Analysing international policy processes and Lithuania’s role in them
Review Dec 21, 2022

Belarusian trends in 2022 Q4

  • Due to the lack of export markets, Belarus is currently facing a surplus of electricity produced. This may be one of the reasons why the commissioning of the second power unit at the Astravets Nuclear Power Plant is still being postponed.
  • In the first ten months of 2022, the GDP of Belarus decreased 4.7%, but the overall contraction of the economy is slowing down and it is gradually adjusting to the new sanctions. The annual inflation in Belarus has exceeded 15%, and the country has officially imposed price caps.
  • More and more people are being persecuted in Belarus on charges of extremism. After the introduction of price controls, several dozen criminal cases were instituted, including some for “excessive price increases”. Persecution of individuals related to 2020 protests continues.
  • Vladimir Makei, the long-time Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belarus, has died. His death has exacerbated the shortage of qualified personnel encountered by the regime.
  • In the last quarter of 2022, the Russian military force group in Belarus increased by about 9,000 soldiers. Belarus has started the training and exercising of Russian military personnel on its territory.


The Ministry of Energy of Belarus welcomes the news of reviving demand for nuclear energy in Europe. They try to use this news to show that European states were wrong to claim that atomic energy is unsafe[1]. It is sought to take advantage of the window of opportunity that has opened and return to the public space the issue of export of electricity generated by the Astravets Nuclear Power Plant to neighbouring countries. One of the main arguments used by Lithuania when forming the coalition against the Astravets Nuclear Power Plant before the Russian invasion of Ukraine was related to the insufficient safety of the facility. Now, we can see an attempt to change public opinion because the issue is especially relevant against the background of a sharp increase in electricity prices in Europe.

The war in Ukraine has not yet affected the stability of electricity supply and infrastructure in Belarus because the country has fully synchronised its electricity networks with Russia. Before the Russian military invasion, Belarus had an electricity interconnection with Ukraine, but it was disconnected as soon as the invasion started, so now Russia remains the only electricity import and export partner of Belarus[2]. It is important to emphasise that at the beginning of the Russian invasion, the Ukrainian electricity grids were synchronised with those of the European Union countries, so they are unlikely to return to long-term synchronisation with the Belarusian electricity grids[3].

Due to these circumstances, Belarus has a large surplus of electricity generated by the Astravets Nuclear Power Plant. It is planned to solve the problem in two ways: by encouraging even greater electricity consumption within the country and by exporting the surplus to Russia. True, now Russia is not short of electricity, so it is not clear whether it will want to import it[4]. The postponement of the start-up of the second power unit at the Astravets Nuclear Power Plant is also associated with this[5], as the scope of such export remains unclear.

However, irrespective of the further operation of the Astravets Nuclear Power Plant, the newly imposed European Union’s restrictions on oil imports from Russia may not only significantly affect the economy of Russia itself and its role in European markets, but also lead to lower budget revenues and lower subsidies for Belarus. Germany also has a great influence on this because it has discontinued importing oil through the Druzhba oil pipeline that runs through Belarus, and Poland is also preparing to do so[6].

The fixed oil price ceiling may also contribute to the losses suffered by Belarus because the country has been deprived of the opportunity to export its petroleum products to the EU markets and, from now, exports all its products to the Russian market. In order to further maintain its oil refining industry, Belarus is now forced to provide additional subsidies and tax preferences to its oil refineries[7]. True, even despite the shrinking of the export market and the increased price of Russian oil for Belarus, it is said that the oil refining capacity of Belarus increased by 1.4 million tons during the quarter of this year and currently amounts to 3.9 million tons of oil per quarter[8].

The gas price for Belarus for 2023 has not yet been established, and negotiations with Russia are still ongoing. Alyaksandr Lukashenka publicly stated that the price of gas in both countries should be converged because Belarus is already quite deeply integrated into the Russian gas market and, according to him, the price of Russian gas in Belarus still differs significantly from that in Russia, with the difference sometimes reaching 100%[9].


Impact of sanctions on Belarus’ foreign trade

In the last quarter of this year, the Belarusian economy continued to contract, though somewhat slower. The biggest decline in GDP this year was recorded in January–July, when it was 5.2%. In January–November 2022, the annual GDP of Belarus was 4.7% lower on an average compared to the same period last year. A decline was recorded in industry, transport and trade: industrial production during 10 months dropped by 5.9% compared to last year, retail trade turnover decreased by 2.4% in January–November this year, freight turnover decreased by 25.3%, and passenger transportation decreased by 2.4%. However, the general downturn in the Belarusian economy was mitigated by agriculture, where production volume increased by 3.5% during the 10 months of this year[10].

The volume of Belarus’ foreign trade also remains low. During the first ten years of 2022 months, the total turnover of goods decreased by 6.4%, from USD 65.514 billion to USD 61.327 billion, compared to the corresponding period last year. Exports from Belarus during the same period this year amounted to USD 30.882 billion, while last year this indicator was USD 32.030 billion. Accordingly, from January to November, Belarusian exports dropped by 3.6%, although it should be noted that export values similar to last year are supported by high inflation. The physical volume of Belarusian exports declined much more, although the exact extent is not known (Belstat stopped publishing export statistics by physical scope of delivery). Imports decreased more than exports: by 9.1%, from USD 33.483 billion in January–November 2021 to USD 30.444 billion in the corresponding period of 2022.

It should be noted that the values of this decrease in foreign trade have not changed significantly compared to the results of the first half of this year, which shows that in the third and last quarters of the year, the decline in the volume of Belarus’ foreign trade also slowed down and the country’s economy is gradually adjusting to the newly imposed sanctions. This was mainly due to the re-orientation of Belarusian trade to the markets of the CIS countries, especially Russia. Despite the overall decrease in trade turnover compared to the data for January–November 2021, the trade turnover of Belarus with the CIS countries increased by USD 477 million in the first ten months of 2022. On the other hand, it should be noted that the trade turnover with non-CIS countries decreased by USD 4.667 billion during the same period, which shows that in the CIS markets, Belarus was able to offset only about a tenth of the losses incurred due to the sanctions[11].

The stabilisation of the Belarusian economy can also be confirmed by the fact that in October 2022, Belarus had deflation (although the total annual inflation in the country exceeds 15%)[12]. However, such data should also be interpreted with caution because the main reason for deflation may also be the partial state price regulation introduced in the country in October[13].


Political repression

At the moment (as of 30 November 2022), 1,447 people[14] are recognised as political prisoners in Belarus, 139 more than a month ago. However, it is likely that the real number is several times higher. Political persecution and suppression of freedom of expression under the guise of fighting extremism is becoming more frequent in Belarus. In recent months, the “list of persons associated with extremist activities” has been growing particularly rapidly and included 2,117 persons as of the beginning of December 2022. On 28 October alone, at once 625 people were added to the list[15], and over 600 more were added during November[16]. From the beginning of autumn 2022, the number of politically motivated administrative detentions increased. Human rights defenders counted 317 such cases in October [17]and 206 in November[18] (in June and July, the numbers of such cases were 100 and 122, respectively[19]). In addition, in autumn 2022, the Belarusian Investigative Committee instituted the first criminal case under the recently adopted legal norm in Belarus, which allows passing sentences upon people staying abroad[20]. At the beginning of December 2022, there were already 13 such persons, including Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, her assistant Maria Moroz, former diplomat Pavel Latushka, and journalist and blogger Dmitry Navosha[21]. All of them are charged with serious criminal offences: for preparing to seize power, usurping the rank and power of an official, illegal fund-raising, inciting social discord, etc.

Several headline-making political cases ended in convictions in autumn: the cases of Nikolay Avtuhovich, who, together with other persons, is accused of preparing terrorist acts[22], of the “union of ten anarchists”[23], and of the employees and managers of BelaPAN, the oldest non-governmental news agency in the country[24]. Participants in all the cases received long custodial sentences ranging from 9 to 25 years.

The decision of the Belarusian government to introduce partial price regulation has brought new repression, this time to traders. Since the decision came into effect in October, the country’s law enforcement agencies in the country have been monitoring prices. Several dozen criminal cases have already been initiated in Belarus in respect of allegedly unjustified price increases[25]. Within just the first two weeks, 34 criminal cases were instituted, 20 suspects were detained, and the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Belarus announced that it had identified more than 70 cases of “criminal offences” in total[26]. At the end of November, the number of instituted cases already exceeded 40, and the first case regarding price increases reached the court on November 29 in Baranavichy, the accused faces 2 to 6 years of imprisonment[27].

Opposition activities; regime adaptation

The sudden death of Vladimir Makei, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, on 26 November became one of the most important events in the internal politics of Belarus in the last quarter of 2022[28]. The minister, who held the post since 2012, was among the officials in Lukashenka inner circle who had survived in a high position for the longest time. The minister was also one of the most well-known Belarusian politicians following Lukashenka himself. In addition, Makei was considered one of the most pro-Western representatives of Lukashenka’s regime, who managed to achieve a warming in relations with the West after the annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014. In 2020, there was a silent dissent with the official position in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Belarus, when dozens of diplomats left it in disagreement with the brutal suppression of protests[29]. However, the minister himself remained in the post and, after the suppression of the protests, it was he who became responsible for maintaining the official political course, hostile rhetoric towards European countries and became one of the authors of the 2021 migration crisis[30]. The minister died at the age of just 64, a few days after returning from the CSTO summit in Yerevan. The minister’s sudden death at such an age immediately caused a number of conspiracy theories in the public sphere regarding its naturalness, but there was no evidence for any of the theories. According to official data, the minister died of a heart attack without timely medical help. Although almost a month has passed since the minister’s death, it is still not decided who will replace him. Given the long experience of Makei and the trust he received from Lukashenka, this death will contribute to the shortage of qualified personnel that the regime is already experiencing.

Social trends

In the last quarter of this year, not a single poll was conducted in Belarus concerning changes in the attitude of the Belarusian public towards the war in Ukraine. However, on October 7 the results of the latest survey conducted by Chatham House[31] on Belarusians’ attitudes towards Russia and the West were published[32]. According to the data of this survey, Belarusians perceive Russia as the country with the greatest influence in Belarus, naming cultural and linguistic proximity and many family ties as the main reasons for this influence. It is a similar world-view and a common language what is usually pointed out by Belarusians who want to live and work in Russia. Travelling to Russia and the role of the Russian media are also cited as important influencing factors. In general, Russia’s influence in the country is perceived as positive or rather positive, and Belarusians usually notice the positive influence of Russia, rather than the West, on interpersonal relations and attitudes to work.

On the other hand, Belarusians also have positive views of the West. The majority of Belarusians (56%) do not agree or strongly disagree with the statement that Western influence on Belarus has negative consequences, and only 23% are of the opposite opinion. Those who would like to move to the West are mainly motivated by better economic and political conditions. Western countries are also more often associated with advanced technology and higher culture; Belarusians are more likely to positively assess the influence of the West, rather than Russia, on their             legal consciousness and education. In addition, as many as 64% Belarusians answered that they wanted a warming in relations and the development of economic and cultural ties with the West.

On November 30 of this year, the results of a survey on the attitude of Belarusians towards the European Union, carried out by the EU regional Communication Programme for the Eastern Neighbourhood, were also announced[33]. The results of this survey show that 33% of the respondents have a fairly positive and very positive attitude towards the EU, the attitude of 16% is fairly negatively and very negative, that of 38% is neutral, and 13% do not have a clear opinion. Although Belarusians acknowledge a decline in their country’s relations with the EU (only 16% believe that Belarus has good relations with the EU this year, compared to 62% in 2019 and compared to 45% who say relations are currently bad), the number of Belarusians who trust the EU (38%) is greater than the number of those who do not (31%). Moreover, Belarusians still trust the EU more than any other international organisation, including the Eurasian Economic Union, which is trusted by 33% of the respondents.


Relations with Russia, military component

Active cooperation between Russia and Belarus in the military field continues. On December 3, Sergei Shoigu, the Russian Defence Minister, paid an unannounced visit to Minsk. He met with his Belarusian counterpart Viktor Khrenin and Lukashenka himself. Shoigu and Khrenin signed a protocol on amendments to the agreement on joint ensuring regional security. The essence of these amendments has not been made public[34]. However, in the opinion of military experts, the protocol most likely reads about the provision of Belarusian military equipment and dual-use products to the Russian military group in Ukraine because the meeting of the two ministers was also attended by Piotr Parkhomchik, the Deputy Prime Minister of Belarus for Industry, and Dmitry Pantus, the Chairman of the State Military-Industrial Committee of the Republic of Belarus. It is likely that Shoigu could have asked for the transfer of Belarusian missile complexes because Russia is experiencing a shortage of them[35].

In the last quarter of this year, support by Belarus for Russia’s military aggression gained a new component by strengthening military training. Accordingly, the signed protocol could also be intended for the further institutionalisation of the training of Russian troops in Belarus. According to experts, the issue of military training could become relevant for Russia after the announced mobilisation and the consequently increased load on the training infrastructure in Russia itself[36]. Lukashenka spoke after the meeting with Shoigu: “Our and your officers are training the boys. Training both Belarusians and Russians… Russian and Belarusian military men are training together as one group, one army, whose purpose is the defence of the Union State”.[37]

Back at the beginning of October, Belarus and Russia agreed on the increase of the Russian military group in Belarus “given the worsening of the situation on the western borders of the Union State”. It was announced that about 170 tanks, up to 200 combat vehicles and up to 100 cannons and grenade launchers as well as at least 9,000 Russian troops were being sent from Russia to Belarus[38]. Already on October 17, Belarus informed about another military training together with this Russian group[39]. A significant increase in the amount of Russian military equipment and personnel on the territory of Belarus has been noticed since the beginning of November. As a result, there was speculation about this group’s possible attempt to invade Ukraine to invade Ukraine from the north. However, military analysts say that the increased forces are not prepared for an attack and, as Lukashenka claimed later, they were most likely training and possibly carrying out technical supply and repair tasks in Belarus, while the probability of a new invasion of Ukraine from Belarus remained quite low[40]. Training and supply activities are likely to be continued by this group in the near future.

As to the non-military sphere, after a telephone conversation on December 7, Lukashenka agreed to meet with Putin again in person in the near future. The officially announced purpose of the meeting is “to discuss practical issues of the implementation of union building and economic issues”[41]. The circumvention of sanctions and re-orientation of import and export routes in general remains the main priority of Belarus’ economic policy. The previous meeting between Lukashenka and Putin took place at the end of September. That time, in Sochi, Lukashenka also discussed with Putin changes in import and the neutralisation of sanctions, talked about the mobilisation announced in Russia and, during an unofficial visit to the partially recognised Abkhazia, caused a diplomatic scandal with Georgia[42]. In November, Lukashenka and Belarusian Prime Minister Raman Galovchenka also received the governor of Russia’s Rostov Oblast and discussed the possibility of transporting Belarusian goods through the ports of this oblast[43].


[1] Belsat, „Европейцы концептуально меняют свои взгляды“. Минэнерго об отношении к атомной энергетике на Запад, 14/11/2022, <>.

[2] Дина Вярба, Відкритий ліс, „Как война изменила энергетику?“, 14/12/2022, <>.

[3] Александра Богуславская, Deutsche Welle, „Куда Беларусь будет девать излишки электроэнергии с БелАЭС?“, 10/05/2022, <>.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Verslo žinios, „Atidėtas antrojo Astravo AE reaktoriaus įjungimas“, 23/11/2022, <>.

[6] Ilex, „Сколько будут стоить нефть и газ для Беларуси в 2023 году“, 24/11/2022, <>.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Наша Ніва, „Лукашенко рассказал, устраивает ли его цена на газ“, 09/12/2022, <>.

[10] Belsat, „Беларусская экономика продолжает сокращаться“, 17/11/2022, <>.

[11] Белстат, „Баланс внешней торговли товарами Республики Беларусь“, žiūrėta 05/12/2022, <>.

[12] Zerkalo, „В Беларуси в октябре зафиксировали дефляцию“, 11/11/2022, <>.

[13] LRT, „Контроль за ценами в Беларуси: к чему это приведет?“, 21/10/2022, <>.

[14] Вясна, 03/12/2022, <>.

[15] Цэнтр новых ідэй, „Что происходит с репрессиями в Беларуси (в режиме “как минимум”)“, 22/11/2022, <>.

[16] Вясна, 03/12/2022, <>.

[17] Цэнтр новых ідэй, „Что происходит с репрессиями в Беларуси (в режиме “как минимум”)“, 22/11/2022, <>.

[18] Вясна, 03/12/2022, <>.

[19] Цэнтр новых ідэй, „Что происходит с репрессиями в Беларуси (в режиме “как минимум”)“, 22/11/2022, <>.

[20], „Впервые в Беларуси начато спецпроизводство против находящегося за рубежом обвиняемого“, 27/092022, <>.

[21] Следственный комитет Республики Беларусь, Специальное производство, žiūrėta 05/12/2022,


[22] Deutsche Welle, „197 лет тюрьмы. В РБ вынесли приговор “группе Автуховича”“, 17/10/2022, <>.

[23] Радио Свобода, „В Минске 10 оппозиционерам вынесены приговоры до 17 лет тюрьмы“, 07/09/2022, <>.

[24] Rfi, „Журналистам БелаПАН дали сроки от 4 до 14 лет колонии“, 06/10/2022, <>.

[25] Настоящие время, „Лукашенко пошел войной на ценники. Как в Беларуси приказали ценам не расти и к чему это привело“, 09/11/2022, <>.

[26] Zerkalo, „Из-за «повышения цен» в Беларуси задержали 20 человек и завели 34 уголовных дела“, 18/10/2022, <>.

[27] Наша Нiва, „Передали в суд первое уголовное дело о завышении цен“, 29/11/2022, <>.

[28] LRT, „Умер глава МИД Беларуси Владимир Макей“, 26/11/2022, <>.

[29] Артем Шрайбман, „Окно невозможностей. Что значит для Беларуси смерть ее главного дипломата“, Carnegie Endowment, 27/11/2022, <>.

[30] LRT, „”Доверяй, но проверяй”. Аналитик Павел Слюнкин: назначение нового главы МИДа покажет, что у Лукашенко в голове“, 04/12/2022, <>.

[31] Delfi, „Белорусы хотят сближения с Западом? Новое исследование“, 07/10/2022, <>.

[32] Chatham House, „Результаты двенадцатой волны исследования“, 07/10/2022, <>.

[33] EU NEIGHBOURS east, „Annual Survey 2022: Belarus“, 30/11/2022, <>.

[34] Наша Нiва, „Министры обороны России и Беларуси подписали протокол, касающийся безопасности. Его смысл неизвестен“, 03/12/2022, <>.

[35] Наша Нiва, „Протокол Хренина-Шойгу: России передадут «Полонезы»?“, 05/12/2022, <>.

[36] Deutsche Welle, „ISW: РФ в Беларуси вряд ли готовит атаку на Украину с севера“, 29/11/2022, <>.

[37] Delfi, „Лукашенко: военные РФ и Беларуси готовятся “как единая армия”“, 04/12/2022, <>.

[38] Радио Свобода, „Лукашенко и Путин договорились о развёртывании группировки войск“, 10/10/2022, <>.

[39] Радио Свобода, „Беларусь анонсировала совместные с Россией военные учения“, 17/10/2022, <>.

[40] Deutsche Welle, „ISW: РФ в Беларуси вряд ли готовит атаку на Украину с севера“, 29/11/2022, <>.

[41], „Лукашенко и Путин договорились о встрече в декабре“, 07/12/2022, <>.

[42] Delfi, “Надо чаще встречаться. Лукашенко анонсировал очередную встречу с Путиным”, 31/10/2022,


[43], “Лукашенко рассказал, как спас «Ростсельмаш», а ростовский губернатор предложил ему свои порты”, 03/11/2022,


Andrius Prochorenko has been working at the EESC since the year 2017. He is a graduate of the Vilnius University’s Institute of International Relations and Political Science, holds a Masters degree in Public Policy Analysis. Andrius is interested in the political economy and is responsible for the implementation of international projects related to hybrid threats, information warfare, and the development of Eastern Partnership countries, as well as the drafting of project applications and reports. He also contributes to the organizing of high-level political events and conferences, the implementation of other national and international projects, he is also a co-author of academic studies and is fluent in English and Russian.

M.A. from the Institute of International Relations and Political Science, Vilnius University, joined the RESC team in 2022.Anton contributes to the development of analytical and informative content, focusing on Russia, Belarus, and the Eastern Partnership countries.