New round of confrontation between Moscow and Minsk over air traffic
The Ministry of Transport of Russia, as of April 13, banned the Belarusian airline Belavia from operating in all regions of Russia, except Moscow. Previously Belavia also performed flights to St. Petersburg, Kaliningrad, Sochi, Yekaterinburg, and planned to start flying to Novosibirsk in June.
Therefore the conflict of the past week broke out with renewed vigor. Belarus insisted on parity of traffic en route Minsk - Moscow, performed by the Belarusian and Russian companies and refused to allow the Russian airlines to open the fifth flight (both airlines carry out four daily flights each between Minsk and Moscow). In response the Russian airline decided to interpret the parity broadly and withdrew the Belavia’s authorization to fly to Russian regions (because Russian companies do not operate flights to the Belarusian regions), regardless of the formal grounds for revocation of authorization - gross violations of safety regulations, lack of insurance, etc.
This confrontation is a good illustration of unpreparedness of Belarus for an open competition with Russian companies within the common economic space. Russian companies, being more modern and financially stronger offer better services to passengers. Belarus strongly resists such competition and opening of its market.
Regardless of the outcome of the conflict, it is safe to assume that such conflicts will emerge again and again in various fields. Belarus has benefited from the integration within the CES with lower prices for fuel and energy resources, with this Russia’s understanding of the integration ends. Russia traded off profits in the energy sector and wants to promote its interests in other sectors - banking, insurance, engineering, food processing, etc., but it faces with constant attempts of Belarus to protect and to close its market. With the end of the Putin’s election campaign, Russian “raiding” activities (as they are referred to in Belarus) will intensify, often disregarding the law and previous agreements. Actions of Russian companies will be accompanied by media campaigns. Therefore the Belarusian authorities should prepare for new episodes of TV series in the spirit of “The Godbatka” [«Крестный батька»].
President Lukashenka continues to rotate staff and rejuvenate heads of departments and universities following new appointments in regional administrations. Apparently, new Information Minister Karliukevich could somewhat relax the state policy towards the independent media and introduce technological solutions for retaining control over Belarus’ information space. New rectors could strengthen the trend for soft Belarusization in the regions and tighten the disciplinary and ideological control over the student movement in the capital.
President Lukashenka has appointed new ministers of culture and information, the new rector of the Belarusian State University and heads of three universities, assistants in the Minsk and Vitebsk regions.
The new Information Minister Karliukevich is likely to avoid controversial initiatives similar to those former Minister Ananich was famous for, however, certainly within his capacities. Nevertheless, the appointment of Belarusian-speaking writer Karliukevich could be regarded as the state’s cautious attempt to relax environment in the media field and ensure the sovereignty of national media.
The Belarusian leadership has consolidated the trend for mild Belarusization by appointing a young historian and a ‘reasonable nationalist’, Duk as the rector at the Kuleshov State University in Mogilev. Meanwhile, while choosing the head of the Belarusian State University, the president apparently had in mind the strengthening of the ideological loyalty among the teaching staff and students at the main university in order to keep the youth movement at bay. Previously, Korol was the rector of the Kupala State University in Grodno, where he held purges among the disloyal teaching staff.
The trend for the renewal of mid-ranking executives and their rejuvenation has confirmed. The age of the Culture Minister and three new rectors varies from 39 to 44 years old.