Lukashenko tires to be a mediator in the Russo-Ukrainian dispute
On April 29th, BelaPAN News Agency published an interview with Russian Ambassador to Belarus Alexander Surikov.
Russia is highly interested in Ukraine’s integration with the Eurasian Economic Union. President Lukashenko hopes to play a mediating role in this process and to improve his status in negotiations with the Kremlin.
In terms of regional policies, Ambassador Surikov’s the most important statement was his concern about the security of gas transit through the Ukrainian gas transportation system, as well as certain recognition of the hopelessness of the Moscow-Kiev situation.
In particular, the Ambassador said that “both, the trilateral relations (Europe-Ukraine-Russia), and bilateral (Russia-Ukraine) failed to solve the issue of renovation and putting in order the Ukrainian gas transportation system”. According to Surikov, it was one of the main reasons behind the construction of the Yamal-Europe-2 gas pipeline project.
Regardless of the genuine reasons for the Kremlin’s interest in the Yamal-Europe – 2 project, Surikov’s justification creates environment for the Belarusian leadership to intervene in Russo-Ukrainian negotiations and try to persuade President Yanukovych to participate in the Eurasian integration project.
If Lukashenko’s adventurous mission fails, he can still try to keep up appearances and present it as an attempt to partially restore the USSR’s lost integrity and to complement the author of the CES project, Vladimir Putin. In addition, the noble ‘integration’ mission will enable Lukashenko to gloss over (and ideally, to benefit from) the existing conflicts between him and President Yanukovych.
Potentially, Lukashenko’s mission might be successful. On April 15th, in a telephone conversation Presidents Lukashenko and Viktor Yanukovych discussed the possibility of the creation of a Belarusian-Ukrainian-Russian public movement and agreed to raise this issue at the upcoming bilateral meeting in May. On April 25th, in Kiev, close to Lukashenko Chairman of the Communist Party of Belarus Karpenko took part in the 20th Anniversary Celebrations of the Union of Communist Parties of the former Soviet countries.
President Lukashenka continues to rotate staff and rejuvenate heads of departments and universities following new appointments in regional administrations. Apparently, new Information Minister Karliukevich could somewhat relax the state policy towards the independent media and introduce technological solutions for retaining control over Belarus’ information space. New rectors could strengthen the trend for soft Belarusization in the regions and tighten the disciplinary and ideological control over the student movement in the capital.
President Lukashenka has appointed new ministers of culture and information, the new rector of the Belarusian State University and heads of three universities, assistants in the Minsk and Vitebsk regions.
The new Information Minister Karliukevich is likely to avoid controversial initiatives similar to those former Minister Ananich was famous for, however, certainly within his capacities. Nevertheless, the appointment of Belarusian-speaking writer Karliukevich could be regarded as the state’s cautious attempt to relax environment in the media field and ensure the sovereignty of national media.
The Belarusian leadership has consolidated the trend for mild Belarusization by appointing a young historian and a ‘reasonable nationalist’, Duk as the rector at the Kuleshov State University in Mogilev. Meanwhile, while choosing the head of the Belarusian State University, the president apparently had in mind the strengthening of the ideological loyalty among the teaching staff and students at the main university in order to keep the youth movement at bay. Previously, Korol was the rector of the Kupala State University in Grodno, where he held purges among the disloyal teaching staff.
The trend for the renewal of mid-ranking executives and their rejuvenation has confirmed. The age of the Culture Minister and three new rectors varies from 39 to 44 years old.