Today is a day of very high stress for a vast number of people. Essentially, for all those who used to live in Belarus but then decided to leave this collective-farm GULAG and move to another country. As it turns out, the homeland doesn’t just let go so easily.

Today, Alexander Lukashenko issued a decree, under which, starting from today, all Belarusian citizens abroad are deprived of the ability to change or extend their Belarusian passports at the embassies and consulates of the country abroad.

It should be recalled, until now, Belarusians permanently residing outside of Belarus could obtain or exchange passports at embassies and consulates. Now, this can only be done “at the internal affairs agencies at the place of the last registration of residence”. Furthermore, the provision regarding the right of diplomatic missions or consular offices to extend the validity of Belarussian passports abroad or exchange them has been removed.

However, property transactions and certain administrative procedures can only be carried out through in-person visits or based on a power of attorney issued within the territory of Belarus. This includes notarial certification, state registration of property transfer agreements, real estate pledges, transfer of mechanical vehicles, and other agreements or transactions involving property transfer.

Furthermore, obtaining certificates containing information from civil status records such as records of civil status acts, absence of marriage records and notices of the absence of civil status act records (except for certificates containing information from death records), duplicates of education documents and their appendices, education documents, and applying an apostille to an official document issued within the territory of the Republic of Belarus, as well as legalization of official documents, property registration, and so forth, can only be done through personal attendance or with a power of attorney issued in Belarus.

In simpler terms, as of now, notarized powers of attorney issued in other countries are not accepted – whether they are general powers of attorney, for property sale or rental, for accepting and giving up the right of inheritance, and so on. Previously issued powers of attorney from abroad are also no longer valid. Additionally, obtaining or apostilling documents in Belarusian government institutions cannot be done through a power of attorney. It must be done in person.

So, if you want to change your passport or carry out a property transaction, you have to come to Belarus. For many, this is essentially a guaranteed prison sentence, and for some, it’s even execution for “state treason” (yes, such an article was recently added to the Belarusian Criminal Code).

To understand the scale of the problem: only after the events of 2020, seeking refuge from repression, over 500,000 people left Belarus. Many had left even earlier but were also later categorized as “enemies of the state”. Lukashenko’s signed decree means that hundreds of thousands of Belarusian citizens who fled repression in different years are effectively being deprived of their property in their homeland. They can no longer sell their apartments through power of attorney, rent them out, inherit them, or carry out any actions from abroad. Many will be left without means of livelihood because they relied on income from renting their apartments in Belarus or had plans to sell their real estate for their livelihood.

Furthermore, Belarusians with temporary residency permits in various countries worldwide will soon find themselves in a legal gray area, as they require documents from Belarus to extend their residence permits, which is now impossible.