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globe6 Belarus 2014 Crime and Safety Report - Part I 

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

Although criminal activity directed against foreigners is comparable to other Eastern European countries, criminal activity remains a concern due to the lack of adequate Belarusian police enforcement and response. The U.S. Department of State rates the crime threat in Belarus as “Medium.”

 Minsk, Belarus

Crime Threats

In 2013, Belarus remained relatively quiet in regards to crimes reported to the U.S. Embassy. During the year, there were no reported crimes against visiting U.S. officials and no crimes against U.S. diplomatic personnel.

The criminal threat in Minsk is comparable to other large capital cities in the region: pickpockets, car thefts, and burglaries remain a constant, although official statistics of the Belarusian government show a decrease across the board. According to the Belarusian Ministry of Interior (MOI), a total of 47,300 crimes were recorded in Belarus for the first half of 2013, which is 9.4 percent lower than the first half of 2012. It is not clear that these numbers reflect all crimes that occurred in country due to host government definitions of criminal categories.

Belarus is recovering from the severe economic crisis of 2011; the Belarusian Ruble has depreciated over 180 percent, and inflation was 16.5 percent during the last reporting period. The GDP grew 0.9 percent in 2013. The official unemployment rate in 2013 was 0.5 percent. Independent observers believe that the actual unemployment rate is between 7-8 percent.

Short-term visitors – for example, tourists who may not be entirely familiar with local customs or fluent in Belarusian or Russian – remain more susceptible to street crime and confidence scams and may be specifically targeted by criminals.

Identity theft involving ATM, credit card, and Internet fraud can also be a problem.

Corruption is a problem in Belarus. Some 1,401 corruption crimes were registered in Belarus during the first half of 2013, and 7,399 total crimes were registered in Minsk for the same period of time. This is a 16.6 percent decrease than the first half of 2012.

Historically, harassment, extortion, protection rackets, and intimidation by groups believed to have links to organized crime have been reported against American investors or business interests. In some cases, it appears that local commercial interests believed linked to organized crime groups were behind these incidents. However, no such reports have been received in the past five years. In 2013, there were no incidents reported to the Embassy regarding American businesses being targeted by organized crime in Belarus.

Official MOI crime statistics indicated a decrease in some categories of violent and non-violent property crime in 2013. For January through June 2013, the Belarusian MOI gives the following numbers and percentage of increase/decrease throughout Belarus: theft: 22,271 (-24.1 percent), robbery 1,242 (+5.7 percent), drug-related crimes: 2,182 (-0.6 percent), and assault with intent to rob: 151 (+2 percent).

There have been no significant reports of hate crimes. In 2013, there have been increased unofficial reports of certain minority groups being targeted and harassed by GOB authorities; such as meetings of gay, lesbian, and transgender groups. The harassment has included police invasion of parties and meetings as well as recording the personal information of all attendees.

Violent crime directed against foreigners is relatively uncommon. During the first half of January 2013, most violent crime categories saw a slight increase from the previous year. For January through June 2013, the Belarusian MOI gives the following numbers and percentage of increase/decrease throughout Belarus: murder/attempted murder: 200 (+10.5 percent), intended infliction of grievous bodily harm: 536 (+7.8 percent), rape/attempted rape: 65 (+38.3 percent).

American firms should continue to pay close attention to computer security when establishing operations in Belarus, as the threat of cyber crime, as is the case throughout the former Soviet Union, is real.

Overall Road Safety Situation

Road Safety and Road Conditions

Vehicles are left-hand drive and drive on the right-hand side of the road, the same as in the United States. Most of the major roads in Belarus are well maintained, and traffic is able to move at normal highway speeds. Roads throughout Belarus are well maintained, and snow clearing is a well established routine, even in small villages, although it may take some time if snowfall occurs over several days. Traffic in Minsk is heavy on weekdays during commuting hours and limited on the weekend. In Minsk, main thoroughfares are usually well-lit and maintained, but side streets and less commonly used avenues are not as well maintained and can be impassable at times during winter due to snow and ice. Driving in Minsk can be a challenge to foreigners not familiar with the street signs or traffic rules as they do not always correspond to U.S. or Western European norms. Parking areas are normally clearly marked. Nevertheless, pedestrians, especially those walking with small children, should exercise caution. Belarusian drivers may stop in busy traffic lanes to pick-up or drop off passengers while pedestrians sometimes cross busy streets outside the crosswalks without hesitation. Drivers should always be prepared to stop on short notice. Defensive driving is a fundamental rule that should always be observed.

Due to heavy traffic at rush hour and local driving habits, vehicle accidents are common. The perceived seriousness of the accident, and presumably status of the vehicle occupants, have a direct correlation to the response time for police. Recent changes to local law allow for insurance exchange in minor accidents with no injuries and damages under 200 Euro. Minor fender bender accidents still see all vehicles involved immobile on the road until police arrive and a report is taken. This causes sudden traffic jams, especially in parking lots and at street corners where minor accidents are more frequent.

(Source: OSAC 2014)

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