Belarus staves off ‘privatisation’ pressure from the Kremlin

April 22, 2016 18:54

Moscow hosted another round of negotiations between Belarus’ First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Semashko, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich and Dmitry Rogozin, to discuss joint integration projects and the implementation of mutually beneficial arrangements for the supply of oil and petroleum products.

The Kremlin has placed conditions for providing oil preferences to Belarus, such as the privatisation of Belarus’ state assets by Russian companies within the Eurasian integration. Moscow is also toying with the option of receiving compensation for losses from reduced Russo-Ukrainian cooperation in the military-industrial sphere by involving the Belarusian defence industry in joint projects. This also interests Minsk. In turn, Belarus is interested in swiftly introducing competitive conditions for economic entities (as of January 1st, 2015 Russian companies can use budgetary subsidies to purchase Belarusian equipment). In Minsk’s viewpoint, this will enable domestic producers to unload their stock. Meanwhile, with the Kremlin busy with dealing with the ‘Ukrainian’ issue, Minsk is successfully delaying the privatisation process.

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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.