Authorities send signal to Belarusian society that repressive policies remain unchanged
Professor Ostrovsky, the only professor teaching in Belarusian, a well-known intellectual and critic of the current state policy, has been sacked from Grodno Medical University.
Regardless of political prisoner Bialiatski’s release as a gesture within the defrosting process of Belarus-EU relations, the Belarusian authorities do not appear eager to relax the domestic political climate. Quite the opposite, they are sending a signal to Belarusian society that the level of repressions against opposition activists will persist. This case is not unique – during the past six month, there were a few other cases of persecution for political reasons, a trend that is traditionally linked to political campaigns. Regardless of how Belarus-EU relations develop, including the release of other political prisoners, pressure on opposition activists during the presidential campaign will increase.
President Lukashenka has met with the head of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov, who visited Minsk and the Minsk Automobile Plant. Minsk has always sought to have independent links with Russian regional elites, partially, to compensate for the Kremlin's diminishing interest in Belarus. In recent years, Belarus’ contacts with the Russian regions have been extremely intense. However, with some leaders of Russian regions, primarily heads of large republics, communication was more difficult to build. As many analysts in Minsk suggested, Minsk could regard contacts between President Lukashenka and the head of Chechnya as an additional communication channel for relieving tension in relations with the Kremlin. However, most likely, a trusting relationship with Kadyrov is a value for Minsk as such, provided Kadyrov’s broad business and political interests, and a high degree of autonomy for the Chechen leader from the Kremlin.