Belarus hosts the CSTO summit, with the notable attendance of Russian President Vladimir Putin and the absence of Armenia’s representative.
Ukraine imposes sanctions on Russian and Belarusian defense sectors for 50 years after the end of the war.
The OSCE designates Malta as the organization’s head after Russia and Belarus veto Estonia’s chairmanship.
The Belarusian Supreme Court rejects the son of former Belarusian presidential candidate Viktar Babaryka’s appeal.
Belarus hosts CSTO summit, Armenia doesn’t show
Belarus hosted the Collective Security Treaty Organization’s (CSTO) summit on Nov. 23, with the notable attendance of Russian President Vladimir Putin and the absence of Armenia’s representative.
The summit, chaired by Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko and held in Minsk, focused on “current problems of international and regional security” and Kazakhstan’s upcoming chairmanship on Jan. 1, 2024.
Among the other decisions made at the summit was approving Russian Colonel-General Andrei Serdyukov as the head of the CSTO’s Joint Staff, allocating quota positions for the next three years, discussing further military cooperation, and developing the CSTO crisis-response system.
The CSTO is a military alliance consisting of Belarus, Russia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Armenia. Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov, Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, Tajik President Emomali Rahmon, and Russian President Vladimir Putin were in attendance.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan did not make an appearance.
Belarusian Foreign Minister Sergei Aleinik acknowledged Armenia’s absence, adding that “after the summit, the secretary-general of the CSTO will visit Yerevan.”
Tensions between Yerevan and Moscow have been mounting as Russia failed to halt Azerbaijan’s offensive against Nagorno-Karabakh despite deploying peacekeepers in the region since the last war in 2020. Last year, Pashinyan criticized the CSTO for refusing to support Armenia amid the conflict.
The rift between the two formal allies has been further manifested in Armenia’s refusal to participate in CSTO maneuvers in Kyrgyzstan and the organization’s ministerial meetings.
Lukashenko also addressed Armenia’s absence.
“We will not hide the fact that we also discussed the situation in the Caucasus and the certain dissatisfaction of one of the CSTO members,” Lukashenko said.
“We have come to the joint conclusion that there have always been problems, there are, and there will be problems. But if we are to solve these problems, we should do it at the negotiation table and not through unreasonable demarches.”
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told Russian media that she saw Pashinyan’s refusal to attend the summit as the latest in a “chain” of events.
“The West is obviously behind it,” she said. “The West, whose plans in Ukraine have failed, is now gripping Armenia, trying to tear it away from Russia.”
According to Armenian Deputy Foreign Minister Mnatsakan Safaryan on Nov. 23, Armenia is not considering leaving the CSTO despite Yerevan’s decision not to attend the summit.
Ukraine sanctions Russian, Belarusian defense sectors
The Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s parliament, approved sanctions on Russian and Belarusian defense sectors on Nov. 22.
The sanctions, which will also apply for 50 years after the end of Russia’s war against Ukraine, ban cooperation with Russian and Belarusian defense enterprises and residents.
“We’re talking about any technologies, innovations, or production related to the manufacture of weapons or means that can be used in the field of weapons,” Ukrainian lawmaker Fedir Venislavskyi said.
Venislavskyi added that Ukraine’s partners should impose similar restrictions on Russia and Belarus to maximize the impact on their economies as, despite Moscow and Minsk’s claims, sanctions work.
“This will definitely contribute to our faster victory in the war,” Venislavskyi said.
Last week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky issued two decrees sanctioning 100 individuals and 37 entities, including the general secretary of the Union State of Russia and Belarus, Dmitry Mezentsev, and Belarusian Paralympic athlete Alexei Talai.
Lukashenko’s regime, one of Russia’s staunchest allies in its war against Ukraine, is complicit in assisting Moscow’s aggression.
Malta to chair OSCE after Russia, Belarus vetoed Estonian candidacy
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) agreed on Nov. 27 that Malta should take over the organization’s rotating chairmanship after Russia and Belarus vetoed Estonia’s bid.
Russia and Belarus vetoed Estonia’s chairmanship on Nov. 21, a move that Estonian Foreign Minister Margus Tsahkna called “blackmail” and claimed was because they did not want a NATO member to hold the OSCE’s next chairmanship.
Malta, while a member of the EU, is notably not a member of NATO.
The OSCE’s chairmanship rotates each year, with the chosen state’s foreign minister acting as the organization’s chairperson.
With 57 states from across Europe, Central Asia, and North America, the OSCE is the world’s largest regional security organization. Estonia was the EU’s joint chairmanship candidate since 2020.
Belarusian Supreme Court rejects former opposition candidate’s son’s appeal
The Belarusian Supreme Court rejected the son of former Belarusian presidential candidate Viktar Babaryka’s appeal on Nov. 28, keeping his eight-year politically motivated prison sentence unchanged.
Eduard Babaryka was charged with tax evasion, money laundering, helping organize “mass riots,” and “inciting social hatred,” among other charges in July. Eduard has rejected the charges, calling them politically motivated.
Eduard’s father, Viktar, was considered one of Lukashenko’s primary political opponents during the 2020 Belarusian presidential election. He is currently serving a 14-year sentence in Belarus.
Eduard and Viktar were arrested by Belarusian authorities in June 2020 while en route to file signatures in favor of Viktar’s presidential candidacy – a move widely considered an attempt to take him out of the presidential race.
Viktar was hospitalized on April 27 with a collapsed lung and traces of severe beating. He has since gone missing. The European Parliament adopted a resolution on May 11 calling for his release.
Before joining his father’s campaign staff in 2020, Eduard ran the crowdfunding platform Ulej, among other humanitarian projects, and funded the publication of a collection of Belarusian works by Nobel Peace Prize-winning writer Sviatlana Aleksievich.
Lukashenko's ascension to absolute power
The Spotlight segment provides readers with the historical context of contemporary events in Belarus.
Twenty-seven years ago, in November 1996, Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko ascended to absolute power thanks to a fraudulent referendum and a failed impeachment.
Following a contested referendum in 1995, through which he seized control over Belarus’ media landscape, overrode the country’s Supreme Court rulings, and suppressed protests against Belarus’ gradual integration with Russia, Lukashenko feared the Belarusian parliament would side with the people and oust him from power.
He held a second referendum in 1996 to consolidate his authority and transition Belarus into a super-presidential republic. The referendum, which was neither free nor fair, introduced a new “independence day,” preserved capital punishment, and gave Lukashenko greater control over the legislature and judiciary.
The Belarusian parliament, however, rejected Lukashenko’s referendum, and the then-head of the Belarusian Central Electoral Committee, Viktar Hanchar, refused to sign off on the referendum’s amendments to the constitution.
Lukashenko fired Hanchar as a result, which the Belarusian parliament responded to by initiating Lukashenko’s impeachment.
However, Russia intervened, sending a delegation to mediate the conflict between Belarus’ executive and legislative branches. Despite the negotiations, Lukashenko went ahead with making the fraudulent referendum results legally binding.
The Organization For Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the EU, and the U.S. dismissed the referendum as illegitimate.