Belarus. In January, the regime decided to abolish the
visa requirement for Belarus for 80 nationals, including all
EU countries and the United States. The freedom of visa is
valid for five days for tourists and business people, but
not for official travel. Since Belarus and the Russian
Federation abolished checks at their common border, the
Belarusian visa freedom meant that foreign travelers could
enter the Russian Federation as well. Moscow therefore
introduced passport control on flights from Minsk and the
security service FSB established a security zone along the
border, which upset Belarus.
In February, street protests broke out in Minsk against a
2015 decree on a so-called law against social parasites.
Anyone who works less than 183 days a year must replace the
state with lost tax revenue equivalent to about SEK 2,200 a
year. Now it was also suggested that mothers with children
under seven would pay the tax if the children go to
kindergarten. Hundreds of thousands of Belarusians had been
required to pay the tax with threats of fines, arrests,
forced labor, revoked travel permits or driver's licenses.
In a society where many people lack jobs and struggle to
survive, most had no opportunity to pay the tax. Instead, a
couple of thousand Belarusians went out in protest of the
law, a demonstration larger than in several years.
Countryaah.com, the Constitutional Court ruled the decree unlawful, and
President Aljaksandr Lukashenka halted the collection of the
parasite tax, but the protests continued and spread to
several cities. General dissatisfaction with freedom, poor
finances and unemployment was alleviated. The country's
economy has been declining for a couple of years, not least
because of political and economic conflicts with Moscow. The
police took action and arrested over a hundred people,
including journalists. In March, about 3,000 people went to
Minsk demanding Lukashenka's departure. In the run-up to the
opposition, 17 people were arrested, among them activist
Zmitser Dasjkevich. They were accused of preparing an armed
action. By the end of March, about 200 people had been
arrested, and Amnesty International criticized the regime's
strike. For the first time in a long time, protests were
going on all over the country. The police fought to prevent
a planned protest and arrested hundreds of people. It
affected several NGOs, such as the human rights body Vjasna.
Among the arrested were journalists, foreign observers and
opposition politician Vladimir Nekliyev who would have
spoken at the protest meeting. Spontaneous demonstrations
were formed, but police raids were massive and all protests
were turned down and protesters were beaten. Roads to Minsk
were blocked off. but the police raid was massive and all
protests were turned down and protesters were beaten. Roads
to Minsk were blocked off. but the police raid was massive
and all protests were turned down and protesters were
beaten. Roads to Minsk were blocked off.
According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), many of the
hundreds were arrested by police. Of those arrested, 177
were sentenced to fines or imprisonment according to HRW.
The UN Human Rights Reporter noted that respect for human
rights has drastically decreased in Belarus. According to
the reporter, 900 people were arrested in March in actions
In October, a couple of hundred people in Minsk
demonstrated and demanded the departure of President
Lukashenka. They also demanded better conditions in the
army, where many conscripts took their lives because of
penalism. A couple of regime critics were sentenced to short
prison sentences for protests.
Ahead of the EU summit in November on the so-called
Eastern Partnership, President Lukashenka was invited to
Brussels. It would have been the first time since 1995 that
he visited the EU headquarters, but Lukashenka instead sent
his Foreign Minister.