KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine’s president has signed a decree simplifying regulations for IT workers from Belarus who are willing to relocate to the neighboring country amid mass protests and a continuing crackdown on demonstrators and opposition activists in Belarus, officials said Sunday.
The new decree signed by President Volodymyr Zelenskiy orders the government to extend the allowed temporary stay for Belarusian IT specialists and their families to 180 days from 90, and to grant them residence permits within three days. It also orders authorities to make it easier to issue work permits, and register as a tax payer.
The document will “help boost the investment potential of Ukraine and attract highly qualified IT specialists and innovators,” according to the president’s office.
Several dozen Belarusian IT workers have relocated to Ukraine in recent weeks amid the crackdown on protesters and activists who demand President Alexander Lukashenko’s ouster. The authoritarian leader won his sixth term in office after 26 years of hard-line rule in the Aug. 9 presidential election that the opposition says was rigged. Unprecedented mass protests have rocked the country ever since.
IT is currently the fastest-growing sector of the Belarusian econonmy. It accounts for 6% of the the country’s GDP. IT workers supported the protests, and some of them have been jailed. Others joined the so-called Cyber Partisan group that attacks government websites and last month leaked personal data of over 1,000 police officers allegedly involved in crackdown on peaceful protesters.
Several days after the disputed election, Belarusian IT specialists released a collective letter, warning the authorities that continuing repressions could trigger a “mass drain of specialists” who will be relocating abroad. “There is a risk of erasing all achievements in the field of high technologies in a short time,” the letter said.