Like thousands of others in Belarus, IT specialist Aliaksandr Charnavoki took to the streets of Minsk last year for unprecedented protests against strongman Alexander Lukashenko’s 26-year rule.
Arrested, struck by police and held in detention for four days, Charnavoki eventually fled to neighbouring Ukraine — joining an exodus of fellow tech workers that has left the future of a booming IT sector in doubt.
It was not the “violence and lawlessness” that made him leave, Charnavoki, 39, told AFP in an interview on messenger Telegram.
It was the sense that nothing would ever change.
“The fight against the regime has become meaningless,” he said.
If ex-Soviet Belarus is known for producing anything, it is more likely to be tractors, fertiliser and oil products than software and tech services.
But in recent years its capital Minsk has become a regional high-tech hub, especially after 2017 when Lukashenko signed a decree allowing tech companies not to pay most taxes, including income tax.