Authorities crumb privatization deals in petrochemical industry
In early July, "Belneftekhim" Head Igor Zhilin was released from office. Until now, official explanation was not provided. In addition, the Belarusian law enforcement agencies do not comment the information, published in some independent media about the alleged arrest of Zhilin.
For example, according to BelaPAN, the General Prosecutor’s Office instituted criminal proceedings under Article 424 of the Criminal Code (abuse of power or of a position of authority). A Russian citizen, Igor Zhilin in 2009 – amid dairy and "gas wars" between Moscow and Minsk and before the abolition of oil preferences – was appointed as ‘Grodno Nitrogen’ Head. In 2011 – amid a dispute over duty-free Russian oil – he was appointed as "Belneftekhim" Head. Experts have interpreted his most recent appointment as a preparation stage for privatisation of Belarus’ petrochemical industry by large Russian business. Today the Belarusian leadership is lacking sufficient resources to continue delaying privatisation in favour of Russian business. However, they might use some old means (eg Baumgertner case) to initiate tension in Russo-Belarusian relations, and put in jail top managers representing Russian oligarchs, interested in Belarusian assets.
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.