Criminal prosecution
Updated on 07/02/2024
Nota Bene
The article provides information about some of the lawyers who are subjected to pressure and repression, namely those prosecuted in criminal cases.
The main article with all types of persecution and a complete list of lawyers subjected to repression can be found here
Information on other groups of barristers who have been disqualified from the profession can be found at the following addresses:
- Lawyers deprived of licenses due to misconduct inconsistent with the title of lawyer
- Lawyers deprived of the right to a profession based on the results of attestation / re-attestation by the qualification commission
- Lawyers expelled from the Bar by decision of the Disciplinary Commission of the Territorial Bar Association (Council of the Territorial Bar Association)

The material is regularly updated, the date is indicated above. If we missed someone, then please write to us -
Who is included in the list
Lawyers under criminal prosecution are those lawyers who are defendants in criminal cases or who have already been convicted in a criminal case brought after the 2020 presidential election.

Some of the lawyers represented in this category have also been deprived of their license and are listed in the relevant articles devoted to this or that procedure of pressure on the legal community.

At the moment, sentences have been announced to Maxim Znak (10 years in prison), Andrei Mochalov (2 years in prison), Vitaly Braginets (8 years in prison). 6 lawyers are awaiting sentencing in the pre-trial detention center. Ilya Salei is outside Belarus, however, he is still in the status of an accused.
Maxim Znak
An attorney, partner, and head of the dispute resolution practice at the Law Office "Borovtsov & Salei". He was a member of the Minsk Regional Bar Association (MRBA).

Maxim was marked by international rankings and legal guides (in particular, The Chambers Guide, Legal 500, IFLR1000 and Who's Who Legal). He possesses a Ph.D. in Law.

While practicing law, he taught at the Faculty of Law of the Belarusian State University and was the author and lecturer of the course "Legal environment for business" of the MBA program of the Belarusian State University.

On May 28, 2020, he joined presidential candidate Viktor Babariko's team to provide legal assistance on electoral law issues. In the headquarters, he was the head of the legal department.

On June 20, 2020, Maxim Znak, on behalf of Viktor Babariko, by proxy, submitted to the Central Election Commission (CEC) an application for the registration of Viktor Babariko as a presidential candidate, which allowed Viktor, even while in custody, to maintain his candidacy in the electoral race.

Subsequently, Maxim Znak represented Viktor Babariko at a CEC meeting, where the issue of registering the latter as a candidate for the presidency of the Republic of Belarus was considered, and also, on the basis of powers duly executed, filed a complaint on behalf of Viktor Babariko to the Supreme Court of the Republic of Belarus against the decision of the CEC to refuse Viktor's registration as a presidential candidate; Maxim held public explanations of the legislation on electoral issues — both for members of the initiative group and Belarusian citizens on YouTube.

On August 10, 2020, Maxim Znak, as Svetlana Tikhanovskaya's attorney, appealed the results of the presidential election to the CEC, and on August 21, 2020, Maxim Znak, on behalf of S. Tikhanovskaya, filed a complaint to the Supreme Court of Belarus on considering the August 9 elections invalid, providing 25 document folders indicating the grounds for non-recognition of the results of the election.

Maxim Znak, on behalf of S. Tikhanovskaya, participated in the formation of the Coordinating Council in August 2020 and was elected to its Presidium.

On September 9, 2020, Maxim was taken into custody. He was charged under Part 3 of Art. 361 (public calls for actions aimed at causing harm to the national security of the Republic of Belarus) of the Criminal Code. As a sign of disagreement, M. Znak began a hunger strike.

Maxim Znak was defended by lawyers Dmitry Laevsky, Yevgeny Pylchenko, Nadezhda Znak and Sergey Zikratsky.

Human rights organizations recognized Maxim Znak as a political prisoner, and INGO Amnesty International recognized him as a prisoner of conscience.

International professional associations of lawyers (ABA, CCBE) and human rights organizations have repeatedly sent appeals in defense of Maxim and the inadmissibility of persecuting lawyers for political reasons.

On February 10, 2021, Maxim was charged with conspiracy to seize state power by unconstitutional means (Part 1 of Art. 357 of the Criminal Code), as well as with the creation and leadership of an extremist group (Part 1 of Art. 361-1 of the Criminal Code). This was done in addition to the initial accusation under Part 3 of Art. 361 of the Criminal Code.

On March 15, 2021, the defense of Maxim Znak appealed against the charges brought against him for conspiracy to seize power by unconstitutional means.

On May 7, 2021, Maxim's defenders announced the end of the preliminary investigation. All efforts and motions of the defense to terminate the criminal prosecution against Maxim, as well as all defense appeals against the charges brought against him, were rejected.

On July 5, 2021, the criminal case on charges against Maxim Znak and Maria Kolesnikova under part 1 of Art. 357, part 3 of Art. 361, part 1 of Art. 361-1 of the Criminal Code was submitted for consideration to the Minsk Regional Court.

On August 4, 2021, the trial began in Maxim Znak and Maria Kolesnikova's case. The court was held behind closed doors. Relatives of Kolesnikova and Znak were not allowed into the courtroom.

On September 6, 2021, the Minsk Regional Court sentenced Maria Kolesnikova to 11 years in a penal colony, and Maxim Znak to 10 years in a maximum security prison. The verdict was read out by Judge Sergei Epikhov. On the morning of September 6, queues of those wishing to get into the court lined up for the announcement of the verdict, but not everyone was able to get into the hall, and foreign diplomats were not allowed in by order of the Belarusian MFA.

Maxim Znak's defense declared that the conviction was unlawful and groundless and appealed against the verdict.

December 10, 2021, Maxim Znak received the Human Rights Award 2021 from the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE Human Rights Award 2021).

On December 24, 2021, the Supreme Court considered the appeals of Maxim Znak and his defenders and upheld the verdict.

Since January 2022, Maxim Znak has been serving his sentence in penal colony No. 3 (Vitba village, Vitebsk region).

In May 2022, Maxim Znak was included by the State Security Committee in the List of organizations and individuals involved in terrorist activities.

On December 24, 2021, Maxim Znak was expelled from the Minsk Regional Bar Association in accordance with the decision of the meeting of the MRBA Council dated January 19, 2022, based on par. 11 part 1 Art. 74 of the Charter of the Minsk Regional Bar Association and Art. 24 of the Law on the Bar in connection with the entry into force of the court verdict on the conviction of an intentional crime.

On May 21, 2022, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention communicated to the authorities of the Republic of Belarus its decision (A/HRC/WGAD/2022/24) regarding Maxim's deprivation of liberty. In this decision, the UN Working Group concluded that:
  • the imprisonment of Maxim Znak was carried out in violation of articles 7, 9, 10, 11, 19, 20 and 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and articles 9, 14, 19, 22, 25 and 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and is arbitrary;
- the arrest and detention of Maxim Znak had no legal basis and resulted from the peaceful exercise of his rights under articles 19, 22 and 25 of the Covenant (freedom of expression, freedom of association, freedom to participate in the conduct of public affairs);
- the arrest of Maxim Znak is based on discrimination on a political basis and status as an attorney for a political opposition party, in violation of article 26 of the Covenant;
- the treatment to which Maxim Znak was subjected appears to be an act of retaliation for his active work and is incompatible with the international legal obligations of Belarus;
- no legal proceedings against Maxim Znak were to be held;
- Maxim Znak must be released immediately and unconditionally.

However, the authorities refused to release Maxim Znak; as of September 2022, he remains in a penal colony.

Human rights activists believe that political prisoner lawyer Maxim Znak has been in a punishment cell for a long time. Concerning Maksim Znak, they also managed to get confirmation: the administration of the Vitba-3 colony informed his wife, Nadezhda, that the political prisoner was in fact being held in a punishment cell. The family does not receive letters from Maxim Znak for a month and a half. The last letter from him came on February 9th, 2023.
Illia Salei
Together with Maxim Znak, in May 2020, he joined the headquarters of presidential candidate Viktor Babaryka as a lawyer. He also provided legal assistance to Maria Kolesnikova, a member of the opposition Coordinating Council, and Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, a presidential candidate.

On September 9, 2020, he was detained on suspicion of committing a crime under Part 3 of Art. 361 (Calls for actions aimed at causing harm to the national security of the Republic of Belarus) of the Criminal Code. On September 11, 2020, he was taken into custody and placed in Minsk pre-trial Detention center №1.
Human rights organizations recognized Illia Salei as a political prisoner. Amnesty International recognized him as a prisoner of conscience.

On September 18, 2020, he was charged under Part 3 of Art. 361 (Calls for actions aimed at causing harm to the national security of the Republic of Belarus) of the Criminal Code.

On October 16, 2020, the preventive measure against Illia was changed to home confinement.

On April 16, 2021, the preventive measure was changed to bail.

The international legal community has repeatedly sent appeals in defense of Ilia Salei, stressing the inadmissibility of prosecution of lawyers for political reasons.

The Belarusian Helsinki Committee called on the UN Human Rights Committee to take urgent action in connection with the detention of Illia Salei and send an urgent message to the Government of Belarus on the need to comply with the basic principles of the legal profession.

In August 2021, Illia Salei secretly left Belarus. The bail money is turned into state income. Illia Salei was arrested in absentia.

On October 18, 2021, he was expelled from the MRBA due to the termination of his law practice as part of the law firm, which, in its turn, is due to the politically motivated criminal prosecution and changes to the legislation of the Republic of Belarus regulating the Bar.

At present, Illia Salei remains in the status of the accused.
Alexander Danilevich
May 20, 2022
Alexander Danilevich was detained and placed in the KGB pre-trial detention center. Earlier, the lawyer was subject to disciplinary action for signing an anti-war petition, and his contract was not renewed with the Faculty of International Relations of the Belarusian State University, where he had taught for 20 years.

June 30, 2022
The Minsk City Court rejected the defense's complaint against the decision of the district court, which refused to cancel the detention of the attorney.

The trial per se was held behind closed doors. Based on the information from the desk containing the schedule of sessions, it became known that the attorney is charged under paragraph 3 of Article 361 of the Criminal Code ("calls for actions aimed at inflicting damage to the national security of the Republic of Belarus, including the use of restrictive measures (sanctions)", or "distribution of materials containing such calls").

Alexander is declared to be a political prisoner.

On April 10, 2023, Judge Tatyana Falkovskaya sentenced lawyer Alexander Danilevich to 10 years in prison. He did not plead guilty and insisted that he had performed his professional duties. Alexander Danilevich was accused of abetting public calls for actions aimed at harming the national security of the Republic of Belarus (Article 16, Part 6 and Article 361, Part 3 of the Criminal Code). The prosecution argued that Alexander Danilevich, "though being an attorney, PhD in law, possessing special knowledge in the field of jurisprudence", deliberately assisted sportspersons A. Herasimenia and A. Opeikin (who were his clients) "by providing legal advice in the field of international sports law". It should be noted that Aliaksandra Herasimenia and Alexander Opeikin were sentenced in absentia to 12 years in a penal colony. According to the prosecution, his appeals spread "deliberately false information" about the events that took place in Belarus ("on the course and results of the election campaign," "on the situation in the social, economic and political spheres," on human rights violations "allegedly committed by representatives and supporters of the current government"), and contained calls to investigate the violations, postpone sports events, impose sanctions against Belarus, the National Olympic Committee and state officials.

Moreover, the prosecution also asserts that in addition to the sportspersons, the attorney has assisted some "unidentified persons" who formed strike committees at the Belaruskali (Belarusian manufacturer and exporter of potash fertilizers) in the aftermath of the 2020 elections, "by providing legal advice in the field of international law". He allegedly helped draw up appeals from the Belaruskali strike committee to the Norwegian company Yara, a significant buyer of Belaruskali potash products.

The second article in the charges brought against the attorney is the facilitation of extremist activity (Article 361-4, Part 1 of the Criminal Code). According to the prosecution, this crime was committed by way of giving an interview to an unidentified person for subsequent dissemination on Tri*una Internet resource (which is recognized as extremist in Belarus) in March 2022.

On July 14, 2023, the appellate court reduced the term to 6 years.
Vitaly Braginets
On Monday morning, May 23, 2022, KGB officers detained lawyer Vitaly Braginets, who was actively defending persons accused within politically motivated cases, including the criminal case of lawyer Andrei Mochalov. On May 25, 2022, his administrative case was considered in the Minsk Partizansky District Court (by judge N. Dedkova). As it turned out, a protocol was drafted against Vitaly stating that he was taken to the police department of the Partizansky district "for a check as to the involvement in protest activities", after which the attorney allegedly started cursing, screaming, trying to leave the police department, expressed disobedience to the lawful requests of a police officer (Article 24.3 of the Code of the Republic of Belarus on Administrative Offenses).

The court considered the offense to be proven and sentenced Vitaly to administrative detention for 15 days.

When interviewing witnesses in court, Braginets' defender asked the witness: "You claim that Vitaly Braginets has tried to escape. Do you insist on it?", to which the witness replied: "Yes, because it was a movement, smoothly turning into a run, towards the open gate. And at the same time, the citizen was addressing those standing at the bus stop. He shouted that he was illegally detained."

It is noteworthy that the lawyer was brought to administrative responsibility prior to the court session, within which he was supposed to defend the attorney Andrey Mochalov, who was deprived of his status in 2021 and accused of using forged documents. As a result, on June 6, 2022, when the trial began, the court refused to postpone the hearing until the expiration of the detention period for Vitaly Braginets and forcibly appointed A. Mochalov a defense lawyer without consulting the accused (Mochalov) himself.
Braginets was supposed to serve his sentence and be released on the morning of June 7, but he was again brought to administrative responsibility with the appointment of administrative detention.

As it became known later, a criminal case was initiated against him, and as of September 2022, he remains in custody. In July 2022, Vitaly Braginets was declared a political prisoner.

On August 4, 2022, the Qualification Commission for Advocacy in the Republic of Belarus held the next attestation of lawyers of the Minsk City Bar Association. Based on the results of the certification, the Qualification Commission decided to terminate the license in respect of V.F. Braginets. in connection with the application of disciplinary sanctions against lawyers in the form of expulsion from the Minsk Regional Bar Association for misconduct incompatible with the title of lawyer.

On February 2, 2023, judge Elena Ananich sentenced lawyer Vitaly Braginets to 8 years in a heavy security regime:
under part 1 of Art. 342 of the Criminal Code - 1 year 6 months (active participation in actions that grossly violate public order).
under part 1 of Art. 361-1 of the Criminal Code - 4 years (creation of an extremist formation or participation in it).
under part 3 of Art. 130 of the Criminal Code - 7 years (incitement of hostility).
under part 3 of Art. 361 of the Criminal Code - 5 years (call for sanctions)

For the totality of crimes, the total punishment was imposed in the form of 8 years of enhanced regime. The trial of lawyer Vitaly Braginets was closed.
Anastasia Lazarenko
On June 3, 2022, a "video of repentance" appeared in the law enforcement channels with Anastasia Lazarenko, a lawyer practicing within the legal advice office No. 2 of the Moskovsky district of Minsk.
The video shows that the security forces from the Main Directorate for Combating Organized Crime and Corruption broke into the house with weapons, and knocked out the door and window. The attorney was detained on June 2, 2022.
Criminal proceedings have been initiated against her under Art. 130 § 3 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus – allegedly for passing the information about security forces and judges to telegram channels. Art. 130 § 3 of the Criminal Code prescribes up to 12 years of imprisonment.
On May 11, 2023, the Minsk City Court sentenced Anastasia Lazarenko, a politically imprisoned lawyer, to six years in a general regime prison. Judge Svetlana Cherepanova announced the verdict. The political prisoner was found guilty under three articles of the Criminal Code for "leaking data from law enforcement officers and judges to the "Black Book of Belarus"", as well as for participating in the "Freedom March" in August 2020. Lazarenko pleaded not guilty at the trial. She has an elderly father and a 19-year-old son suffering from Crohn's disease since the age of 16.
Andrei Mochalov
On June 18, 2021, it became known that lawyer Andrei Mochalov was expelled from the Bar. The reason was the comment that he gave on the case of his client Olga Zolotar, who said that after her arrest, violence was used against her by law enforcement agencies. The disciplinary commission considered the lawyer's comment to be a violation of professional ethics. On May 27, 2021, the MRBA Disciplinary Commission issued a ruling to bring Mochalov to disciplinary liability. Since Mochalov did not receive any notification that the MRBA Council had made any decision on the basis of this ruling, he proceeded with his professional activities and on June 18 appeared in court to defend Olga Sineleva in a criminal case. During the proceeding, the court received a letter from the MRBA Council stating that on May 31 the Council decided to expel Mochalov from the Bar.

On June 16, 2022, the court of the Leninsky district of Minsk announced the verdict in the criminal case against the disbarred attorney. Judge Tatsiana Shotik found him guilty under part 1 of Article 380 of the Criminal Code — it is claimed that the lawyer had forged a warrant for participation in the criminal trial, although he allegedly knew that by that time he had been expelled from the Minsk Regional Bar Association. The former lawyer was sentenced, under the prosecutor's request, to two years with referral to an open-type correctional institution.

Mochalov's defender Vitaly Braginets has been under arrest since May 25, so he did not manage to get to any of his client's trials. The transcript of the entire process in the criminal case can be found at the link [written in Russian].

In 2020 and 2021 Andrei Mochalov defended independent media journalists, activists, and political prisoners in courts.
Yulia Yurgilevich
Attorney Yulia Yurgilevich was detained. According to mass media reports, her house in Grodno was searched.

In February 2022, lawyer Yulia Yurgilevich was expelled from the Grodno Bar Association. She defended political prisoners Ales Pushkin, Artem Boyarsky, Igor Bantser, Andrei Osievich, and Andrei Sokolovsky.

Andrey Skurat, the deputy prosecutor of the Grodno region, reportedly expressed doubts as to Yulia's expertise (the attorney has been working since 2004). He filed a complaint, which was admitted by the Council of the Grodno Regional Bar Association. The Council decided to expel Yurgilevich from the Bar "for unprofessionalism." For the previous 18 years of her work, there were no complaints about the work of the attorney.

Under the preliminary information, the attorney left Belarus in February but has later returned.

Judge M. Filatov found them guilty under Part 2 of Article 361-4 of the Criminal Code, which pertains to '[providing] other assistance to extremist activities committed repeatedly by a group of individuals through prior agreement.'

According to the case materials, Yulia Yurgilevich allegedly shared information with Pavel Mazheika about the revocation of her lawyer's license and details regarding the consideration of a criminal case against Ales Pushkin. Pavel purportedly published this information on the Be**at website.

Yulia is to serve her term in a general regime colony, while Pavel has been sentenced to a term in a high-security facility.

It is worth noting that Yulia previously reported being held in 'bestial conditions' and was denied access to the case files.

On September 22, 2023, in the Palais de Justice building in Rome, 26 European lawyers serving on the jury of the Ludovic Trarier International Human Rights Prize awarded Yulia Jurgilevich in the third round of voting by an absolute majority of 14 votes.

The "Right to Defence" communication on Y.Yurhilevich's sentence.
Dmitry Pigul
According to human rights defenders, attorney Dmitry Pigul was arrested in Minsk on September 28th. In the evening, he was detained at his home by KGB officers. Presumably, Dmitry was charged under Art. 407 of the Criminal Code (disclosure of the preliminary investigation or a closed court session data). As it became known, Pigul was fined aprox. 16 000 BYN, the appeal was rejected.

Dmitry was an attorney at the trial in the "Busly liaciać" case, the sentences in the latter were handed down the day before the attorney's detention (the upper threshold is 15 years in prison). Furthermore, he defended the political prisoner Elena Malinovskaya, who was convicted together with Anatoly Latushko (cousin of a Belarusian politician and diplomat Pavel Latushko).

On January 25, 2023, the Qualification Commission for Advocacy in the Republic of Belarus held the next attestation of lawyers of the Minsk Regional Bar Association. The Qualification Commission made decisions on the possibility of terminating Dmitry Pigul's licenses to practice law.
Mikhail Makarov
Lawyer Mikhail Makarov defended Nikita Dranets, a political prisoner in the Revolutionary Action case.
According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the lawyer handed over to "extremist" telegram channels the personal data of employees of the GUBOPiK, the Investigative Committee, the prosecutor's office and judges who considered the criminal case of Revolutionary Action (Article 407 of the Criminal Code).
He is also charged under article 342 of the Criminal Code (Active participation in group actions that grossly violate public order).
On November 3, 2022, the Qualification Commission for Advocacy held the next attestation of lawyers.
Based on the results of the attestation, a decision was made on the possibility of terminating the license in respect of Mikhail Makarov in connection with the application of a disciplinary sanction to the lawyer in the form of expulsion from the territorial bar association "for committing an offense incompatible with the title of lawyer."
March 4, 2023 sentenced to 1 year in prison. The case was considered by judge Yulia Shchetkina.

On June 5, 2023, the political prisoner was released from pre-trial detention center.
Alexey Borodko
According to human rights activists from April 2023, the lawyer was detained at the end of January 2023 and is being held in SIZO-1 on Volodarsky Street. Under what article Alexei is accused is unknown.
It is reported that after the detention, the lawyer's profile was removed from the Belarusian Republican Bar Association website.
On April 21, 2023, the Qualification Commission for Advocacy in the Republic of Belarus terminated the license to practice advocacy in relation to Borodko A.S. in connection with the application of a disciplinary sanction to him in the form of exclusion from the regional bar for committing an offense incompatible with the title of a lawyer (committing actions that discredit the title of a lawyer and the bar).
Judge Tatyana Falkovskaya will consider his case in the Minsk City Court. Judge Tatyana Falkovskaya had previously considered the case against a lawyer - it was she who sentenced Alexander Danilevich to 10 years in prison for legal assistance.

In June it became known that Alexey was sentenced to 6 years in a maximum security colony. The appeal hearing in the Supreme Court is scheduled for September 8, 2023. It is not clear where Alexey is serving his sentence.

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