Incident with Belavia plane not to affect Belarusian-Ukrainian relations

October 31, 2016 11:08

The relations between Minsk and Kiev are too important for the Belarusian authorities to put them at risk. Ukraine is an important partner for Belarus in the economic, military-technical and political spheres. The incident is likely to be exhausted after Belarus completes the necessary diplomatic rituals.

The Belarusian Foreign Ministry made reprehensions over the actions of the Ukrainian authorities to force the return of a Belavia plane to Kyiv on October 21st en route Kyiv-Minsk and demanded an official apology and a compensation of all costs.

Currently, Belarus and Ukraine are in a situational alliance, albeit not a strategic one, which is very important for Minsk. The Ukrainian market is one of the most important for Belarus’ exports. Amid special nature of political relations between the leaders of the two states, Minsk has enlisted Kyiv’s support in normalising relations with the West. In addition, Belarus regards Ukraine as a major deterrent to the Kremlin's expansionist ambitions.

Despite the importance of Russia for the Belarusian foreign policy, after 2014, Belarus and Ukraine have been developing military-technical cooperation. Traditionally, they develop technological cooperation in the anti-missile systems field. For instance, following an order from Belarus, Ukrainian specialists developed a short-range anti-aircraft missile. In addition, Ukraine is likely to transfer the missile technology to Belarus. In addition, the two states cooperate in developing and producing light wheeled armoured vehicles. That said, on October 27th, Ambassador of Belarus in Ukraine Igor Sokol met with Ukrainian Secretary of the National Security and Defence Council Oleksandr Turchynov, during which they discussed a wide range bilateral issues.

Minsk regards the incident with the Belavia airliner as a regrettable misunderstanding caused by poor coordination between the Ukrainian security agencies. The scale of the incident is unlikely to affect the relationship between the two states. Both states are interested in preserving the special nature of the bilateral cooperation in all areas, including those, which rarely get media coverage.

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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.