IT Companies Threaten to Leave Belarus

IT Companies Threaten to Leave Belarus

August 28, 2020

Employees from international IT companies have joined the mass protests and are threatening to leave Belarus after the re-election of President Alexander Lukashenko on August 9. The opposition has called out the election as rigged, Reuters reported.

Torture stories of detainees and plainclothes officers snatching protesters out of the street made work difficult for Minsk employees of the California-based software-maker PandaDoc, said its CEO Mikita Mikado.

"Everyone in the IT community, all Belarusians inside and outside the country, was shocked. They were shocked at how flagrantly the elections were rigged and how much violence was used after it," said Mikado.

An internal survey found that 83% of PandaDoc employees across the country want to relocate. Mikado continued to share his thoughts on the matter in the following statement:

"If this government remains, PandaDoc will no longer work in Belarus." 

At least three protesters were killed, and thousands – including PandaDoc employees – were detained.

The Belarusian government has refused to respond to the IT companies threatening to leave the country and has yet to comment on the issue. Lukashenko denies electoral fraud, and the government denies abusing detained protestors and civilians.

An Atmosphere of Fear

Belarusian Hi-Tech Park, located on the eastern outskirts of Minsk, has grown since its inception in 2006 to 750 companies employing 58,000 people and – according to government figures at the end of 2019 – earned roughly $2 billion in exports alone.

During the protests, employees from IT firms came together to form human chains across the streets as a sign of solidarity. They also created platforms to help trace people who went missing during the intense crackdown on demonstrations and started raising funds for the victims.

EPAM has launched a retraining program aimed at people who were fired for supporting the opposition and would like to pursue a career in information technology.

As the protests rapidly developed, internet interruptions occurred across Belarus for several days, disrupting communication, news, and videos shared by demonstrators on social media. The government blamed outsiders for the internet shutdown.

"Not even the police brutality was the most surprising event in Belarus, but the fact that internet has been shut off completely," said Michael Rumiantsau, the Belarusian co-founder of the software company FriendlyData, which was sold to ServiceNow.Inc 

Relocation to Ukraine

It should be noted, that due to large-scale protests, the British IT company Godel Technologies has already relocated from its Belarusian office to Ukraine. Employees, some with their families and even pets, are already in Kyiv. The National Industrial Portal reported this with reference to the "Charter-97". 

This opportunity was announced at the recent corporate Stream with COO Godel Technologies and is open to all employees located in Belarus, regardless of which department they work in. The decision to offer such an opportunity was made to minimize the risks associated with Belarus's current situation and as a result of the internet being disconnected. This technical issue that lasted for several days led to significant financial losses and caused major disruptions within the workplace, customer service, and communication. 

As such, the British IT company Godel Technologies has taken full responsibility for relocating and housing their employees. The possibility of another transfer of employees to Ukraine has not been ruled out as the company continues to monitor how the situation in Belarus develops.

Moreover, the Ukrainian government has shown its full support for Belarusian colleagues. The government recently approved immigration quotas for foreign IT specialists, making relocating to Ukraine easier for IT professionals.