Belarus has a moderate rate of street crime. Criminal activity in Minsk is comparable to the level found in other large cities, while in the rural areas it is very limited. Though violent crime against foreigners is rare, criminals have been known to use force if met with resistance from victims. Common street crime, such as mugging and pocket picking, occurs most frequently near public transportation venues, near hotels frequented by foreigners, and/or at night in poorly-lighted areas. In Minsk, you should be especially alert in metro and bus stations.
Visiting night clubs, you should pay particular attention to your surroundings and drinks; the drugging of drinks is not uncommon. Prostitutes at hotels may attempt to open hotel room doors in search of customers. Local and transnational organized criminal activity also exists in Belarus. Most casinos and adult clubs are operated by criminal elements, but street-level organized criminal violence is rare and does not generally affect foreigners. Carjacking is also rare, but theft of vehicle parts and car vandalism is not. Sport-utility and luxury vehicles tend to be the most sought-after. Parking in a secure area overnight is highly recommended.
Sexual assaults on women are as commonplace in Minsk as they are in most large urban areas in the United States. Women are advised to exercise the same caution as they would in any large city in the United States.
Keep a copy of your passport in a separate location from your original passport.
Internet-Dating Schemes and Cyber-Crime: "Internet brides" are advertised on several websites and are not always legitimate. Often, potential suitors in the United States lose thousands of dollars when they send money to people they have never met and never hear from again. A growing variant on this theme is the suitor invited to Belarus to visit a “friend,” who arranges lodging and transportation for him (at hugely inflated prices) and disappears when the money has changed hands.
Cyber-crime of all kinds is well developed in Belarus. Merchandise orders with fraudulent credit cards, ID theft, hacking/blackmail schemes, and advance fee fraud are gaining in popularity. If you are doing business with persons or firms in Belarus electronically, you should proceed with extreme caution. You should avoid using credit and debit cards, except at ATMs located inside major banks. Not only is electronic fraud common at ATMs and grocery stores, serious injuries have been inflicted during assaults at street-side ATMs. Please note that transferring funds from abroad, replacing stolen traveler's checks or airline tickets, or canceling credit cards can be difficult and time consuming, especially due to the lack of English-speaking tourist agencies and an undeveloped tourism industry in Belarus.
In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available. Transactions involving such products may be illegal under local law. In addition, bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines.
The local equivalents to the “911” emergency lines in Belarus are: 101 for Fire and Rescue Squad; 102 for Police; and 103 for Ambulance (Medical Emergency).
Belarus police organizations are well trained and professional, but severely restricted by an un-reformed Soviet-era legal system, corruption, and politicization of the police force and other government authorities. Due to low salaries, it is not uncommon for officers to collect bribes during traffic stops. Sophisticated criminal investigations are often inconclusive because of a lack of resources and/or political will.
Some U.S. citizens have reported harassment at border crossings. Despite these problems, the Regional Security Officer recommends that you report any crimes immediately to the local police and the U.S. Embassy in Minsk.
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