Belarus gets 15 surveillance drones from EU. Activists anticipate improper use

European drones for Belarus. Photo:

The EU has bought 15 surveillance drones for Belarusian authorities, prompting alarm they could be used against pro-democracy protesters, EUObserver’s Andrew Rettman writes.

According to the author, the EU foreign service paid for them out of an €850,000 neighbourhood project being handled by Latvia and Lithuania; the Lithuanian police handed over the equipment to the Belarusian State Committee for Forensic Science on 16 September. At that moment, the protests in Belarus had been underway for over a month.

Protest month in photos

The committee announced the drones would be used in Vitsebsk and Hrodna, not only in the capital city.

Each drone has photo and video equipment that will allow you to qualitatively depict a [crime] scene and significantly help in investigating into criminal cases”, the statement reads.

The Lithuanian side did get the drones delivered, but they have not been put into operation yet, the EU authorities state.

“Due to their technical characteristics, it is apparently not possible to use these drones to identify individuals as they are specialised in large crime scene investigation,” EUObserver quotes the EU foreign service.

Several Lithuanian and Latvian diplomats reached by the media outlet hope that the equipment will not be used for unintended purposes. Belarusian opposition activists, however, doubt that the drones will not be taken to the air during dispersals of peaceful protests.

Sunday’s march: Belarusians demand to release political prisoners, via EUObserver