Jaroslav Likhachevskiy

co-founder of the New Belarus platform & Bysol Foundation, director of the AI company Deepdee from Belarus

Jaroslav Likhachevskiy, co-founder of the New Belarus platform,  Bysol Foundation and director of AI company Deepdee from Belarus. Mr. Likhachevsky is creating a Digital State for Belarus, outside of the reach of the Lukashenko regime. In particular, Bitcoin and tether stablecoins are used to deliver humanitarian aid in Belarus by the Belarusian civil society and opposition to avoid mass arrests and political persecution. 


Testimonial of Jaroslav Likhachevsky:

Our team is working on the Digital Belarus platform. In collaboration with the Belarusian pro-democratic movement led by Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, we have taken on the mission of creating a Belarusian economy in exile, with the next goal of establishing a democratic government in Belarus. Bitcoin and Tether stablecoins, in particular, are used to deliver humanitarian aid to Belarus and support pro-democratic and anti-Russian activists on the ground. Digital Belarus is a platform that helps to build horizontal connections and find sponsors for: an initiative, a foundation, or an individual to support. During this time, the platform has seen the emergence of fundraisers for campaigns and initiatives and personal fundraisers for those affected by the regime.

2020 for Belarusians was a year of rigged elections and enormous repressions by the Lukashenko regime. Thousands of people were detained, tortured, and beaten within the first days after election day, and hundreds of thousands of people lost their jobs due to  their political activism.

Our response to the repercussions was solidarity – to support people willing to have a free and democratic country. That is how BySol started back in August 2020. During 2020 alone, about 4500 activists and initiatives on the ground were provided with financial support in the total amount of 2,934,719 EUR, 100% crowdfunded by Belarusian society itself. 

We have two serious problems with banks in the EU member states: 

First, our activists can only open bank accounts in Belarus or once leaving to exile, they are experiencing difficulties opening/holding accounts in the EU and CoE member states. There is no clear explanation how to prevent it –  AML compliance is a black box that we cannot open. This problem was presented in the 2022 PACE Motion for Resolution entitled “Addressing the specific challenges faced by the Belarusians in exile.” 

Second, we cannot use the banking system to deliver financial support to activists in the country. The traditional way, via bank transfer, became dangerous and ineffective for civil societies in authoritarian regimes. 

In November 2020, an incident with ByHelp (a partner organisation to Belarus Solidarity fund, based in the UK) occurred: the regime seized more than 500 000 EUR of support for thousands of activists in Belarus. This seizure of financial support happened because ByHelp used the banking system of Belarus which is controlled by the regime. The worst was that the regime received a list of every recipient of financial aid from ByHelp. Hundreds of activists were arrested, beaten, charged, and even sentenced. Everything that the regime was doing was done under the pretext of fighting against extremism, terrorism, and money laundering. 

I would like to remind about the 2011 case of Ales Bialiatski, the current political prisoner in Belarus and the recipient of the Nobel Prize in 2022. In 2011, the regime in Belarus arrested Bialiatski under charges of tax evasion.  The indictment was made possible by financial records released by prosecutors in Lithuania and Poland. Nowadays, regimes like Belarusian still collect financial information from Western democracies, using AML allegations as a pretext. 

So, we, the Digital Belarus team, developed a solution to provide financial support, based on crypto assets. It was a safe and reliable way to support activists without the involvement of controlled financial institutions. 

Throughout the whole activity period, BySol and Digital Belarus collaborated with various EU & US-based institutions. Recently the Federal Ministry of Finance of Germany showed interest in a crypto-based approach to delivering financial support. They needed to come into sight together with the SWIFT ban in Russia in order to be able to continue the implementation of the “Holocaust Survivor Program”.

Described above cases are showing that crypto-based mechanisms are a safe and secure solution to provide financial support for local activists, and organisations within territories controlled by authoritarian and totalitarian regimes. 

Digital Belarus:  Shipping of funds to Belarus is a small part of our current tasks. At the moment we are launching the Digital Belarus platform. Which is aimed to be a prototype for the future Belarusian Democratic state. At a certain point, the most important civil institutes (such as healthcare, education, and judiciary) started to fall apart under the Lukashenko regime. The only way for us to keep going was to build our own institute and services in parallel. The same, we have no other choice, but to build a parallel economy.

For example, in 2021 (COVID-19 pandemic year), the regime fired hundreds of medical doctors because of their civil position, with no chance to get a new job in healthcare in Belarus. We have built the telemedicine platform to enable online consultations for patients in Belarus, hiring the same doctors, who have been recently fired. The service is registered as an EU entity. We need to process cross-border payments: (1) Salaries to doctors from the EU to Belarus, (2) Payments from the patients to the platform. None of them are safe from being revealed by the regime if we use the traditional banking system. The only tool to provide privacy and security is crypto assets. 

The next plans are to build democratic institutions, including taxation and representation. So, the people of Belarus could elect and finance their leaders and representatives (as Office of Svietlata Tsikhanouskaya). At the same time, Lukashenko’s regime is considering the financing of civil and democratic initiatives as financing extremists or even terrorist organisations. That’s why privacy and security are our top priorities.

In parallel, the Ministry of Interior of Belarus announced the development of a regulation to ban cryptocurrency peer-to-peer transactions between individuals, allegedly to combat criminal transactions. 

Similarly, under the pretext of “fighting fraud,” on 29 August 2023, Alexander Lukashenko signed a decree on measures to counteract unauthorised payment transactions. This decree, which should be effective in six months – by 1 March 2024, will give law enforcement agencies of Belarus unorganised access to the financial information of Belarusian residents. Lukashenko’s decree provides that “the provision of information about incidents from the automated incident processing system to law enforcement agencies of Belarus … is not a violation of banking secrecy. Processing of personal data contained in the information on incidents shall be carried out without the consent of the individual.” Unfortunately, this law will become another tool for political repressions in Belarus. 

To conclude: it is important for us to be able to use crypto assets in the EU like Bitcoin and stablecoins and not be de-platformed or de-banked due to the upcoming AML regulation.

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