Belarusian authorities propose to discuss a moratorium on the death penalty
On March 20, after the Summit of the EurAsEC, Pesident Lukashenko was interviewed by a Russian English-speaking TV channel Russia Today, network broadcasting outside Russia.
The cornerstone of the interview was the issue of execution of two defendants in the case of the terrorist attack in the Minsk metro on April 11, 2011. Lukashenko rigidly insisted on him being right, which was not surprising, bearing in mind that both convicts were executed virtually the day before. The President reasoned, that “this was exceptionally a criminal case, which should not be politicized”.
Also Lukashenko reiterated twice that the EU had not addressed him with a request to postpone the executions. Thereby the President emphasized he did not violate any commitments and also made it clear he was ready to discuss the death penalty with the EU.
So, paradoxically, Lukashenko has opened the prospects for negotiations on the introduction of a moratorium on executions in Belarus. On the following day, Chairman of the Constitutional Court Petr Miklashevich explained the procedures for imposing of a moratorium or abolition of the death penalty.
We have previously pointed to the paradoxical behaviour of the authorities in the international relations, i.e. that they intersperse tough measures with promises of liberalization. Introduction of a moratorium on the death penalty is a lengthy procedure, requiring parliamentary vote, which could prolong the process of normalization of the relations between Belarus and the EU and made to look not as a concession and a sign of weakness, but as a “constructive dialogue”.
At the same time, such shift of accents would help the authorities to distract the public attention from other requirements of the EU and the U.S., namely, the release and rehabilitation of political prisoners and democratization of the electoral system.
Over the past year, military-political relations between Minsk and Kyiv have become complicated. Due to their high inertia and peculiarities, this downward trend would be extremely difficult to overcome.
The root cause of the crisis is the absence of a common political agenda in the Belarusian-Ukrainian relations. Minsk is looking for a market for Belarusian exports in Ukraine and offers its services as a negotiation platform for the settlement of the Russo-Ukrainian war, thereby hoping to avoid political issues in the dialogue with Kiev. Meanwhile, Ukraine is hoping for political support from Minsk in the confrontation with Moscow. In addition, Ukraine’s integration with NATO presupposes her common position with the Alliance in relation to Belarus. The NATO leadership regards the Belarusian Armed Forces as an integral part of the Russian military machine in the western strategic front (the Baltic states and Poland). In addition, the ongoing military reform in Ukraine envisages a reduction in the number of generals and the domestic political struggle makes some Ukrainian top military leaders targets in politically motivated attacks.
Hence, the criticism of Belarus coming from Ukrainian military leadership is dictated primarily by internal and external political considerations, as well as by the need to protect the interests of generals, and only then by facts.
For instance, initially, the Ukrainian military leadership made statements about 100,000 Russian servicemen allegedly taking part in the Russo-Belarusian military drill West-2017. Then the exercises were labelled quazi-open and military observers from Ukraine refused to provide their assessment, which caused a negative reaction in Minsk. Further, without citing specific facts, it was stated that Russia was building up its military presence in Belarus.
Apparently, the Belarusian and Ukrainian Defence Ministries have entangled in a confrontational spiral (on the level of rhetoric). Moreover, only a small part of the overly hidden process has been disclosed. That said, third states are very likely to take advantage of the situation (or have already done so). This is not only about Russia.
The Belarusian Defence Ministry officials are restrained in assessing their Ukrainian counterparts. However, such a restraint is not enough. Current military-political relations between Belarus and Ukraine are unlikely to stabilise without the intervention of both presidents.