viasna on patreon

60 people were convicted for donations. How are they persecuted in Belarus for solidarity, and how to avoid persecution for it

2024 2024-01-18T15:21:24+0300 2024-01-18T15:21:24+0300 en The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”

On January 13, it became known about the terrible consequences of persecution for showing solidarity. Political prisoner Vadzim Khrasko sentenced to three years for donations died in the colony; he had a serious illness.

In 2020, a strong wave of solidarity emerged in response to violence by the security forces. Belarusians have started actively donating to many funds to help victims of persecution. Some of the people who donated in 2020 are called to the KGB and demanded in a out-of-court manner to donate amounts many times more than initial donations, threatening to open a criminal case. Some are immediately detained as part of a criminal case for "financing extremist activities" (Articles 361-2 of the Criminal Code). To date, 58 people in Belarus have been sentenced under this article (or in combination with others) for terms from one and a half to 19 years in a penal colony. For donations to organizations which are recognized as "extremist formations", one can be sentenced to up to five years in prison. Even if the donation was made at a time when the organization was not recognized as such. Cases of persecution under Article 290-1 of the Criminal Code "financing of terrorist activities" have also become more frequent in Belarus: for donations to military associations in Ukraine, for example, to the Kalinoŭski Regiment. At least two people were sentenced to nine and a half and eight and a half years in prison under this article. 

Viasna reports how people in Belarus are persecuted for showing solidarity. And we also remind you of the advice of Viasna lawyers in case you are called for a "conversation" because of your donations.

In 2020, in the wake of solidarity, many different funds and initiatives arose to help victims of persecution. It was an unprecedented phenomenon in terms of the amount of help and those willing to donate. For example, on August 14, 2020, Andrei Stryzhak founded the BYSOL Solidarity Fund, and since 2017, Aliaksei Liavonchyk's By_help initiative has been in operation. Also, the Imena fund opened a fundraiser for medical care for victims of violence by the security forces. The money collection was organized mainly through Facebook. In addition to solidarity funds, Belarusians donated to other various initiatives and organizations: Cyber-Guerrillas Anonymous Hacker Community, Kalinoŭski Regiment, MotolkoHelp media project, and others.

Solidarity funds as "extremist formations"

In 2021, the authorities began recognizing foundations as "extremist formations" and some initiatives as "terrorist organizations".

Belarusians who donate to the funds are detained or called for a "conversation" with the KGB or the Department of financial investigations. For some, the security forces offer to "buy their freedom": to make an ostensibly voluntary donation many times bigger than the amount of the initial donation. As a rule, it is offered to make transfers to medical institutions. But we emphasize that such a donation happens out-of-court and is not a fine or other type of punishment. Subsequently, the investigator may issue a resolution on the termination of the criminal case. Given the lawlessness prevailing in Belarus, a re-initiation of a criminal case for the same action should not be ruled out.

As one Belarusian who donated in 2020 told human rights activists earlier, KGB officers almost immediately offered him to pay $ 1,500 to "charity" as compensation for donations to "extremist groups." The man refused, arguing that he had not donated money to any "extremists". In response, the officers demanded his phone and asked for the password to his Facebook page.

The KGB officers could not access his page, so they released the Belarusian, but said that he should return and give them access to Facebook. The man ignored their demand. After a while, they came to him with a search and detained him for several days of arrest. As a result, he was given a condition: either he pays $ 1,500, or a criminal case may be initiated against him.  

203 years in prison for showing solidarity

To date, at least 58 people are known to have been convicted of donating money under Article 361-2 of the Criminal Code (financing an extremist formation). In total, they were sentenced to 185 years and three months in a penal colony.

Cases of persecution under Article 290-1 of the Criminal Code (financing of terrorist activities) have also become more frequent in Belarus: for donations to military associations in Ukraine, for example, to the Kalinoŭski Regiment. At least two people have already been convicted under it: Mikalai Vasilevich was sentenced to nine years and six months in a penal colony and Dzmitryi Sluk — for eight years and six months in a penal colony.

Mikalai Vasilevich, a massage therapist from Minsk, was accused of "creating an extremist formation" (Article 361-1 of the Criminal Code), "financing the activities of an extremist formation" (Article 361-2 of the Criminal Code), and "financing terrorist activities" (Part 2 of Article 290-1 of the Criminal Code).

Propaganda media reported that in just two years, Mikalai made at least 54 donations to solidarity funds and various initiatives.

In total, on September 12, 2023, Mikalai was sentenced to 9.5 years in a medium security penal colony.

Dzmitryi Sluk, a Babrujsk resident, was detained on February 10, 2023. He was accused of "financing terrorist activities" (Part 1 of Article 290-1 of the Criminal Code) for donating to Cyber-Guerillas.

On July 4, 2023, he was sentenced to 8.5 years in prison and a fine of 11,100 roubles (3,093 euros).

What should I do if I donated to solidarity funds

The lawyers of Viasna advise on how to protect yourself when you are called for a "conversation" to the KGB for donations

What should I do if I'm called for a "conversation"?

First of all, it is important to understand that law enforcement agencies may not have any reliable evidence and grounds for detaining, fining, penalizing, or initiating criminal prosecution against you until the moment you give them such information. In most of the cases known to us, people came to such "conversations", they were put under psychological pressure, and they signed explanatory notes where they accused themselves of "violations". As a result, criminal prosecution may begin with such an explanatory note. We advise to come to law enforcement agencies only on a summons and only as part of an official interrogation procedure.

We recommend that you remember the right not to testify against yourself and your loved ones (Article 27 of the Constitution) and use this right. To minimize the possibility of pressure, we advise you to come with a lawyer for both an interrogation and a preventive conversation (if you decide to go there for some reason).

How to minimize the risks of detention?

Andrey Stryzhak, the head of the BYSOL Foundation, commented that the leak of information about donations concerns Belarusian bank cards and, most likely, does not contain information about who the donation was made to. The BYSOL Foundation team advises to re-register your Facebook account to a new email address and then delete it.

The Coalition of Protesting Yards has developed a more complex multi-step instruction on what to do with the Facebook account which one used to make donations to the fund.

What should I do if they demand to "pay" for my donation?

If the law enforcement officer demands that you transfer money to a charity account, fulfilling this requirement does not guarantee that a criminal case will not be opened.

And what if the donation was made before the recognition of BYSOL as an "extremist formation"?

The lawyer of Viasna notes that usually the criminal liability is based on the principle that "the law has no retroactive effect." That is, acts that were committed before the introduction of criminal liability for them cannot be criminally prosecuted.

The BYSOL Foundation was recognized as an extremist formation on December 3, 2021 by decree of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Thus, criminal prosecution related to this fact is permissible only for actions that were carried out after the foundation was recognized as extremist.

However, in the case of extremist formations, on practice they are recognized as extremist from the very beginning of their activities, and not from the date of the recognition. And this allows the authorities to extend new legislation to old cases.

Our contacts:

Instagram: @viasnasos

Telegram: @ViasnaSOS@SOSViasna

Telegram-bot: @viasna_bot


Contact Viasna journalists to report the persecution for donations:
Telegram: @Viasnainfo | Email:

Latest news