Verdict in criminal trial of Lukashenko rival Viktor Babaryko expected today

The Supreme Court of the Republic of Belarus is expected to render a verdict in the criminal trial of former

Belarus

Photo: Tatyana Zenkovich/EPA/TASS

The Supreme Court of the Republic of Belarus is expected to render a verdict in the criminal trial of former presidential candidate Viktor Babariko today.

Prosecutors allege that Babariko engaged in bribery, tax evasion and money laundering while serving in an executive role at Belgazprombank, one of Belarus’ largest private banks. Babariko contends that the charges against him are politically motivated fabrications. If convicted, Babariko faces a 15-year sentence.

Babariko was barred from formal political candidacy shortly after announcing his intention to challenge President Alexander Lukashenko for the presidency, but still contested Belarus’ 2020 elections as an unregistered candidate. Online opinion polling conducted in May 2020 indicated he was widely popular, garnering approximately 50 percent of the opposition’s support. Then, Babariko was arrested in June 2020 in a police raid on his office.

As Belarus’ judiciary operates primarily as an extension of the executive branch, the Supreme Court will likely convict Babariko. In the medium-term, Lukashenko is expected to continue repressing domestic dissent by ordering arrests of remaining regime-critics and continuing to shutter independent media outlets. Looking ahead, as Belarus’ isolation from Western states intensifies, expect Lukashenko to trade Belarusian sovereignty to Russia—Lukashenko’s strongest ally—to retain his position.

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