Lukashenko offers to release political prisoners to resume a dialogue with the West
At a press conference for the Belarusian national and regional media on 17 June President Lukashenko declared his readiness to release political prisoners, provided the amnesty procedures were observed.
Belarusian President proposed to the West to bargain for “political prisoners in exchange for the resumption of relations”. First of all, Lukashenko is prepared to restore a dialogue with Poland by mentioning the leading role of Poland in the Eastern Europe.
Bearing in mind it is the second proposal of Lukashenko in the course of the past two weeks (reference to the meeting of judges on 3 June) the Belarusian leadership is doing its best to avoid economic reforms. The main recipients of these statements are member states of the IMF, its mission worked in Minsk on 1-13 June.
Given the lack of positive result of the IMF mission and that the conditions put forward for Belarus are not feasible and detrimental to the “created” welfare state and to the popularity of the President, the Belarusian authorities are trying to get away from implementing economic reforms and try to resolve the crisis with “small blood”: by releasing political prisoners. This option suits Minsk perfectly it has been tested in the summer of 2008, when a former Presidential candidate Alexander Kozulin and other political prisoners were released.
Last week, Belarusian Foreign Minister Makei participated in the foreign ministers’ meeting of the Eastern Partnership and Visegrad Group initiative hosted by Warsaw. The Belarusian FM emphasized Belarus' interest in cooperation in the transport sector, which could be due to Belarus’ desire to export electricity surplus after Belarus finished construction of the nuclear power plant in Ostrovets. Minsk expressed concerns about Warsaw’s stance on the Belarusian NPP, as it refused to buy electricity from Belarus and supported Vilnius’ protest on this issue. Following accusations by the Belarusian leadership and the state media against western states, including Poland, of training "nationalist militants", Minsk did not agree on the visit of the European Parliament deputies from Lithuania and Germany to Belarus and to the NPP construction site near Ostrovets in particular. In addition, the Belarusian authorities have stepped up efforts to enforce education in Russian in Polish-language schools in Grodno and Vaukavysk. Should a rift in Belarusian-Polish relations persist, the Belarusian authorities are likely to step up the pressure on the Polish-speaking minority in Belarus.