The Kremlin’s pressure on President Alexander Lukashenko is growing
President of Belarus A. Lukashenko and President of Russia V. Putin played ice hockey in the Olympic palace in Sochi. This is already the second meeting of the heads of states within less than a month, which is determined by the intensified pressure from Moscow to establish the Eurasian Economic Union.
This is confirmed by the demand of Russian Prime Minister D. Medvedev, which followed the meeting of the presidents, to agree upon the draft treaty on the Eurasian Economic Union by April 17, 2014. The Kremlin is still taking advantage of the weakening of the Belarusian state and strengthening its presence in Belarus in exchange for short-term preferences offered to official Minsk. This year Russia’s presence in the Belarusian economy will be reinforced by privatization of some of the state assets by Russian companies.
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.