Presidents Lukashenko and Nikolić played on the public
On March 12th – 13th Serbian President Tomislav Nikolić was on the official visit to Minsk
Belarus’ main goal was to demonstrate the image-making breakthrough in the Belarus’ political isolation on the eve of talks with Russian President Putin. However, there will be no real strengthening of the political cooperation between Belarus and Serbia and with the European Union using Serbia’s mediation.
Tomislav Nikolić’s surprise visit to Minsk played into the Belarusian authorities hands for several political reasons. First, the Serbian President arrived in Belarus right after talks with Ashton in Brussels about the disputed status of the Serbian community in Kosovo and about the Serbia’s accession to the EU. Belarus is known for her tough stance on condemning the war in Serbia and Kosovo’s sovereignty, and the visit gave President Lukashenko the occasion to demonstrate his position to the European Union, the US and Russia once again.
Second, on the eve of the Supreme Council of the Union State of Belarus and Russia meeting in St. Petersburg on March 15th, Belarusian leadership was interested in demonstrating to the Kremlin the demand for Belarus not only in Russia but also in other countries, especially in Europe. Since 2010, the Belarusian president’s international contacts have been consistently and compulsively narrowed, primarily looping on Minsk-Moscow relations.
Nevertheless, the talks between Nikolić and Lukashenko and the set of signed documents do not suggest the political cooperation between Minsk and Belgrade will be strengthened significantly. Currently, Belarus and Serbia hold complex negotiations with their by far more powerful partners (the EU and Russia respectively) therefore they are interested in demonstrating, at least, “political alibi” to their counterparts. At the same time, both countries are seriously limited in their political maneuvers.
During searches of social and "green" activists and anarchists, law enforcement has seized computers, mobile phones and publications. The authorities have also exerted additional pressure on supporters of unauthorized street protests and independent lawyers, who represented defendants in the White Legion case. The security services have stepped up the persecution of opponents before the street protests announced by the opposition. Apparently, the Belarusian authorities aspire that participants in street protests would reduce in number and that the low interest of the population to socio-political agenda before the local election campaign would retain.