Foreign trade of Belarus will improve only if refining and potash sales perform well

April 22, 2016 19:16

According to the National Statistics Committee, in May 2015, foreign trade deficit totalled USD 163.8 million, the lowest value since January 2015. The improvement was due to a record high volume of potash exports in May 2015 and the increase in exports of petroleum products to foreign markets. Thanks to recently signed agreements for potash supplies to India and China, Belarus is likely to increase her potash sales on the world potash market. The situation with petroleum products supplies largely depends on the world oil prices and supplies of Russian oil to Belarus in Q3 2015. If world potash and oil prices fall, Belarus will be unable to meet her projected export volumes for 2015. Extended sanctions against Russia have increased the risk of further reduction in bilateral trade – mainly concerning the supply of engineering products to the Russian market.

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Death penalty discussion in Belarus: yet not ready for either abolition or moratorium
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The Belarusian authorities have launched a discussion on the moratorium or abolition of the death penalty under the pressure of Belarusian human rights activists and international community. Apparently, the authorities are interested in monitoring public sentiments and response to the possible abolition of the capital punishment. The introduction of a moratorium on the death penalty would depend on the dynamics in Belarusian-European relations, efforts of the civil society organisations and Western capitals.

In Grodno last week, the possibility of abolishing the death penalty in Belarus or introducing a moratorium was discussed.

The Belarusian authorities are likely to continue to support the death penalty in Belarus. During his rule, President Lukashenka pardoned only one person, and courts sentenced to death more than 400 people since the early 1990s. Over the past year, Belarusian courts sentenced to death several persons and one person was executed.

There are no recent independent polls about people’s attitude about the death penalty in Belarus. Apparently, this issue is not a priority for the population. In many ways, public opinion about the abolition of the death penalty would depend on the tone of the state-owned media reports.

That said, the Belarusian Orthodox Church and the Roman-Catholic Church stand for the abolition of the capital punishment, however their efforts in this regard only limit to public statements about their stance. Simultaneously, the authorities could have influenced public opinion about the death penalty through a focused media campaign in the state media. As they did, for example, with the nuclear power plant construction in Astravets. Initially unpopular project of the NPP construction was broadly promoted in the state media, and eventually, according to independent pollsters, was accepted by most population.