Minsk steps up Eurasian integration rhetoric
At a meeting of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council, President Lukashenka proposed to implement a set of effective measures for a more rapid establishment of the EEU. Before his visit to Bishkek, Lukashenka signed the EEU Customs Code and attempted to disavow the delay with intense pro-integration rhetoric. After explicitly boycotting the previous EEU Summit in St. Petersburg, the Belarusian president is attempting to strengthen his positions and form a coalition to defend his economic interest vis-à-vis the Kremlin. That said, some EEU states also expressed discontent with the course of integration within the EEU framework. For example, according to media reports, the Kyrgyzstan president also initially refused to sign the EEU Customs Code at the meeting in St. Petersburg in December 2016, but later he had changed his mind. Minsk aims to use the multilateral integration platform within the EEU to ensure a more favourable environment for Belarusian produces on the Eurasian market and improve energy cooperation with Russia.
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.