Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Belarus on Dec. 19 didn’t deliver any particular results.
Routine statements about joint exercises, a new round of nuclear blackmail, and assurances that Russia will not annex Belarus were among the key talking points during Putin’s press conference in Minsk.
Russia again began increasing its military presence in the country, delivering more than 100 pieces of equipment to Belarus’ where Russian troops are stationed as part of the joint military command.
Belarus issues first prison sentence for raising consumer prices
On Dec. 19, a Belarusian court issued the first sentence for violating Lukashenko’s ban on consumer product price hikes.
A 46-year-old shop owner in Mahiliou was sentenced to two years in prison for raising the price of cheese by 26 kopeks ($0.10).
On Oct. 6, Lukashenko announced a ban on price increases for consumer goods in Belarus due to “exorbitant” inflation.
The ban was effective immediately, and Belarusian authorities conducted raids at grocery stores to monitor price tags for various goods.
Lukashenko claimed on Oct. 10 that the ban is temporary until more permanent means to regulate prices are determined. He did not mention those against whom criminal cases have been filed for violating the order.
On Oct. 27, business owners across 13 cities and towns in Belarus declined to open amid price regulations imposed by Lukashenko’s regime. Some business owners that ceased operations were reportedly afraid of punishment given the ambiguity of price regulations.
Watchdog: Belarusians returning to country detained at border
Human rights watchdog Viasna reported that authorities detained at least 10 Belarusians following border control checks upon their arrival in Belarus from Poland on Dec. 19.
According to the watchdog, those detained are accused of participating in the protests following the 2020 Belarusian presidential election, deemed fraudulent by the international community.
Aliaksandr Azarau, the head of BYPOL, an association of exiled former Belarusian law enforcement officers that oppose Lukashenko’s regime, said it is not common for Belarusian authorities to detain people at the border.
3.5 times more detentions were reported in autumn compared to summer
The pace of repressions in Belarus has accelerated in the autumn of 2022, with 3.5 times more detentions than during the summer of 2022, according to the Belarusian Change Tracker, a quarterly report published by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation.
The report cites 350-420 detentions per month throughout fall as opposed to 100-120 detained during summer 2022.
Additionally, the number of politically motivated trials increased from 84 to 145 per month and resulted in harsher punishments.
In an attempt to silence the exiled independent media, Lukashenko’s law enforcers are pressing charges for giving interviews to media outlets critical of the regime.
The Independent Journalists Union reports that over 3000 websites were shut down by the regime in 2022, comprising a third of the total amount of banned sites in seven years.
In 2021, 684 websites were listed as extremist.