It is no secret that the self-governing bodies of the Bar have long been dependent on the state. Therefore, it is logical to assume that the chairmen of the Bars, members of the Bar Council try to express their loyalty to the current political regime by participating in and initiating repressions against attorneys that involve in high-profile cases, voice their civic position or are otherwise inconvenient to the current government. Therefore, the news about the dismissal of active participants of pressure and repressions of the independent legal profession is quite unexpected.
In early February 2022 Viktor Chaichyts
announced that "the decision has been made" and that he is no longer the chairman of the Belarusian Republican Bar Association. "Please do not speculate, do not try to look for reasons for my departure and certainly do not expect me to start speaking negatively about my colleagues or the state." Instead of Chaichyts, Aliaksei Shvakov
took the post of the chairman.
The Minsk Regional Bar Association has been shaken by leadership changes all year long. Chairperson as at January 1, 2022 Iryna Smirnova was dismissed
in the beginning of the year, and Maksim Tereshkov
was "elected" (evidently appointed) in her place. Iryna is remembered for her testimony
in the case against the attorney Andrei Mochalov; a notice signed by her was sent to court in 2021 prohibiting Mochalov to practice, and disciplinary proceedings were initiated against the lawyer Dmitry Laevsky based on her report as well. Among other things, a letter signed by her was sent to Mikhail Kirilyuk with a request to hand over his lawyer's license after his unlawful expulsion from the Minsk Regional Bar. A little later, information about Iryna Smirnova as a member of the Minsk Regional Bar Board simply disappeared from the board's website altogether, and her successor, Maksim Tereshkov, lost
his position in December, after not even a year in that position.Maksim became one of the symbols of repression
and the possibility of temporary career building on exceptional loyalty and devotion to the state bodies in the Belarusian Bar. It should be noted that since 2020, at least 16 Minsk Regional Bar attorneys have lost their legal licenses. Maksim Tereshkov, as well as Iryna Smirnova, were witnesses in the trumped-up case against the lawyer Andrei Mochalov.