Minsk attempts to bolster Belarus’ independence

April 22, 2016 18:48

Minsk continues to attempt to prevent escalation of Russo-Ukrainian power conflict. Simultaneously, the country’s leadership seeks ways to strengthen national security and Belarus’ independence using military, diplomatic and ideological instruments.

On April 8th, at the Security Council meeting, the political situation in Ukraine and its influence on the national security was discussed.

Belarus’ Security Council has concluded that the events in Ukraine “do not bear direct threats” for Belarus. In the near future, Belarus will elaborate an action plan to reverse any indirect threats that another round of destabilisation in Ukraine could bear, i.e. the recent armed attack on administrative buildings in South- East Ukraine with the participation of professional unidentified military men.

Belarus stands for preserving Ukraine’s integrity and is against her federalisation. This was confirmed by the Foreign Ministry last week, as well as by President Lukashenko on April 13th during an interview with the Russian Channel NTV. In the interview, Lukashenko reiterated his opinion about the reasons for the Ukrainian crisis: Yanukovich’s corrupt and irresponsible government, betrayal of the West, and Ukrainian Army’s incapacity. In line with this ‘diagnosis’, Belarus has taken measures to strengthen national security and independence. In particular, the anti-corruption campaign in Belarus has received an additional boost. 

Last week, Belarus’ president placed a special emphasis on strengthening the army’s capacity. In particular, on April 2ndLukashenko visited the Baranovichi-based aircraft repair plant and ordered the modernisation of Su-27 fighters to be sped up. In the coming weeks, inspections are planned at the Borisov-based armoured vehicles repair and restoration plant. These activities are meant not so much for demonstrating the preparations for repelling military aggression, but for strengthening Belarus’ reputation as a country that does not need external assistance to ensure her safety.

Belarus seeks to become a country which could guarantee regional security on a wide range of issues: drug trafficking, illegal migration (Deputy Foreign Minister Kupchina’s trip to Slovenia and Germany), and strengthening of the Afghan-Tajik border.

Belarusian authorities’ policy aims to strengthen Belarus’ independence, while maintaining allied relations with Russia. However, in order for this policy to achieve at least partial success, stability in the region needs to be preserved. If the Russo-Ukrainian conflict escalates into an open confrontation, Belarus can forget about independence altogether.

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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.