By Pavel Kutsevol, policy officer
On Tuesday, the Belarusian KGB descended on the apartments and offices of at least 159 friends and family of political prisoners in a “massive security raid.” At least 100 people were interrogated and at least 26 were arrested on politically motivated charges.
Such political charges are standard fare in Belarus, ranging from petty hooliganism to “involvement in extremist groups” and “financing extremist activities.” These are what the authoritarian regime of Alexander Lukashenko uses to crack down on the opposition.
Among those detained was Maryna Adamovich, the wife of Mikola Statkevich, who ran for president in 2010 and has since been in prison for doing so.
Barys Khamaida, a 76-year-old activist, has also been detained. Earlier this month, the KGB also arrested members of a musical band whose song had become a 2020 protest anthem. The band members were forced to apologize on camera — a tactic intended to humiliate them.
That Lukashenko goes after the families of those who have dared to criticize his government underscores the lengths he will go to in order to eliminate any opposition to his rule.
And it gets worse. Political prisoners are beginning to die behind bars. Earlier this month, Vadzim Hrasko, a 50-year-old who was serving a three-year term for donating to opposition causes, became the fourth to die in custody, reportedly of pneumonia, in Vitebsk colony Number Three.
“Vadzim Khrasko is yet another political prisoner who died in a penal colony, due to inadequate medical care,” Peter Stano, lead spokesperson for the external affairs of the European Union, wrote on X. “The regime is fully responsible for the health and safety of prisoners. The EU demands the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners.”