Putin's pal makes high treason punishable by death in Belarus

One of Vladimir Putin’s top allies, Belarus president Alexander Lukashenko, has brought in the death penalty for high treason. 

He signed the bill mandating the execution of military figures and other officials for ‘harming’ national security on Thursday. 

Belarus is the only European state not to have outlawed capital punishment. Carried out with a shot to the back of the head, the penalty has, until now, only been enacted against those found guilty of murder or acts of terrorism. 

The new law also introduces harsher punishments for ‘propaganda’ against and efforts to ‘discredit’ the country’s armed forces. 

Dubbed ‘Europe’s last dictator’ for his hardline authoritarianism, Mr Lukashenko has brutally suppressed opposition and dissent throughout his 30 years in power.

His government, which has provided significant tactical and material support to Russian forces since the invasion of neighboring Ukraine began last year, is still stinging after a double-drone attack by Ukrainian-aligned partisans destroyed a £274 million Russian spycraft at an airfield outside the capital of Minsk. 

Mr Lukashenko said earlier this week that some 20 suspects behind the attack, including a Ukrainian national, had been arrested. 

The introduction of harsher punishments for supposed crimes against the state also follows after Belarus sentenced exiled opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya in absentia to 15 years in prison.

She was convicted on a raft of charges that included plotting to overthrow the current administration.

Ms Tsikhanouskaya fled Belarus in 2020 after mass protests against a presidential election marred by allegations of fraud and rigged voting were met with a brutal crackdown by authorities.

Dozens of journalists and human rights activists were among the thousands of attendees arrested at the demonstrations, with many subjected to physical violence and receiving jail sentences.

Not long after Ms Tskikhanouskaya was sentenced, Ales Bialiatski, a co-winner of the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize for his role as a leading figure in Belarus’s pro-democracy movement, also received ten years jail time. 

Unlike Ms Tsikhanouskaya, Mr Bialiatski remains in Belarus, where he has been detained since 2021.

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