Kremlin unhappy about Minsk’s independent position on Ukrainian crisis and Eurasian integration

April 22, 2016 18:52

Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov will pay a working visit to Belarus to discuss the international and regional situation, including the crisis in Ukraine.

In recent statements, President Lukashenko and Foreign Minister Makei underscored their dissatisfaction over recent agreements with Moscow and pointed to certain problems with the Eurasian Economic Union. In addition, during his visit to Ukraine to attend Poroshenko’s inauguration, President Lukashenko made rather bold position statements about the Russo-Ukrainian crisis, which could be interpreted as support for the Ukrainian side. It is worth noting that Belarus is reactivating its Western policy, which also brings some dividends to Belarusian leadership. If pressured by the Kremlin, however, the Belarusian authorities might be prompted to coordinate their positions on sensitive issues, such as Eurasian integration and the Russo-Ukrainian crisis, with Russia.

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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.