Chernobyl Path: participation as low as ever
On April 26th, the opposition held a traditionally rally ‘Chernobyl Path’ to commemorate the anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster, which was attended by a record low number of participants. The rally’s motto was “No to Russian nuclear threat”. In addition, this year, the government has seized the initiative and used the ‘Chernobyl Path’ brand for its own propaganda purposes (‘Chernobyl Path’ was formerly the largest mass rally organised by the opposition). The authorities have organised a series of cultural events in the Gomel region, and the regions most affected by the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, entitled “Chernobyl Path - the road of life”. By consistently raising the organisational costs for the opposition street protests (including persecution, fines, fees, municipal and police services costs, etc) the authorities have managed to minimise street activity.
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.