Belarus: bridging EU and Russia

April 22, 2016 19:13

In an interview with Washington Post, Foreign Minister Makey said that Belarus was not afraid of anyone’s military incursion, that she wanted to build friendly relations with all countries, and that she was feeling the pressure of sanctions. Amid the prolonged crisis in Russo-Ukrainian relations, Belarusian officials emphasize the indirect threat to Belarus’ independence from the Kremlin, which is connected with insufficient development of economic cooperation with Western countries because of the sanctions against the country’s leadership. The Belarusian authorities are attempting to portray Belarus as a bridge between Russia and the European Union in the Western media, thus increasing the value of the current leadership in the upcoming presidential campaign. The authorities anticipate the ‘limited recognition’ of the results of the presidential elections in 2015, but have no plans to make any concessions in terms of liberalization of the electoral campaign or ending persecution of the opponents.

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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.