Accident at Belarusian NPP has ruined Belarus’ image of reliable partner in Europe
The Belarusian authorities are liable for an attempt to cover up an incident at the Belarusian Nuclear Power Plant under construction. There are no grounds to doubt that they are fully in control of the NPP construction. The incident has revealed the usual approach of the Belarusian bureaucracy, when the authorities are attempting to avoid responsibility and shift it onto somebody else.
Only following pressure from the independent media and two weeks after an incident, the Belarusian authorities have confirmed an emergency at the reactor storage area at the NPP construction site. The Belarusian Energy Ministry said that Russian JSC Atommash informed the Ministry about the incident. Apparently, the Ministry attempted to avoid responsibility for the emergency and its consequences, by pretending not to know about the state of affairs at the construction site. That said, the NPP construction is a strategic project and a costly one.
In order to prevent abuses during the NPP construction, the project is under close supervision (direct and indirect) by the Belarusian special services, the law-enforcement and other Belarusian controlling bodies. The Belarusian authorities may be unable to assess the technological implications of the incident promptly due to the lack of special knowledge, but the mere fact of the fall of the reactor’s body could not go unnoticed.
Belarusian officials’ behaviour in the incident with the NPP reactor has disavowed Minsk’s attempts to create an image of a reliable and responsible partner on regional security issues. In order to recover reputational damage, the Belarusian authorities are likely to invite international organisations and specialists from other countries, except Lithuania, to investigate the incident. The Belarusian authorities regard Lithuania’s stance in this regard as non-constructive, aimed at blocking the Belarusian NPP construction by any means.
President Lukashenka has met with the head of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov, who visited Minsk and the Minsk Automobile Plant. Minsk has always sought to have independent links with Russian regional elites, partially, to compensate for the Kremlin's diminishing interest in Belarus. In recent years, Belarus’ contacts with the Russian regions have been extremely intense. However, with some leaders of Russian regions, primarily heads of large republics, communication was more difficult to build. As many analysts in Minsk suggested, Minsk could regard contacts between President Lukashenka and the head of Chechnya as an additional communication channel for relieving tension in relations with the Kremlin. However, most likely, a trusting relationship with Kadyrov is a value for Minsk as such, provided Kadyrov’s broad business and political interests, and a high degree of autonomy for the Chechen leader from the Kremlin.