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 You are in: Under Secretary for Political Affairs > Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs > Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs Releases > Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs Press Releases > Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs Press Releases (2006) > March
White House Press Release
Office of the Press Secretary
Washington, DC
March 16, 2006

Report on Belarus, the Last Dictatorship in Europe, Including Arms Sales and Leadership Assets

Text of a Letter from the President to the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the House Committee on International Relations and the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations

March 16, 2006

Dear Mr. Chairman: (Dear Representative:) (Dear Senator:)

Consistent with the Belarus Democracy Act of 2004 (Public Law 108 347), I hereby transmit to you a report prepared by my Administration on the Belarusian sale or delivery of weapons and weapons related technologies and on the personal assets and wealth of the senior Belarusian leadership.



Report on Belarus, the Last Dictatorship in Europe, including Arms Sales and Leadership Assets

March 2006

Submitted in Accordance with Section 7 of the Belarus Democracy Act of 2004
Public Law 108-347


The basic principles of U.S. policy toward Belarus were identified by President Bush when he signed the Belarus Democracy Act of 2004:

At a time when freedom is advancing around the world, Aleksandr Lukashenka and his government are turning Belarus into a regime of repression in the heart of Europe, its government isolated from its neighbors and its people isolated from each other. We will work with our allies and partners to assist those seeking to return Belarus to its rightful place among the Euro-Atlantic community of democracies. There is no place in a Europe whole and free for a regime of this kind.

Mr. Lukashenka has created a repressive dictatorship on the doorstep of the European Union (EU) and NATO. Unlike any other leader in Europe, his actions impede realization of a Europe whole, free and at peace, and introduce an element of unpredictability and potential instability and insecurity in Europe. Through his track record of fraudulent elections; state-orchestrated "disappearances" of opponents; imprisonment of peaceful, democratic political figures on spurious charges; and repressive tactics to intimidate civil society, Lukashenka has demonstrated that he is incapable of leading Belarus toward a democratic future. Furthermore, as Belarus’ self-imposed isolation intensifies, Lukashenka is increasingly seeking partners from other states of concern.

In his second inaugural address, President Bush underscored that, "it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world." This is our objective in Belarus.

Since the U.S. Congress enacted the Belarus Democracy Act, the Administration has further developed and pursued a more robust, sustained policy to promote democracy in Belarus. Political change is inevitable in Belarus, and our policy is intended to help the Belarusian people freely determine their future sooner rather than later. We have worked with our European partners on ways to empower the Belarusian people through increased assistance and outreach to civil society; peaceful, democratic political groups; and independent media. We have also worked to highlight the Lukashenka regime’s abuses and hold accountable authorities implicated in wrongdoing, for example, by imposing travel restrictions and investigating the sources of their assets. The United States and our European partners are committed to sustaining the international effort to support civil society in Belarus after the upcoming election.

The most recent voting in Belarus -- in October 2004 simultaneously for parliamentary elections and a referendum to remove term limits on the presidency -- was conducted with little regard for democratic norms and fell far short of international standards. There were credible reports of systematic abuses occurring in the campaign period, the voting, and the vote counting. Independent exit polling suggested the results announced by election officials did not reflect the voters’ actual preferences, and were arrived at through widespread fraud and intimidation.

Following the October 2004 elections, Belarusian authorities stepped up their longstanding campaign against civil society, shutting down the country’s only independent university and imprisoning those who Lukashenka views as having an independent opinion. In 2005, the authorities intensified their assault against democratic values, adopting repressive new laws and regulations as part of an openly stated effort to prevent a "color revolution." (Through a massive disinformation effort, they have attempted to portray the success of voters in Ukraine, Georgia and elsewhere in defending their rights to have their votes respected as outside efforts to overturn elected governments.) The government denied registration to existing non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and harassed independent political parties, independent media, independent trade unions, national minorities, and human rights and democracy defenders. Tactics have included beating and arresting peaceful demonstrators and harassing political leaders by arrest and conviction on spurious charges, among other abuses. These abuses are documented in detail in the Belarus Country Report of the Department of State’s Human Rights Report. The Belarusian government has also stacked the election commission with Lukashenka loyalists.

The U.S. Government, in close coordination with the EU, has reacted strongly to these actions in a large number of public statements, private messages to Belarusian officials, and concrete actions to hold regime officials accountable. In 2004, we announced travel restrictions against government officials responsible for the disappearances of opposition figures, election fraud, and other human rights abuses. As in 2004, persistent and pervasive violations prompted the U.N. Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) to pass a resolution in 2005, co-sponsored by the United States and the EU, expressing deep concern and appointing a special rapporteur to examine the human rights situation in Belarus. The Government of Belarus has denied the rapporteur a visa.

More broadly, the Administration has also worked to increase international attention on the situation in Belarus as part of our diplomatic effort to build stronger international resolve to support those Belarusians who labor in the shadows to return freedom to their country. Secretary of State Rice during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in January 2005 noted that America stands with oppressed people on every continent, citing Belarus as an "outpost of tyranny." During the past year, President Bush, in speeches in the town square in Bratislava, the Slovak Republic; in the Small Guild Hall in Riga, Latvia; and before the International Republican Institute in Washington, D.C., underscored his belief that the people of Minsk deserve the same freedoms enjoyed by the citizens of Bratislava, Riga, and Washington.

The Administration continued to spotlight Belarus with the United States and the EU committing, at a June 2005 summit, to coordinate our efforts to promote democracy, the rule of law, and respect for human rights in Belarus. During the past year, with leaders such as Ukrainian President Yushchenko, Latvian President Vike-Freiberga, Lithuanian President Adamkus and Estonian President Ruutel by his side, President Bush emphasized that democracy in Belarus was on our common agenda.

Senior U.S. officials have demonstrated this commitment to democracy in Belarus by meeting with representatives of civil society, while shunning senior-level interaction with Belarusian government officials. In February 2005, for example, the President met members of Belarusian civil society in Bratislava, after which he said that, "inevitably, the people of Belarus will someday belong" to the world’s democracies. Similarly, Secretary Rice, joined by the EU’s High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana, met Belarusian civil society representatives in Vilnius in April 2005, saying publicly that we would continue "to work to support democratic development" and stressing the importance of promoting free elections and fundamental freedoms in Belarus. Most recently, President Bush and Secretary Rice hosted two widows of the Belarusian "disappeared" in February 2006 to highlight the U.S. Government’s concern about the conduct of Belarusian authorities leading up to the March 19 election, harassment of civil society and the political opposition, and the failure to seriously investigate the cases of the disappeared.

These actions continue a long practice of supporting the Belarusian people and opposing undemocratic actions by the regime, dating back to the illegitimate constitutional changes in 1996, which ousted the elected legislature and centralized power in the hands of the president. Our support for the democratic aspirations of the Belarusian people has remained at the forefront of U.S. policy and has defined our relations with the Belarusian government. Since 1997, the United States has limited contact with and assistance to the Belarusian government. The U.S. Government has also denied most kinds of direct U.S. Government assistance to the Belarusian government, with some exceptions, including continuing humanitarian assistance, educational exchanges, limited non-proliferation assistance, and other contacts that advance clearly-defined U.S. security and law enforcement interests. We do not provide assistance under the Export-Import Bank, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, or the Trade and Development Agency.

U.S. assistance programs for Belarus are aimed at furthering development of democracy, respect for human rights, and market-oriented reform. They focus on human rights monitoring and education, independent trade unions, democratic political party and coalition development, voter education, strengthening civil society, rule of law, and electoral reform and monitoring. We also provide critical support to sustain Belarus' remaining independent press, and we are working intensively with other donors to ramp up our support for external broadcasting and other efforts to bring objective, independent information to Belarus, key to breaking the government’s stranglehold over television and radio.

U.S. policy toward Belarus is founded on our desire to reach out to and assist the Belarusian people in securing their right to determine their own government and thereby secure a better future. While expressing our disapproval of reprehensible actions of the authorities, we have always acted and continue to act to support the Belarusian people in their efforts to develop a society that is democratic, prosperous, and governed by the rule of law and respect for human rights. Since establishing diplomatic relations in 1992, the United States has been unswervingly committed to supporting Belarusian independence, sovereignty, and democracy.

Through both diplomatic and assistance efforts, the United States has also focused on the March 2006 presidential election, stressing the need for free and fair elections while recognizing that the prospects for such elections under current circumstances are dim at best. We have therefore also underscored the serious consequences for those responsible for a fraudulent election process or the resort to force and violence. The regime has done much to isolate itself, but the United States remains committed to help foster engagement between the Belarusian people and the rest of the world, and inevitably to welcome a free Belarus into the community of democracies.

Arms Sales to State Sponsors of Terrorism

The Belarus Democracy Act of 2004 requires the President to transmit to the appropriate congressional committees a report that describes, with respect to the preceding 12-month period, and to the extent practicable the following:

(1) The sale or delivery of weapons or weapons-related technologies from the Republic of Belarus to any country, the government of which the Secretary of State has determined, for the purposes of Section 6(j)(1) of the Export Administration Act of 1979 (50 U.S.C. App. 2405(j)(1)), has repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism.

(2) An identification of each country described in paragraph (1) and a detailed description of the weapons or weapons-related technologies involved in the sale.

(3) An identification of the goods, services, credits, or other consideration received by Belarus in exchange for the weapons or weapons-related technologies.

Belarus has continued to export significant quantities of defense articles, dual-use items and other military equipment and technology. In December 2004, an official of the Beltekhexport company was quoted by Interfax as saying Belarus intended to remain among the world’s 20 leading arms exporting countries, explaining that "the country has stable positions on this prestigious list."

There have been numerous reports of Belarusian sales or delivery of weapons or weapons-related technologies to states of concern, including state sponsors of terrorism. In April and September 2004, the United States imposed sanctions on a Belarusian entity, Belvneshpromservice, pursuant to the Iran Nonproliferation Act of 2000 for the transfer to Iran of items on a multilateral export control list or items having the potential of making a material contribution to WMD or cruise or ballistic missile systems.

In August 2004, the U.S. Treasury Department also sanctioned a Belarusian bank for laundering money for the Saddam Hussein regime.

According to the U.N. Register of Conventional Arms for 2004, the most recent year available, Belarus exported a number of Russian-origin armored combat vehicles to Sudan. According to information Belarus provided to the Register, in 2003 Belarus sold such vehicles and large-caliber artillery systems to Sudan, and in 2002 sold large weapons systems to Iran. There may be other sales that Belarus has not included on the list. Unclassified details on arms sales are difficult to acquire. Under Lukashenka, many arms sales are made without consideration by relevant security organs of the Belarusian government. Instead, the Presidential Administration may unilaterally approve sales, and revenues from sales go into a "Presidential fund" about which neither the Belarusian government nor the puppet legislature is provided information. U.S. officials have raised concerns about Belarusian arms sales, but Belarus has either denied that such sales have occurred or claimed they pose no threat and do not violate any of its international commitments.

There are signs that Belarusian authorities are undertaking efforts to expand relations with some countries of concern. This seemed clearest in Lukashenka’s short visit to the U.N. General Assembly in September 2005, where he met with Iranian President Ahmadinejad and gave a blistering anti-U.S. speech decrying that Iran, North Korea, Cuba, and other states "have been placed in weapons’ sights." In September 2004, then-Iranian President Mohammed Khatami came to Belarus, where Lukashenka welcomed him by declaring Belarus was ready to cooperate "in all directions." During the visit, Belarusian and Iranian representatives signed seven agreements on cooperation in customs, security, agriculture, and other areas. This follows a pattern Lukashenka established with the government of Iraq during the rule of Saddam Hussein.

The Belarusian Parliament ratified a security cooperation agreement with Iran in May 2005. Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister and Special Presidential Envoy Mehdi Safari visited Belarus in November 2005, gaining public Belarusian support for Iran’s position on the nuclear issue in the International Atomic Energy Agency. The Speaker of the Iranian Parliament led a delegation to Minsk in December 2005, publicly suggesting that Belarus and Iran increase their nuclear cooperation. During all of these visits, Belarusian authorities stressed their goal of expanding exports to these countries. Representatives of Belarus’ largest factories, such as Minsk Automobile Plant (MAZ), Minsk Tractor Works (MTZ), and Belarusian Automobile Plant (BelAZ), took part in all these meetings. These companies produce both military and civilian goods.

In July 2004, Sudanese President Umar Al-Bashir visited Belarus and signed a framework agreement on bilateral cooperation with Lukashenka. The Belarusian Interior Minister visited Sudan in February 2005 and discussed the training of Sudanese police officers in Belarusian institutions.

In August 2004, Syrian parliamentarians visited Belarus to discuss economic cooperation and scientific and cultural exchanges; Lukashenka earlier visited Damascus in December 2003. A Belarusian Deputy Foreign Minister visited Syria in June 2005, and in August Belarus and Syria agreed to institute visa-free travel for holders of diplomatic and official passports.

Additional information is included in the classified annexes to this report.

Leadership Assets

The report required by Section 7 of the Belarus Democracy Act also calls for information concerning:

(4) The personal assets and wealth of Aleksandr Lukashenka and other senior leadership of the Government of Belarus.

There is credible information that the regime leadership, including Lukashenka, abuses public resources, including for personal use. Ironically, elected on an anti-corruption platform in 1994, Lukashenka is likely among the most corrupt leaders in the world. The precise extent of corruption is difficult to determine because of the regime’s lack of transparency and the blurring of personal and state property. Nevertheless, some elements are clear.

Lukashenka controls a presidential reserve fund, with assets well over $100 million. Lukashenka once admitted that the fund has $1 billion, and bragged that "it is hidden so well that no opposition member will find it." According to Lukashenka himself, funds such as this receive money from secret arms sales, the total profits of which have not been recorded in the state budget and are beyond public scrutiny.

Open-source reports of Lukashenka’s great wealth vary. Statements made over the years by former regime insiders suggest that secrecy and creative accounting have left the waters intentionally muddy. Tamara Vinnikova, a former head of the Belarusian National Bank who was arrested in 1997 and subsequently escaped and fled Belarus in 1999, told the Moscow publication Kommersant in September 2001 that Lukashenka had utilized a massive presidential reserve fund, and there were no stipulations on "how much of this fund he could spend on his own personal needs and how much on public needs." Vinnikova said commission fees from privatizations were not monitored and "could go into Lukashenka’s fund or into someone’s pocket. You will never find a document in Lukashenka’s name" in connection with these transactions.

Vinnikova also said large amounts of "personal money of Aleksandr Lukashenka’s team" were flown out of Belgrade in cash on Lukashenka’s personal plane before the beginning of the NATO bombing campaign. Vinnikova said she believed the money remained in cash, in "household safes," at the time of her 2001 interview. As an example of Lukashenka’s spending practices, Vinnikova said Lukashenka once asked her to find USD 150,000 for the Dinamo football team, asking no questions about the source of the money.

Along similar lines, Moscow Interfax quoted former Presidential Administration chief Ivan Titenkov in July 2001 saying Lukashenka was "not a poor man." Titenkov said "one can wonder, for example, where part of the money received for arms sold abroad at low prices went."

Lukashenka has on occasion responded directly and forcefully to such charges. He called Vinnikova’s accusations, which were made on the eve of the 2001 presidential election, a "provocation" and an "attempt at falsification." He acknowledged that revenues from arms sales and other state activities were channeled into presidential funds controlled by him alone with no oversight from ministries or legislators. He claimed, however, that he spent the money on public projects such as the construction of skating rinks and awards for students. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) considers Belarus’s off-budget spending an issue of concern.

The Presidential Administration owns a large and ever-increasing amount of property in Belarus, including rest homes, hotels, and other real estate. Lukashenka and his immediate family reportedly enjoy residences and other facilities built or maintained throughout Belarus. Most state functionaries are also provided housing and other privileged residences owned or controlled by the Presidential Administration.

A February 2004 report in the Moscow publication Moskovskiy Komsomolets cited a former high-level Lukashenka aide as saying Lukashenka was "the richest man in the CIS." The aide explained that:

He has sold weapons for astronomical amounts of money, running into billions of dollars. This money has not found its way into the state’s budget or the economy. Lukashenka disposes of it as he sees fit. Sometimes he will ‘pinch’ some for an ice palace, for instance, or give some to the Government...

Other published accounts claim that Lukashenka is by far the wealthiest individual in Belarus, with assets in the billions of dollars. According to these accounts, Lukashenka and other government officials receive a portion of the profits from the transit of oil and gas, arms sales, confiscated goods, as well as by skimming from state contracts. A July 2005 article claimed that unofficial figures of the Ministry of Taxes and Collection showed there were more than 100 individuals in Belarus worth over USD 1 million. According to the article, the vast majority were government officials able to regulate lucrative activities such as the transit of gas and oil, customs seizures and clearances, construction, liquor, tobacco, and arms sales. Public complaints by the government of the Russian Federation and others concerning systematic confiscations of goods transiting Belarus are consistent with these reports. These figures – which, while unsubstantiated, correspond to commonly heard amounts – stand in stark contrast to the leadership’s stated assets.

When Congress passed the Belarus Democracy Act in October 2004, Lukashenka immediately ordered the authorities to turn over information on his salary and assets to the United States. In short order, the U.S. Embassy in Minsk received income declarations for Lukashenka and his family, filled out on forms used for parliamentary and presidential candidates. The forms were dated October 6, 2004. One of the declarations -- that of the President’s wife, Galina Lukashenka -- indicated that it covered income from October 1, 2003 to October 1, 2004; the others did not specify a time period. Only two of the declarations contained entries in the category of property (e.g., real estate, vehicles, equities): Galina Lukashenka reported a 0.45 hectare plot of land in the village of Ryzhkovichi and 56 shares in a butter factory in Shklov, while Lukashenka’s son, Viktor, owned a "Minsk" motorcycle produced in 1992.

The remainder of the information in the declarations covered amounts of money received as salary:

  • Aleksandr Lukashenka, head of state, was paid BYR (Belarusian rubles) 35,930,297 (USD 16,596 at an exchange rate of BYR 2,165 to USD 1);
  • Galina Lukashenka (wife): BYR 4,514,783 (USD 2,085);
  • Viktor Lukashenka (son): BYR 9,547,544 (USD 4,410);
  • Dmitry Lukashenka (son): BYR 8,988,227 (USD 4,152);
  • Anna Lukashenka (daughter-in-law): BYR 836,828 (USD 387);
  • Lilia Lukashenka (daughter-in-law): BYR 5,226,891 (USD 2,414);
  • Yekaterina Lukashenka (mother): BYR 1,595,150 (pension) (USD 737).

Furthermore, during his tenure Lukashenka has profited from gifts, such as expensive suits and watches, from his subordinates and businessmen, including notorious Belarusian entrepreneur Viktor Logvinets, according to a press interview with Tamara Vinnikova, the former head of the Belarusian National Bank.

Given the lack of transparency in state property ownership and the Presidential Administration’s role in the economy in general, it is difficult to know how much of the income and revenue generated by state organizations (many of them beneficiaries of subsidized prices on energy from Russia) flows into accounts available for the personal use of Lukashenka, his family, his associates, and members of his government. Though Lukashenka is not known for an ostentatious lifestyle, information from former associates like Vinnikova and Titenkov points to extensive abuses of public resources by the president and those around him.

Additional information is included in the classified annex [not available] to this report.

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