Minsk probes measures to combat hybrid war in Belarus

April 22, 2016 19:14

The Belarusian authorities have held command and staff exercises of the territorial forces and defence bodies of the Gomel region near the border with Ukraine, and announced strengthening of the land border. Official Minsk probes measures to counter the penetration of illegal armed groups and resist hybrid military action in Belarus. It is noteworthy that the exercises are carried out in the southeast of Belarus at the Belarusian-Ukrainian border and close to the border with Russia. In order to pre-empt any accusations by the Kremlin media of ‘unfriendly’ nature of such exercises, the Belarusian Security Council announced on behalf of President Lukashenko, that military exercises were held to check the efficiency of the Belarusian-Ukrainian border protection. As presidential elections draw closer in Belarus, the authorities might strengthen national security measures and might take additional measures to counter possible destabilization of the socio-political situation. 

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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.