President Lukashenko has pardoned 11 political prisoners
The Belarusian authorities continue fulfilling the major requirements of the EU and the U.S., namely the unconditional release of all political prisoners, in order to resume cooperation and hope for concessions on their part.
On 14 September President Lukashenko signed a Decree to pardon 11 convicted for participation in the events of 19 December 2010 in Minsk. The EU and the USA recognized all of them as political prisoners.
The Belarusian authorities continue fulfilling the major requirements of the EU and the U.S., namely the unconditional release of all political prisoners, in order to resume cooperation and hope for concessions from Brussels and Washington. The Belarusian authorities have been repeatedly told that the position of the Western countries concerning the release of political prisoners was principled and non-negotiable.
Belarus hopes that implemented economic and political measures will have a positive effect on the IMF decisions, the most important international organization for Belarus today. Therefore the pardon and release of 11 prisoners coincided with the additional trading session at the BCSE, which determined a market value of the Belarusian ruble.
However, all these measures are de facto half-measures. Western countries unequivocally and repeatedly stated that in order to resume a dialogue, Belarus must release all political prisoners. The IMF also emphatically talked about the elimination of the multiplicity of exchange rates. Regardless of the additional trading session, the multiplicity of exchange rates retains. Moreover, the Belarusian authorities continue increasing public spending to offset inflation, which is also at odds with the IMF recommendations.
On 5-17 October the IMF plans another mission to Belarus. To the day, there are 19 other political prisoners behind the bars following the events of 19 December, including 3 ex-presidential candidates.
Even if Alexander Lukashenko meets the requirement to release all political prisoners, a new obstacle in the dialogue may be their political rehabilitation. This additional condition has been voiced by the Polish Ambassador to Belarus Szerepka on 7 September. Otherwise they will not be able to take part in the upcoming parliamentary elections.
It is highly likely that Lukashenko will not agree with this precondition or will oppose it as in his view that will threaten the political stability in the country.
Last week, Belarusian Foreign Minister Makei participated in the foreign ministers’ meeting of the Eastern Partnership and Visegrad Group initiative hosted by Warsaw. The Belarusian FM emphasized Belarus' interest in cooperation in the transport sector, which could be due to Belarus’ desire to export electricity surplus after Belarus finished construction of the nuclear power plant in Ostrovets. Minsk expressed concerns about Warsaw’s stance on the Belarusian NPP, as it refused to buy electricity from Belarus and supported Vilnius’ protest on this issue. Following accusations by the Belarusian leadership and the state media against western states, including Poland, of training "nationalist militants", Minsk did not agree on the visit of the European Parliament deputies from Lithuania and Germany to Belarus and to the NPP construction site near Ostrovets in particular. In addition, the Belarusian authorities have stepped up efforts to enforce education in Russian in Polish-language schools in Grodno and Vaukavysk. Should a rift in Belarusian-Polish relations persist, the Belarusian authorities are likely to step up the pressure on the Polish-speaking minority in Belarus.