective evidence, and that requests would be made for the competent international bodies as well as the Middle-Eastern States and Afghanistan, affected by the losses, may be seized of the facts. All this was stated in a context of ongoing tensions with the Republic of Belarus, accused of using migrants as a means of pressure and retaliation against the European Union. This wave of migration permitted by Belarus is said to have pushed Poland to its limits, and the European country is accused by Brussels and by the international community of failing to fulfil its commitments as well as the right to asylum and human rights. Poland is reportedly using violent means on migrants attempting to enter the territory and preventing humanitarian and media organizations from reaching the area.

12/01/2022: A scientific conference in honour of Sino-Belarusian relations

On January 12, an international scientific conference dedicated to 30 years of Sino-Belarusian diplomatic relations was held at the Belarusian State University, bringing together Belarusian scientists, experts and ambassadors who have been accredited to China in recent years. Scientific reports on bilateral diplomatic, economic, scientific and educational development were presented. The various projects implemented between the two countries in recent decades have been highlighted. A telephone conversation between the leaders of Belarus and China, Alexander Lukashenko and Xi Jinping, had took place on January 10, which was welcomed by the First Deputy Prime Minister of Belarus, Nikolai Snopkov. This exchange also marked the 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries. For the past 30 years, the two States have more than 25 projects in the industrial and energy sectors to their credit, and four worthing about 2.5 billion dollars are currently being implemented. China is also financing several infrastructure and social housing projects in the Belarusian capital. Nikolaï Snopkov also highlighted China’s position as an investor of quality in Belarus, with 2 billion accumulated over the past 30 years, of which 1 billion was Chinese direct investment. He also welcomed the success of the Republic of Belarus in certifying more than 134 Belarusian companies for the export of their products to China.

08 – 13/01/2022: Movement in Belarusian peacekeeping troops alongside the CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organisation) contingent in Kazakhstan 

On January 8, the Belarusian Ministry of Defence confirmed the commitment of Belarusian peacekeeping troops to protect military installations in Kazakhstan. It was recalled that the mission would only be law enforcement in nature, and not intended to be carried out in combat. Belarusian soldiers from the 103rd airborne brigade detached from Vitebsk then flew to Kazakhstan, aboard five Russian military transport planes IL 76 from Machulishchy airfield near Minsk. They were specifically tasked with protecting and defending the military airfield, according to statements by the deputy commander of the special operations forces of the armed forces of Belarus, Syarhei Andreyeu. According to Aleksandr Volfovich, State Secretary of the Security Council of Belarus, on January 10, the situation in Kazakhstan was gradually stabilizing, with the government having notably regained “control of the North and North-West of the country, and almost 90% facilities, cities and regions”. Some instability persisted in Almaty and its surrounding region. In this context, it had been confirmed that the contingent of the Collective Peacekeeping Forces of the CSTO should soon return to their permanent duty stations. Following a meeting between President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev and CSTO General Secretary Stanislav Zas that took place on January 12 in Nur-Sultan, CSTO spokesman Vladimir Zainetdinov announced the withdrawal of the peacekeeping contingent from Kazakhstan, which began on January 13 and should be completed within 10 days. President Tokayev thus confirmed the stabilization of the situation in all regions of the country. Following this announcement, Belarusian CSTO troops began to withdraw from Kazakhstan on January 13 and the withdrawal should meet the set deadlines, according to statements by the Belarusian Ministry of Defence.

13/01/2022: Polish OSCE Presidency for 2022 hosted by Andrei Dapkiunas, Permanent Representative of Belarus to the OSCE 

According to Andrei Dapkiunas, Permanent Representative of Belarus to the OSCE, at the exceptional meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council in Vienna on 13 January, “a good level of security is possible only through dialogue”. The inauguration ceremony enabled Poland to present the priorities of the organization, which it will chair in 2022. Andrei Dapkiunas took the opportunity to welcome the Polish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Zbigniew Rau, and to thank him for his presentation which, according to him, testifies to an open position in the discussions to follow concerning the means of ensuring the comprehensive and indivisible security.

14/01/2022: Public media in the spotlight in Belarus 

During a meeting with the Council of Ministers on January 13, Telegram Pul Pervogo announced the possible creation of “a new ministry, the Ministry of Digital Development and Communications”. Following this, on January 14, Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko signed an executive decree awarding medals and congratulatory letters to public media professionals. Medal beneficiaries included Anatoly Zankovich, director of news broadcasting for the «second national television channel», Ilya Krevchik, head of the production department of the State National Television and the Radio Company, and Konstantin Prybaylo, Special correspondent of the editorial staff for broadcasting to the CIS States and the Baltic States of TV News (RT). Their personal contribution to the development of the State’s information policy was praised. A total of eight people received letters of congratulations for their capacity to implement the state’s information policy and for the objective and comprehensive coverage of events in the social, political and cultural life of the country.


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