Last year, 13 criminal cases were opened against Belarusians suspected of mercenarism, police colonel and Interior Ministry’s representative Mikalai Karpyankou states.
“As before, we do pay special attention to the trend of participation of Belarusian citizens in armed conflicts as mercenaries. In 2018, on the bases of materials provided by our department, 13 criminal cases against 11 ‘soldiers of fortune’ were launched, and 10 of them were arrested. We also keep an eye on activists of youth movements, including those from neo-Nazi fan groups, antifascists and anarchists. All of them are a miserable excuse for extremists! ” Karpyankou, Head of the Main Directorate for Combating Organized Crime and Corruption, told the newspaper Belarus Today.
He failed to specify where and on which side the Belarusian mercenaries were fighting.
It should be noted that there were no publications and reports on arrests of Belarusian citizens involved in armed conflicts abroad in 2018. As far as Article 133 (‘mercenarism’) is concerned, since the beginning of the war in Donbas, there has been no information about any arrest on this charge.
Four Belarusians who fought on the side of separatist republics in Donbas and stood trial in 2017-2018 were brought to justice under Art. 361-3 of the Criminal Code (‘participation in a foreign armed conflict without the state’s authorization and in the absence of mercenary activities’). In 2016, two Belarusian sitizens who fought for Ukraine were sentenced: Stas Hancharou – for hooliganism and Taras Avatarau – for illegal arms operations.
The 2016 law amendments allow to come not only after people involved in mercenarism, but also after participants in armed conflicts abroad (art. 361-3 of the Criminal Code). President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has repeatedly said that Belarus had no place for ‘militants’ who are participating in the conflict in Ukraine.
As Belsat journalistic investigations show, Belarusian citizens constitute the third largest national group in the hostilities in Donbas. According to the most conservative estimates, the total number of Belarusian participants in the conflict reaches 1,000.