Belarus Warning Update: Putin Sends Airborne Troops to Belarus Exercise—and a Message to Lukashenko

September 15, 2020 - Press ISW

5:00 pm EDT: Moscow has modified the prescheduled Slavic Brotherhood military exercises in Belarus to demonstrate its ability to deploy forces to Belarus on short notice. Elements of Russia’s 76th Guards Air Assault Division arrived in Belarus for the Slavic Brotherhood 2020 exercises on September 15. Russia has not deployed significant conventional forces to Belarus since the start of protests on August 9. The number of Russian troops in the exercises is unclear.

Belarus Warning Update: Putin Seeks Belarus’ Integration with Russia via Belarusian Constitutional Amendments

October 5, 2020 - Press ISW

4:20 pm EDT: Self-declared Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko is adopting tactics for passing constitutional amendments similar to those that Russian President Vladimir Putin used to pass Russian constitutional amendments in early 2020. The Lukashenko regime began soliciting constitutional amendment proposals from Belarusian citizens on October 3 with a deadline to submit all proposals by October 25. Lukashenko likely seeks to create the impression among Belarusian citizens that they possess political agency. Lukashenko, however, likely has predetermined which constitutional amendments to adopt.

Belarus Warning Update: Putin Pressures Lukashenko to Implement His Previous Integration Concessions

November 30, 2020 - Press ISW

6:00 pm EDT: The Kremlin sent Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to Minsk on November 26, 2020, likely to secure the implementation of Union State integration concessions that self-declared Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko made on September 14. Lukashenko reaffirmed his commitments to Moscow after Lavrov reminded him about his concessions to Russian President Vladimir Putin from their September 14 meeting in Sochi. Lukashenko apparently agreed to a plan for coordinating Belarusian and Russian foreign policy and committed to the creation of a single market for natural gas.

Belarus Warning Update: Putin Likely Disrupts Lukashenko’s Plan for Defusing Protests

October 23, 2020 - Press ISW

October 23, 4:45 pm EDT: The Kremlin likely sent a senior intelligence director to Belarus to disrupt self-proclaimed President Alexander Lukashenko’s planned announcement of steps to defuse the protest crisis. Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) Director Sergey Naryshkin flew to Minsk on October 22. Naryshkin’s visit is the latest in an observed pattern of senior Russian intelligence officials’ visits to Minsk. Each of these visits has coincided with key developments in the Kremlin’s hybrid war in Belarus, usually also marking changes in Lukashenko’s behavior.

Belarus Warning Update: Protests in Kyrgyzstan May Fuel Intensified Kremlin Action in Belarus

October 7, 2020 - Press ISW

4:50 pm EDT: Self-proclaimed President Alexander Lukashenko revealed that he and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the situation in Kyrgyzstan in an October 7 phone call. Lukashenko offered no additional details, leaving his purpose in mentioning the conversation unclear. Putin did not provide a readout from this call as of this writing, potentially indicating Putin may not have wanted this phone call to be publicly known. The Kremlin usually promptly publishes readouts from such meetings.

Belarus Warning Update: Promised Major Opposition Protest March Fizzles

December 21, 2020 - Savannah Modesitt

5:00 ET: Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanouskaya failed to marshal large protester turnout for her so-called “People’s Tribunal” on December 20. Tikhanouskaya called for the protest to be the opposition’s largest turnout when she announced it on November 13. No more than a few thousand protesters marched as part of the “People’s Tribunal” protest in the 20th consecutive week of protests, far short of the tens and hundreds of thousands of demonstrators in some previous rallies.

Belarus Warning Update: Police Detain Demonstrators as Protests Escalate

October 13, 2020 - Press ISW

7:30 EDT: Belarusian authorities continued their new phase of violent escalation against protesters on October 11. Belarusian police detained at least 713 protesters on October 11, the highest single-day arrest total to date. At least one thousand protesters marched in Minsk on Monday, October 12, a higher number than most Monday protests have seen. Belarusian police cracked down on these marchers with stun grenades and tear gas, detained at least 186, and flew five to six Mi-8 transport helicopters over Minsk.

Belarus Warning Update: Opposition Continues to Unify as Lukashenko Continues Crackdown

August 26, 2020 -

5:30 EDT: President Alexander Lukashenko effectively dispersed limited protests on August 26. There were almost no protests in Belarus on August 26, likely in part because NEXTA did not provide protest directions for August 26. A few hundred protesters arrived at the Belarusian parliament to initiate the recall of Belarusian MPs, but riot police dispersed the crowd and detained some participants. Some protesters held small gatherings around Belarus, most of which consisted of fewer than 100 people. Riot police dispersed these small gatherings, detaining some participants.

Belarus Warning Update: NEXTA Telegram Channel Divides Protests in Minsk as Lukashenko Prepares for Crackdown

August 23, 2020 - Press ISW

1:00 pm EDT: Telegram channel NEXTA has disrupted the August 23 protest in Minsk. NEXTA unexpectedly changed plans for today’s march in Minsk’s Independence Square by directing protesters to instead move toward Belarusian army positions at Victory Park around 4:00 pm local time, a move that could be portrayed as intended to provoke a confrontation with the Belarusian military. Representatives of opposition presidential candidate Svetlana Tikanouskaya’s Coordination Council arrived and asked protesters to move away from security forces, defusing the situation. As the crowd was beginning to draw back at 5:50 pm local time, NEXTA issued new instructions directing protesters to march on Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko’s palace, approximately one mile northwest of Victory Park. Thousands of protesters began moving up the road toward the palace. The Belarusian military quickly began assembling defensive positions in front of the palace. After 30 minutes, as protesters were nearing the palace, NEXTA issued new instructions asking protesters to disperse and return to Independence Square, the original stated focus of the Sunday protests. NEXTA claimed Lukashenko is currently in the Presidential Palace and planning an evacuation. Protesters remain in place around the Presidential palace.

Belarus Warning Update: NEXTA Strategy to Create Grassroots Organization in Belarus Likely to Provoke Kremlin Response

August 30, 2020 - Press ISW

9:00 am EDT: The NEXTA Telegram channel published its first public strategy for the protest movement on August 28. NEXTA released a “plan for victory” for the opposition on August 28 at 10:49 pm Minsk time. NEXTA stated the plan’s purpose is to implement three “popular demands”: remove Lukashenko and enable new free elections; ensure the release of all political prisoners; and conduct fair trials for security personnel who abused detainees – in line with NEXTA’s preexisting stated goals. NEXTA called for the opposition to unify behind Svetlana Tikhanouskaya and the Coordination Council, create activist networks inside Belarus, and implement six coordinated campaigns against Lukashenko. Tikhanouskaya has not commented on NEXTA’s strategy as of this writing.