Minsk steps up financial dependence on Moscow

August 17, 2016 11:13

Belarus received the second tranche from the Russian-controlled Eurasian Fund for Stabilisation and Development worth USD 300 million. Amid mutual statements about the resolution of the energy conflict between Minsk and Moscow in the near future, the EFSD management has taken a final decision to allocate the loan. According to Russia, Belarus’ overdue debt for gas is USD 270 million, which almost equals the size of the EFSR loan’s second tranche. Media reported, that during the talks on oil and gas prices for Belarus, Russia linked potential discounts in H2 2016, inter alia, to privatisation of Belarusian property, which was also the EFSD requirement. Due to the oil and gas standout, Minsk practically received funds from the EFSD without a delay. However, from the strategic perspective, the Belarusian authorities have increased Belarus’ financial dependence on the Kremlin as further loan tranches could be conditioned with the sale of state-owned enterprises.

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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.