Belarus Stops Embassies Issuing Passports In Threat To Exiles

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has ordered the country’s embassies to stop issuing passports, putting his detractors abroad at risk of punishment if they return.

After Lukashenko ruthlessly suppressed huge rallies against his leadership in 2020, tens of thousands of Belarusians fled the Moscow-aligned country.

According to a regulation issued on Monday, Belarusians can only get or renew a passport in “consular services attached to their last registered place of residence” on Belarusian territory.

Until now, Belarusians living abroad were able to get new passports at the country’s diplomatic missions.

Minsk has imprisoned hundreds of people for speaking out against Lukashenko since the protests, and many Belarusians who participated in the protests or wrote anti-regime postings online have avoided returning home for fear of being arrested.

Failure to renew passports overseas would jeopardize their legal status in a new host country while also placing them in hot water with authorities back home.

Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, an exiled opposition leader, claimed on social media that she was “working with host countries to solve the situation.”

She said she was “preparing the New Belarus passport”, without explaining what this would entail.

According to the rights group Viasna, Belarus currently has 1,501 political prisoners.

Lukashenko’s rule became even more isolated since it allowed Moscow to use Belarusian territory as a launchpad for its Ukraine offensive last year.

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