A few years ago I have created a company in Belarussian High Tech Park. I found the city’s technology scene vibrant and the favorable tax structure created for the High Tech Park a nice pro business reform. I have recommended Minsk as a viable location for an Eastern European software team. Since August 9th 2020 my recommendation is changing: Mr. Lukashenko’s regime has kidnapped people off the streets, turned off the internet for several days and started putting people in jail for political reasons. It is now risky to create or keep your R&D office in Minsk and I would not recommend it.
|AP Photo - Belarus Arrests|
In my blog I try to keep focus on technology and keep politics out of it. Regardless of my beliefs on Mr. Lukashenko’s government, I am going to keep this post strictly to risks that the current regime has posed to anyone doing business with Belarus since the troublesome election on August 9th. I sincerely hope that companies which are affected by the police brutality now get their personnel out of Belarus as soon as possible. I recommend that all other tech companies start moving their personnel out of Belarus into neighboring states before their leadership, engineers, or anyone else is taken in by the police for expressing dissenting views.
High Tech Personnel Arrests
Belarus police recently has put in jail 4 employees of PandaDoc on charges of theft that the company itself has denied. I am not a Belorussian attorney, but the political nature of these arrests is obvious. How does the state arrest an employee on charges of theft, when the employer and the auditors are denying any such theft? It’s obvious that the charges are an intimidation tactic, due to the fact that the founder of the company spoke out against the brutal police crackdown by the current regime. The regime has chosen to retaliate for expressing political dissent by attempting to damage their business.
Internet Turned Off
After the election the regime has chosen to turn off the internet for several days. The reason is obvious: the internet is one medium that Mr. Lukashenko has a tough time controlling. They decided to shut down large portions of communication and in some places just kill the connectivity altogether.
When the regime has decided to use this tactic it disrupts people trying to get business done. Can you imagine if you have an engineering team in Minsk who is getting ready for an important release on August 10th or prepping a customer demo on Monday only to find out that they are not able to deliver their project because the current President is threatened by what the people of Belarus can post or see on the web?! From a business perspective its unacceptable!
There are many humanitarian issues in Belarus right now: beatings, torture, vote falsification and political prisoners. There are plenty of resources covering the humanitarian catastrophe which is happening in the middle of Europe, so I am keeping my message only to the technical and business issues.
To our colleagues in Belarus: please stay safe and please look for a way to get out. Thankfully your business is mostly dependent on your skills and not on heavy machinery. Most of you can move with nothing but one laptop. You can serve your customers more reliably in Latvia, Poland or anywhere else where the government relies on the voice of reason rather than brutality.
There is hope that possibly the regime will change in Belarus and the people will get the government that listens instead of beats them up. I hope that the current government coms to its senses before they completely destroy Belarus.