What we do:

What we do:

Constant monitoring of the situation in Belarus. 

Assistance to people who have suffered from political repression and persecution in the Republic of Belarus. 

Also, in the context of the fight against COVID-19, due to insufficient funding, many hospitals, correctional institutions and other budgetary organizations are unable to purchase protective equipment and PCR tests in sufficient quantities to prevent the further spread of the virus - we are helping them to cope with these difficulties. 

We support and help develop civic initiatives. 
We help foundations to distribute funds for specific purposes.
grodno_protesty

How can you help:

• tell your friends about us,

• subscribe to our page: https://www.facebook.com/charitybelarus,

https://www.instagram.com/belarustoday2020/

• make a donation,

• represent the interests of our association in your country in contacts with business, funds and government agencies.
  • Civil society is under attack in Belarus.

Civil society is under attack in Belarus

Independent Belarusian civil society has been the main target of the Lukashenko regime this summer. More than 100 organizations in total have been affected. Many have already been banned, others are in the process of being banned, which will most likely lead to the same results. Many NGOs have been banned, ranging from human rights and environmental organizations to culture-oriented associations. Organizations focused on education and youth activities have also been banned. What these organizations have in common is that they are not governmental. Preparations for this began back in spring. Already in April, for example, the head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Belarus Vladimir Makey threatened that the country's civil society would cease to exist if the EU and other Western countries followed through with plans to expand sanctions against the regime.
At the end of July - thus, while a mass purge of civil society organizations was in full swing - A. Lukashenko also spoke on this topic. He argued, among other things, that almost 200 organizations (in Lukashenko's words, "destructive structures") were defined as "under the guise of charity" that prepared the so-called "color revolution" in Belarus.
Among the most prominent organizations attacked are the Union of Belarusian Authors, the Independent Journalists' Association of the country, the PEN Center of Belarus, the youth organization RADA, and the human rights organizations Lawtrend, Helsinki Committee, and Human Constant.
It is obvious that the Lukashenko regime is now trying to completely get rid of independent and uncontrollable organizations.
In this context, it is worth noting that the main human rights organization Vyasna was also banned in 2003. But this has not prevented Vyasna from continuing to operate, although its members have, of course, been persecuted all these years
Formally it is not a question of restrictions on business, but that the organizations themselves have been "liquidated," that is, their legal registrations have been removed. From the point of view of the state, they simply do not exist anymore. Thus, it is impossible to rent premises or open bank accounts in the name of the organization, and in other contexts, to act as a legal entity.
Many brave members of the organization decided to continue their work. The regime passed special laws to combat this, and periodically ′participating in an unregistered organization′ is punishable by up to two years in prison. The fact that the regime used this law against NGOs is clearly a violation of international law and the freedom of association provided for. It was more convenient for Lukashenko to imprison the dissenters not for "real" crimes, but for invented ones that cannot be clearly defined as politically motivated.
Representatives of several organizations that have now been banned said that they intended to continue working anyway. As I said before, this would bring increased personal risks and thus make it more difficult to recruit new members and activists. It is all the more important that the democratic outside world does all it can to actively support independent civil society initiatives and organizations. Because that is where the hope for a democratic future in Belarus exists.

ICE hockey World Championship to be or not to be

Truly Shakespearean passions unfolded around the Ice Hockey World Championship. The world press has been debating for several months about the holding of the World Ice Hockey Championship in Belarus. After the seizure of power and ongoing repression, the entire world community is against this. The Belarusians are sure that the repression will intensify, that the number of security officials on the streets will be quite large, but the fans will be played by people who were forced to come to hockey to create a mass character. But the head of the IIHF Rene Fasel has repeatedly expressed confidence in an interview that hockey can reconcile the current government and the opposition, for which he was criticized. Perhaps he has a personal interest?

Repeated appeals to him by independent athletes, politicians and ordinary people could not influence Fasel's opinion. The media wrote that this would be an ordinary courtesy visit in order to convey to Lukashenka as gently as possible the news that the world championship would not be held in Minsk. But on January 11, Fasel flew to Minsk to meet with the dictator. After this meeting, a flurry of criticism fell on Fasel. Many media outlets were full of headlines that Fazel should step down. So what has the whole world so outraged?

The press published joint photos with Dmitry Baskov, who is suspected of complicity in the murder of Roman Bondarenko, and against whom the International Ice Hockey Federation is investigating. Also, during a meeting at the Palace of Independence, Lukashenka and Fazel greeted each other with sweet hugs. Is that how the President of the International Ice Hockey Federation should greet the dictator, the person responsible for repressions in Belarus? What exactly connects them? Will the championship be transferred to another country?

After meeting with Lukashenko, Fasel was sincerely surprised by the reaction of the world community and the flurry of criticism that rained down on him. In an interview with SRF, he said with childish spontaneity that he did not think that the photo with a hug would cause such criticism. He also said he was sure he hadn't done anything wrong.

Here is how the Swedish media reacted: “In the photographs, Fasel and Lukashenko are hugging before the discussion of the events of the World Ice Hockey Championship begins. IIHF Vice President Kalervo Kummola comments on the STT video as follows: “The pictures are shocking, but not surprising. These two gentlemen know each other well." Karin Karlsbro, Deputy Chairperson of the European Parliament delegation in Belarus, also spoke in Sweden: “It is completely unacceptable and a shame that the IIHF continues to legitimize the Belarusian regime, as, for example, with today's meeting with love.”

The Norwegian newspaper VG writes that the participating countries Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark have joined forces to say no to the championship. The background is the popular protests in Belarus after Lukashenka's “re-election” as president. The opposition believes that he won by rigging elections and voting. Peaceful demonstrations against Lukashenka, who is called the leader of Europe's last dictatorship, have been brutally suppressed. An opinion was expressed that there are suspicions that there is something other than professional relations between Lukashenka and Fasel. "The fact that they are close acquaintances is nothing new" - this is how the President of Norway on hockey Tage Pettersen commented on obvious cordiality during the meeting between Fasel and Lukashenko.

Even some European media outlets that are following the situation are of the opinion that there is some kind of closer connection between the head of the IIHF and the last dictator in Europe.

And here is how Internet users around the world commented on the meeting:

«Terrible optics as International Ice Hockey Federation president Rene Fasel embraces Aleksandr Lukashenko at a meeting in Minsk to discuss hosting the world championship in Belarus. That’s after months of brutal tactics against protesters & tens of thousands arrested & tortured»

«Well, if this is official @IIHFHockey position, then I assume National teams will simply boycott this «Championship»

«A strange person, he talks about the championship as a platform for dialogue between protesters and Lukashenka, and at the same time he cynically declares that sport is out of politics.»

«Explain to me how the World Cup will lead to a dialogue with the coordinating council? Or with the opposition? Here they are in jail, let them out, talk, hold new elections. All this is a screen. then to say, look, we held the world championship, and such countries came to us. No thanks, until a new president is elected in our country, we need international pressure and publicity, not a feast during the plague.»

Here is how they comment on the events in Switzerland (https://www.srf.ch/news/schweiz/):

«Herr Fasel, wieviel haben sie von Herrn Lukaschenko kassiert? Ihnen ist wirklich nicht bewusst, wie das Leben als einfacher Bürger in BLR wohl sein muss? Ich muss mich schämen für Sie. Ich dachte sie hätten den Schneid dazu, klare Linien aufzuzeigen und sich zu diesen Menschenverachtenden».

"Vor Gebrauch Hirn einschalten". Soviel mangelndes diplomatisches Feingefühl geht für einen Präsidenten eines Weltverbandes gar nicht. Und lediglich sagen ... "tut mir leid" oder "sorry" auch nicht.»

«Er lies sich von diesem Tyrannen instrumentalisieren und merke es nicht einmal! Was er im 10vor10 zum Besten gab ist einfach nur absolut Dumm daher ge-fasel-t. Hier gibt es nur eine Konsequenz, «sofortige Stornierung der WM» und eine Entschuldigung beim geschundenen belarusischen Volk. So kann er wenigstens noch im nach hinein zeigen, dass er Charakter hat!»

After criticizing the head of the IIHF, he is insists on the need to host the upcoming Ice Hockey World Championship in Belarus. “We said to ourselves, why not try to convince President Lukashenko that with the help of the World Cup he can send a signal? Namely, that he is looking for a dialogue with the opposition. Imagine if we now cancel the World Cup in Belarus - will this change something in the country? Of course not, "Fasel said.

At the same time, he noted that he did not believe that he had done something wrong. “With the help of this World Cup, we can achieve something that we have not yet been able to achieve. Who has achieved something in Belarus with the help of sanctions and boycotts? Nobody,” the IIHF president added.

Opposition representatives also commented on the meeting of President of the International Ice Hockey Federation Rene Fasel with Alexander Lukashenko.

«Rene Fasel's visit to Minsk showed inconsistency that could damage the reputation of the IIHF itself. A sports festival cannot be held in a country where political prisoners are sitting in punishment cells a few kilometers from ice arenas. The Swiss Fasel could defend the Swiss citizen Natalia Hersche, who was sentenced by the "fair court" to 2.5 years in prison for breaking a balaclava from a riot policeman. Instead, he hesitates to make statements and questions respect for the Belarusian people.

We know that many hockey players, national teams and federations of countries are not going to go to the championship, which is a cover for legal default, torture and murder. For them, as for us, freedom, human dignity and the law are more important than any posts and awards. The championship should be moved from Minsk. Otherwise, we call on all national federations to boycott him.»

The decision on whether the world championship will be held in Minsk will be made no later than January 27. According to Kummola, a likely indicator is the holding of the entire tournament in Latvia.
  • Belarus president Alexander Lukashenko has held power since 1994 (Photo: kremlin.ru)
  • Vadim Zaitsev was KGB chairman from 2008 to 2012 (Photo: MsOnlysee)
  • The KGB building on Independence Avenue in Minsk (Photo: Bestalex)
  • Igor Makar, from the Belarusian People's Tribunal: 'I'm ready to risk my life' (Photo: Igor Makar)
  • Berlin: Hundreds of Belarusians have sought asylum in the EU (Photo: Amire Appel)
  • Armed police confront protesters in Minsk in November 2020 (Photo: Homoatrox)

Lukashenko plotted murders in Germany

Belarus president Alexander Lukashenko authorised political murders in Germany in recent years, according to a sensational recording of his former spy-chief obtained and published by EUobserver.

The Germany attacks never took place, but the plot, which discussed use of explosives and poison, shows the danger posed to EU states by his rogue regime.

Lukashenko's intelligence service, the KGB, also targeted a Belarusian journalist, who was subsequently killed in Ukraine.

The revelations come as Lukashenko is trying to crush a pro-democracy movement at home using increasing violence.

The fact his spy-master was so incompetent he let himself be bugged is a loss of face for the regime.

And this website's publication of the bugged KGB recording amounts to a public colonoscopy of Lukashenko's most private organs of power.

Bugged meeting
"The president [Lukashenko] is waiting for these operations," Vadim Zaitsev, the then KGB chairman, said in his office on Independence Avenue in Minsk shortly after 8.45AM on Wednesday 11 April 2012, according to an audio file of the meeting, which was secretly recorded on a hidden device, and shared with EUobserver using a secure app.

Zaitsev was briefing officers from the KGB's Alpha Group, an elite counter-terrorist unit.

More specifically, he was briefing members of the Alpha Group's Seventh Department, a clandestine task-force, which Zaitsev had created to target the regime's political enemies.

And Zaitsev was talking about killing three of them who lived in exile in Germany - Oleg Alkaev (a Belarusian former prison director), Vladimir Borodach (an ex-colonel), and Vyacheslav Dudkin (a former anti-corruption chief).

Lukashenko had put "over $1.5m [€1.2m] in a dedicated account" for off-the-books operations of this type and wanted to "see some results," Zaitsev said, in the bugged 2012 meeting.

He wanted to leave no trace of KGB suspicion in Germany.

"It's important to me that no one even thinks about the KGB," Zaitsev said.

"It's clear how we could drown or shoot someone. It's clear. But how to initiate a chance explosion, how to start arson and not leave traces, murder, and stuff like that - this is unclear," he said.

The KGB also discussed killing a Belarusian-born journalist, Pavel Sheremet, who was living in Russia at the time.

"We should be working Sheremet, who is a massive pain in the arse," Zaitsev said, according to the 2012 recording.

But Lukashenko's spy-chief wanted Sheremet's assassination to send a public message.

"We'll plant [a bomb] and so on and this fucking rat will be taken down in fucking pieces - legs in one direction, arms in the other direction. If everything [looks like] natural causes, it won't get into people's minds the same way," Zaitsev said.

Belarus had put Sheremet under observation in Moscow, according to an internal KGB surveillance report, which was also leaked to EUobserver.

Sheremet was later killed by a car bomb while he was in Kiev on 20 July 2016, echoing Zaitsev's macabre words.

And four years later, Ukraine has still not caught the people who did it.

The bugged KGB recording from Zaitsev's office, as well as the leaked Sheremet surveillance report, were originally obtained by Igor Makar, a Belarusian opposition activist, who sent them to this website in Brussels.

A transcript of the conversation can also be read in Russian or in English.

Zaitsev is the first speaker, who begins with a stammer, and his voice in the recording can be openly compared with one of the KGB chairman's public speeches on YouTube.

It "sounds like the same guy", a contact from a Nato country's intelligence service, who was familiar with Zaitsev and who examined the bugged audio file for EUobserver, told this website.

A forensic examination of the file was inconclusive.

The audio was too poor quality, from a technical point of view, to do biometric "speaker recognition analysis", Catalin Grigoras, the director of the National Centre for Media Forensics at the University of Colorado in the US, who also examined the leaked file, said.

It had been edited at least once, probably to delete a digital signature which could have identified the KGB mole who planted the recording device in Zaitsev's office, Grigoras told EUobserver.

But the forensics expert "didn't find" any obvious "trace of audio-manipulation" on the file, he said.

Makar's testimony
For his part, Makar told EUobserver: "I'm prepared to testify in court that the bugged recording is authentic and that Zaitsev is the speaker in the audio file [published above]".

"I'm ready to risk my life so that [Belarusian] people can be free, to help demolish this Lukashenko regime," he said.

Makar is a former special-forces officer, who used to serve in the Almaz Special Anti-Terrorism Unit, a Belarus interior ministry swat team, but who now lives in hiding in the EU.

When he first got the KGB recording from his contacts back in 2012, Makar said, he quietly shared it with a US diplomat in the EU, whom he declined to name.

He did so in the hope of protecting Alkaev, who was his friend, as well as the other targets on the KGB's kill-list, Makar told EUobserver.

And now, eight years later, Makar has decided to go public by also sharing the KGB audio file with EUobserver out of solidarity with Belarus' pro-democracy protesters, who have endured four months of "beatings, tortures, rapes" since August 2020, he said.

A second Belarusian source, who did not want to be named, also told this website that he would testify in court, if need be, that the 11 April 2012 KGB meeting really took place, that Zaitsev was there, that the bugged recording was authentic, and that it was Zaitsev's voice in the audio file.

Alkaev, likewise, corroborated Makar's account.

German authorities, shortly after Makar gave the file to the US diplomat in the EU, warned Alkaev that his life was in danger and gave him special protection, according to a German police letter from May 2012, which Alkaev showed to EUobserver.

"The [German] police told me they could guarantee my safety in Germany, but advised me not to leave the country," Alkaev said.

The German plot was never carried out and Zaitsev left the KGB in November 2012.

The former spy-chief is now director of a Belarusian broadcaster called Cosmos TV.

EUobserver's sources did not know if the Alpha Group's Seventh Department was later disbanded or if it ever harmed anybody, despite the sinister implications of the leaked KGB surveillance report on Sheremet.

But Zaitsev's boss, Lukashenko, who shared his criminal mentality, is still in power in 2021.

And Zaitsev's former KGB deputy, Ivan Tertel, who was recently blacklisted by the EU for "torture" of pro-democracy protesters, and who also shared that mentality, is now the KGB chairman.

Meanwhile, some of the homicidal ideas discussed in the 2012 KGB meeting showed that EU citizens, as well as Belarusian refugees, were in danger.

One of Zaitsev's ideas was to get "a professional or a car mechanic who will do it in such a way that no fucking expert [in Germany] will figure out that the car was intentionally broken in advance and why it went off the fucking road," he said in the leaked audio file.

But use of explosives, proposed by one KGB officer in the meeting, could have harmed bystanders.

"We might need TNT, plastic explosives, detonators," the unnamed KGB officer told Zaitsev in the audio file.

"Here's another interesting suggestion ... There's a professor in Vitebsk [a town in north-east Belarus], who is a toxicology expert, knows both natural and artificial poisons very well," the KGB officer also said.

"There's one amateur chemist who claims he can make any chemicals. You can even tell him the height and weight of the person and he can prepare [them] for anyone," another unnamed KGB officer said on 11 April 2012.

"Go ahead and find this person [chemist] and then go get everything prepared," Zaitsev said.

EU protection
EUobserver's KGB-plot revelation poses questions for the safety of Belarusian refugees living in the EU today.

Some 320 Belarusians have sought asylum in Poland since August last year, when Lukashenko began his crackdown on protesters in the wake of rigged elections, the Polish interior ministry said.

Another 67 have applied in Lithuania.

There were 100 Belarusian refugees already living in Germany and more than 400 others had applied for asylum since 2019, the German interior ministry said.

Poland declined to comment on whether Belarusian refugees were at risk of KGB surveillance or worse.

Egle Samoskaite, a spokeswoman for Lithuania's intelligence agency, the VSD, told EUobserver: "We haven't got any signals, which could indicate an increased threat level for Belarusian exiles in Lithuania".

And Germany "currently does not have any information to suggest Belarusian opposition activists living in Germany are at risk," the German interior ministry's spokeswoman, Alina Vick, also said.

"Local police alone are responsible for protecting vulnerable persons. They would contact authorities responsible for the protection of the constitution [German intelligence] only in cases of apparently politically motivated threats," Vick said.

Opinion was mixed among Belarusian refugees.

Alkaev and Makar, who recently formed a joint initiative called the Belarusian People's Tribunal, which outed a policeman who killed a pro-democracy protester called Alexander Taraikovsky in Minsk on 10 August, said they felt at risk despite living in the EU.

Valery Tsepkalo, an opposition activist living in Poland and the Baltic states, said he did not.

"I'm driving on the highway with my wife as we speak and I feel fine," he told EUobserver from Latvia.

Maksim Milta, a spokesman for the European Humanities University in Vilnius, which has hundreds of Belarusian students, said: "We haven't yet witnessed any threat".

Opinion also diverged among security experts.

"The Belarusian KGB would not hesitate to run operations against Belarusian exiles anywhere, their capabilities are not too impressive though," Eerik-Niiles Kross, an Estonian MP who used to be the country's national intelligence coordinator, told this website.

"Somewhere in the EU, like Germany, would be hugely problematic, somewhere like Ukraine ... is more wide open [for a KGB strike]," Mark Galeotti, a British academic at the Royal United Services Institute, a think-tank in London, said.

"They [the KGB] are active abroad in monitoring politically active émigrés, but they're much more interested in domestic security," Galeotti said.

"I've never heard anyone [in security circles], even from ... Poland or the Baltic states, say: 'Oh, there's a problem or serious operation under way'," he added.

That still left the question of what Lukashenko was capable of doing to Belarusian people at home if the protests continued.

At least seven people have been killed so far, in isolated incidents.

And for Makar, the Belarusian ex-soldier, the KGB's Alpha Group, or special police units, such as Almaz and Omon, would not hesitate to open fire on a crowd of demonstrators if they were ordered to.

"As soon as Lukashenko gave the order, they would start [shooting]," Makar said.

For Alkaev, who used to be in charge of death row in the Belarusian prison system, some regime gunmen might disobey.

"There are those who are sick in the head and who would shoot civilians, but there's also normal people [in Belarus security forces] who wouldn't take part," Alkaev told EUobserver from Germany, where he still lives.

"They'd deliberately shoot in the air or at doorposts, but not to hit anybody," Alkaev said.

If Lukashenko ordered the KGB to shoot people, then his order would have to go through Moscow, Kross, the Estonian expert noted.

"Some consider the Belarusian KGB ... a branch of Russia's FSB [intelligence service]. They are in the same communications system, share databases, and rotate officers," Kross said.

"I'd think their [the KGB's] loyalty to Lukashenko lasts until Moscow decides it's no longer needed," Kross added.

A lethal flare-up also risked testing the loyalty of the Belarusian military, Galeotti said.

"The army has been very much kept out of it [Lukashenko's crackdown] so far, except for one paratrooper unit," the British expert noted.

"If you saw Omon shoot your sister-in-law in the street, for instance, and you're a Belarusian [army] captain, or colonel, or even a general - that's a point where you might feel you have to do something," Galeotti said.

Painful exposure
Going back to Zaitsev's 2012 meeting, the fact Lukashenko's spy-master was bugged and is now being exposed is a serious loss of face for the dictatorship.

The KGB Alpha Group's Seventh Department was meant to be so secret that even the colonel who was then in charge of the Alpha Group's six other departments, Oleg Chernyshev, did not want to know what the seventh one was doing, according to the Belarusian source who asked not to be named.

But despite the attempted secrecy, the bugged and leaked 11 April 2012 audio file shines a harsh light inside the regime's most private deliberations.

For one, it makes the country's security elite sound like mobsters.

"How fucked up is that, this fuck-head ... the fuck do I need that?", Zaitsev, the country's then 48-year old intelligence chief, who was born in Dnipro, in eastern Ukraine, in Soviet times, said in the bugged meeting, in just a few of his numerous vulgarities.

"Sadly, this is how they [Belarus security bosses] speak, because Lukashenko deliberately recruits badly educated people, whom he considers to be more loyal," Makar, the 37-year old ex-soldier, who is from Grodno in western Belarus, said.

One of the KGB operatives planned to sneak into Germany on a six-month tourist visa after being invited by "friends" who already lived there, the bugged file also shows, indicating the weakness of EU border controls.

"They [Belarusian diplomats] can get me out [to Germany] in an embassy car, but I would not like to, especially for the first trip," one of the unnamed KGB officers said in the 2012 meeting.

The KGB men had access to "fake documents".

They planned to pose as Lukashenko "regime victims" to infiltrate the Belarus expat community in Germany and seek out their targets.

They were tasked with organising reconnaissance and recruiting local "agents" in Germany, some of whom they would teach "sabotage techniques", according to the leaked audio.

"For surveillance, one can put two young people in the apartment block hallway who would kiss each other and not make any noise, drink beer, and so on, and no one cares," Zaitsev suggested, in more general chat on KGB spy-craft.

He reflected that it might look odd, as if the KGB agent was "some kind of pervert, who only gets horny in the hallway, but not other places", however.

So he discussed hiring prostitutes to do the surveillance.

"Now Belokonev is reaching out to create a unit of the fucking girls. And everyone's fucking looking at him ... and I say it's great, at least he's able to think in a creative way," Zaitsev also said, probably referring to Oleg Belokonev, a Belarusian military officer, who was not present in the April 2012 meeting.

The Belarusian foreign ministry declined to comment, but one of its diplomats in Brussels, said, generally, that EUobserver was "campaigning in favour of certain [Belarusian opposition] activists".

Cosmos TV did not reply when this website tried to reach Zaitsev.

Text:ANDREW RETTMANhttps://euobserver.com/foreign/
  • Anna Sundström Secretary General of Olof Palme's international center. Photo: Ylva Säfvelin / AiPBild
  • Henrik Elm, Global Supply Manager at Inter Ikea Group. Photo: IKEA
  • Opposition leader Svyatlana Tsichanouskaja visited Foreign Minister Ann Linde in November. Photo: Roger Turesson

IKEA and other large European enterprises support Lukashenko dictatorship

Part of what you pay for the pine furniture at Ikea finances Alexander Lukashenko's terror against political opponents.

Seven percent of the wood that becomes Ikea furniture comes from Belarus. There, the state owns all the forest.

- It is money that contributes to maintaining an extremely oppressive regime, says Anna Sundström, Secretary General of Olof Palme's international center.

When IKEA took part in a digital seminar on how to increase furniture production in Belarus on 1 December this year, it had been just over two weeks since 31-year-old artist Roman Bondarenko was arrested by Lukashenko's brutal security forces.

Shortly after the arrest, however, Bondarenko. It gave new impetus to the wave of protests that followed the rigged presidential election in August. The regime's response has been harsh. In November alone, 4,000 people were imprisoned, according to the Vjasna human rights center.

But Ikea's representative Natalya Skljarova does not mention the violence in the country in a word, when she presents Inter Ikea's initiative "Go Belarus" and how it has developed during the pandemic.

For more than 20 years, Ikea has been buying wood in what was previously called Belarus. In recent years, volumes have increased sharply in a conscious effort to produce wood for factories in Poland where much of Ikea's pine furniture is manufactured.

The 2020 financial year, which ended last August, Ikea's suppliers bought more than one million cubic meters of timber at state timber auctions in Belarus. This corresponds to seven percent of all wood that becomes Ikea furniture in the world.

- But of finished furniture, Belarus accounts for only three percent. Belarus is thus a net exporter of wood raw material, says Ikea's global timber manager Ulf Johansson.

This is what the Go Belarus project will remedy. More Ikea products will be manufactured on site. At the webinar, Ikea's Natalja Skljarova explains to government officials and Ikea suppliers that the project is progressing according to plan. By 2025, the annual production, according to the plans presented, will almost quadruple to 500 million euros or just over five billion Swedish kronor. More than half is solid wood and chip-based furniture frames for cabinets, kitchens and furniture.

Products mentioned are the wooden shelf Ivar and the stool Oddvar, which will start production under Polish auspices in Belarus in April 2021.

But Ikea is looking for more local manufacturers. State-owned Ivatsevich drives will soon begin trial deliveries of countertops. The money ends up in the state ruled with an iron fist by the man known as Europe's last dictator, Alexander Lukashenko.

When opposition leader Svyatlana Tsichanouskaja visited Foreign Minister Ann Linde in November, she appealed for help. She stated that it is expensive for Lukashenko to defeat the people with the help of the police and military.

- This means that the economic pressure from other countries can be effective, says Svjatlana Tsichanouskaja after the meeting.

On Twitter, she came a week later with a call to the foreign companies that help the president stay in power by doing business with the country's state-owned companies: Interrupt all cooperation or condemn the public regime and the company managements who crack down on their employees' right to protest and organize.

It has been obeyed by the Norwegian fertilizer manufacturer Yara, which buys the important ingredient potassium from the state of Belaruskali. CEO Svein Tore Holsether has made several public statements and personally protested to Belaruskali's management.

If you also have such an extensive collaboration as Ikea has, it is really high time to live up to the beautiful words and put pressure on the regime, says Anna Sundström, Secretary General of Olof Palme's international center. Jesper Roine is a professor of economics at Stockholm School of Economics and one of the researchers at the Stockholm Institute of Transition Economics, Site, where he studied countries such as Belarus.

He notes that it is difficult to know exactly how money is distributed in the country's state-owned companies, especially given the corruption that exists.

- But all trade with them is money for the Belarusian government, that's it. Ikea size makes their voice weigh heavily. - But it is not the case that if Ikea were to act, Lukashenko suddenly has no money. That's not how it works, says Jesper Roine.

Although it is not good for Ikea if their customers start thinking about how their money contributes to Lukashenko being able to continue beating protesters?

- No, when it becomes obvious, once the information is available, it will also be something that Ikea must take a stand on, says Jesper Roine.

Henrik Elm, Global Supply Manager at Inter Ikea Group, answers Dagens Nyheter's questions via email. He writes that Ikea always condemns all violations of human rights everywhere.

"As for the situation in Belarus, we follow it closely and constantly evaluate opportunities and risks with our presence."

But Ikea is not leaving Belarus.

"So far, our assessment is that the most responsible thing is to stay in the country."

However, he downplays the scope of the Go Belarus program and says that the figures presented at the seminar on December 1 should be seen more as an opportunity than a goal. Whether Ikea intends to increase its purchases or its presence depends on many different factors.

"There, the risk of human rights abuses is a very important component."

But he does not answer the question of whether Ikea believes that what has happened since the presidential election campaign is an abuse of human rights.

Anna Sundström is Secretary General of Olof Palme's international center, which for twenty years has been committed to democratic development in the country. She believes that Ikea should act just the opposite.

- As the situation is right now and as it has developed recently, everyone must contribute to putting pressure on the regime, she says.

All companies have a responsibility. Not least Ikea, which has detailed governing documents and policies on human rights and social responsibility.

Text: Börge Nilsson https://www.dn.se/ekonomi/

Will the IIHF maintain its reputation? Or will it slide down to the level of organizations and firms supporting violence while still cooperating with the dictatorial regime?

The people of Belarus urge not to hold the World Ice Hockey Championship in the country. Many sports organizations and politicians are also against the holding of the World Ice Hockey Championship 2021 in Belarus. But the final decision has not yet been made and this is yet another test of the adherence to democratic values of international organizations and the community.

The championship is to be held in May 2021 in Belarus and Latvia. Latvia openly opposed sharing and banned the entry to its chairman of the Belarusian hockey Dmitry Baskov, suspected of the murder of Roman Bondarenko.

An initiative group of Belarusian athletes appealed to the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) with a demand to postpone the championship from Minsk, where the authorities violate basic human rights. And the coaches of the European national teams do not really want to go to the capital of Belarus - for security reasons.

On September 7, the Latvian government wrote a letter to the IIHF stating that the elections in Belarus were far from the accepted civilized norms, the authorities began to pursue a repressive policy towards the population. Therefore, Latvia asks to take away its part of the championship from Belarus and transfer it to another country. Otherwise, Latvia itself may refuse the World Cup.

Elena Levchenko, a basketball player and representative of Belarusian athletes who opposed the election fraud, wrote an open letter to the President of the International Ice Hockey Federation Rene Fasel with a request to postpone the upcoming world ice hockey championship from Minsk. The athlete read the letter on December 17 during an online press conference, after she was released from the temporary detention center, where she was held for 15 days and fined for participating in two unauthorized mass events.

Earlier, independent athletes made the same call to cancel the ice hockey championship. They expressed their fear that the championship would lead to increased repression and human rights violations. As reported, Fasel recently announced the possibility of holding the 2021 World Ice Hockey Championship entirely in Belarus, without the participation of Latvia, if it refuses to hold the tournament together with Belarus, based on political reasons. “I do not lose hope that the situation in Belarus will normalize and the World Cup will become possible. It is not my style to give up. I will fight as long as there is even a shadow of hope,” Fazel said, Championat quoted him. For what and with whom he was going to fight Fazel did not specify.


As reported, in early December, the IOC decided to remove members of the Executive Committee of the NOC of Belarus, headed by Alexander Lukashenko, from the Olympic Games and other events of the organization. It was also decided to suspend all financial payments to the NOC of Belarus, with the exception of payments related to the preparation of Belarusian athletes for the Olympic Games in Tokyo and the Winter Olympic Games in Beijing, and to suspend any discussions with the NOC of Belarus regarding future IOC events.

Also, the International Olympic Committee launched an investigation against Belarus on suspicion of political persecution of athletes. It should be reminded that the President of the National Olympic Committee of Belarus is Alexander Lukashenko. Also, the executive committee of the organization includes Viktor Lukashenko, Dmitry Baskov, Dmitry Pinevich and others. The media reported yesterday that the IIHF will decide on the venue for this year's World Cup at its meeting in late January.

- IIHF uses all resources to accurately understand the situation in Belarus. We already had a lot of discussions. Now we need to talk with the government of Belarus and discuss the political situation with the coronavirus. At the end of January we will have a council meeting at which we will make a decision,” Fasel said.

He also said that the International Ice Hockey Federation is communicating with the federations that may host the matches of the 2021 World Cup. “We communicate with representatives of other possible federations that can organize the World Cup. This will be a serious financial challenge,” Fasel said.

As we wrote above, Latvia refuses to host the championship together with Belarus because of the political situation in our country. Vice-president of IIHF Kalervo Kummol is also against. Fasel previously announced that he would make a decision by January 11. He also said that he intends to personally meet with Lukashenka and discuss this issue.

According to some media reports, the championship will definitely not be held in Belarus due to the political situation in the country. It remains only to announce it officially. Fazel, who is currently suffering from coronavirus, after recovering, intends to personally fly to Minsk and inform Alexander Lukashenko that the country is deprived of the right to host the tournament. This statement also looks strange, since the leaders of European states did not recognize the results of the elections in Belarus and stopped all contacts with the dictator Lukashenka.
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