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Lukashenko's regime is afraid of a political alternative

Mikhail Kiryliuk
Mikhail Kiryliuk Photo: NAM media

A member of the coalition "Latushka’s Team and Movement For Freedom", lawyer Mikhail Kiryliuk, commented on the news that criminal charges have been filed against all the participants in the elections for the Coordination Council.

Kiryliuk explained that the Coordination Council candidates are accused of violating 4 articles of the Criminal Code, including a particularly serious crime punishable by a minimum of 8 years in prison, and a maximum of life imprisonment or even the death penalty. The minimum possible total sentence for each individual, taking into account all the charges, is 13.5 years. The cumulative sentence for all 257 members of this "criminal group" adds up to 3,469.5 years.

The investigative committee claims that each of the 257 members of this large "criminal group" committed (or attempted to commit) at least four crimes:

  1. Conspiracy to seize state power, under Article 357 of the Criminal Code. This is an extremely serious charge, with penalties ranging from 8 to 25 years in prison, life imprisonment, or even the death penalty. The first part of the article deals with the conspiracy aspect (8 to 12 years), while the second part covers actually seizing or holding power (10 to 15 years). Based on the wording, the first part seems more about preparing to seize power, while the second part is intended to be applied when the seizure of power has already occurred.

It's hard to imagine a prosecutor claiming the exiled Coordination Council has already successfully seized or holds power in Belarus, and using the harsher second part of Article 357. But just because that would be absurd doesn't mean they won't try it.

The third part of Article 357 has the harshest punishments, including life imprisonment or the death penalty, if the illegal seizure or retention of power results in loss of life or murder. In Kiryliuk's opinion, this part would be more applicable to Lukashenko himself, as the organizer, as well as many in his prosecutor's office, security services, and other accomplices - who likely understand this well, hence their nervous reaction to any initiatives exposing this matter.

  1.  The next charge regards calling for restrictive measures, under Article 361 of the Criminal Code. This is a serious crime that has no analogues in international law. It was invented by Lukashenko's associates after they violated Article 357 of the Criminal Code and other laws in 2020. Lukashenko's authorities would like to imprison people for up to 12 years for this offense. It is a non-violent crime, yet the punishment is comparable to the punishment for murder. Such severe sentencing indicates how effective the authorities view sanctions to be. Candidates in Kyrgyzstan who oppose sanctions but have fallen under this article should feel embarrassed. Maybe it's time for them to reconsider their views on what methods of resistance Lukashenko recognizes as a real threat.

  2. The following Article 361-1 of the Criminal Code regards "creation of an extremist formation or participation in it." This is another invention by Lukashenko to suppress dissent. It is a serious crime, with punishments ranging from 6 months to 10 years in prison, depending on the specific charge. The article is awkwardly worded – according to the text, the "rehabilitation of Nazism" is considered extremism. And the appendices define "extremism" as crimes motivated by racial, national, religious, political, ideological enmity or hostility towards any social group. The application of this article shows that the only group whose interests it is designed to protect is Lukashenko and his accomplices.

  3. The last charge is "promotion of extremist activity" under Article 361-4 of the Criminal Code. This is a serious crime, punishable by up to 7 years in prison. According to this article, those who assist political prisoners are persecuted in Belarus. Every candidate running for the Coordination Council has reasons to be proud. Even actions that have not yet happened are being classified the same as sending money to political prisoners or organizing fundraising drives for them. We are joining the Coordination Council specifically in order to help political prisoners and secure their freedom.

The security services are right about one thing – there is an anti-Lukashenko conspiracy, and the majority of Belarusians are participating in it.


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