Russo-Belarusian gas and oil dispute unlikely to end soon

December 12, 2016 11:01

In December 2016, Belarus made an advance payment in repayment of the debt for natural gas supplies in 2016. The debt emerged because Belarus paid a lower price for the natural gas supply as compared with the contract price (USD 136.9 per 1000 cubic metres). In response, Russia unilaterally cut oil supplies as of July 2016, from 2 to 1.2 million tons of oil per month. Nevertheless, Russia is unlikely to resume oil supplies in full volume before the end of 2016. Belarus is unable to repay the debt for gas in full without additional borrowing. In order to solve the problem, the Finance Ministry and the National Bank are likely to issue foreign currency bonds worth at least USD 350 million.

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Death penalty discussion in Belarus: yet not ready for either abolition or moratorium
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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.