Likely in retaliation for Wargaming leaving the country after Belarus supported Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Nikolai Katselapov, the chief business development officer at World of Tanks studio Wargaming, appears to have been added to a list “of organisations and individuals involved in terrorist activities”(opens in new tab) by Belarus’ Committee for State Security (or KGB, yes, as in that KGB). In a move which was likely sparked by Wargaming pulling out of Belarus(opens in new tab) following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, he is accused under article 290-1—”Financing of terrorist activities”—of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus.
Katselapov was actually added to the list all the way back on December 30, but it was only when independent Belarusian newspaper Nasha Niva(opens in new tab) (via Game World Observer(opens in new tab)) reported on the story that it came to wider public knowledge. Nasha Niva believes that Katselapov is still free, which would make sense given that Wargaming hasn’t been present in Belarus for nearly a year now, but hasn’t been able to obtain comment from the company thus far.
I’ve also reached out to Wargaming to ask for comment on this story, and will update this piece if I receive a reply.
Belarus has long used its terrorist list as a political bludgeon. In the past, dissidents like opposition leader and former presidential candidate Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya have been added to it as a pretext to justify repression of groups and individuals hostile to president Alyaksandr Lukashenka. It’s likely that Wargaming’s decision to vacate the country back in April last year offended the higher echelons of Belarus’ government, particularly given that Wargaming was the country’s largest game development studio: It was valued at over a billion dollars in 2016.(opens in new tab)
It’s unclear why Belarus has picked on Katselapov particularly, though Nasha Niva theorises he may at some point have donated money to opposition political figures. Regardless, he has become entry #993 on the most recent version of Belarus’ terrorist list, and it’s looking even more unlikely that Wargaming will return to its home country anytime soon.
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