Lower gas prices for Belarus will strengthen Russian rouble influence in Belarus
According to preliminary information, Russian natural gas price might change for Belarus from USD 132 per 1 cubic metre to USD 100 per cubic metre and payment would be due in Russian roubles. Belarus has stopped paying for natural gas deliveries due to her disagreement with the price for gas and the dollar component of the gas transit through Russia, which did not depend on the current prices for hydrocarbons. Belarus’ current overdue payments for gas make USD 300 million. In the near future, this issue is likely to be resolved and oil supplies to Belarus are likely to resume in full. However, Belarus is likely to become more dependent on Russian rouble exchange rate fluctuations against foreign currencies, as she makes payments in Russian roubles. After the new gas price is agreed, energy prices for industrial enterprises are likely to be revised too in order to reduce costs of energy-intensive industries.
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.