The Kremlin may continue restricting migration within Union State

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February 06, 2017 12:52
Фото: Еврорадио

By enforcing border controls with Belarus without a warning, Russia has underscored the growing crisis of confidence between the two states and lowered Minsk’s status in the alliance. Moscow is likely to continue to exert pressure on the Belarusian authorities and may abandon some previous agreements within the Union State framework in order to prompt Belarus to concessions regarding a common visa policy. In turn, Minsk does not appear to be ready to accept Russian terms as regards its visa, military and economic (eg privatisation of large state enterprises) sovereignty.

Russia’s unexpected decision to enforce border controls at the Russo-Belarusian border has become a media sensation in Belarus and Russia.

Apparently, the lingering tension in Russo-Belarusian relations has prompted the acceleration of the crisis at different levels. For instance, President Lukashenka said that Russia could cut oil supplies to Belarusian refineries from 16 million to 12 million tons (according to Russia, due to the growing overdue debt for Russian gas to USD 550 million).

Moscow's decision to establish border controls on the Belarusian-Russian border raised a wave of reports in the Russian media and the Belarusian Internet about a possible withdrawal of Belarus from integration associations with Russia. The information campaign in the Russian media could amplify irritation among the supporters of the integration with Russia with President Lukashenka for his inability to negotiate with the Russian leadership. In turn, the Belarusian authorities are likely to use this situation to strengthen their positions vis-a-vis the Kremlin by demonstrating the rise in discontent with Russia’s actions among Belarusians and strengthening of pro-Western and isolationist sentiments.

The Belarusian Foreign Ministry criticized the Russian authorities for the introduction of border controls with Belarus, and did not rule out reciprocal measures. The Belarusian authorities are likely to attempt to shuffle off the responsibility for the introduction of additional restrictions on the single migration space within the Union State onto the Kremlin.

Mutual tensions and distrust between Minsk and Moscow continue to grow and may prompt Russia to introduce further restrictions and withdraw from previous agreements within the Union State.

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