Minsk’s role in Russo-Ukrainian confrontation increases
On April 24th, President Lukashenko had an emergency telephone conversation with acting Ukrainian president Turchinov about the situation in Slovyansk. Later that day, Russia initiated a telephone conversation between foreign ministers of Russia and Belarus, in which the ministers raised important international issues. Amid escalating tension between the Kremlin and Kiev, and between Russia and the West, Minsk’s role in interpreting events in South-Eastern Ukraine is increasing. Despite closely coordinating their foreign policy with the Kremlin, the Belarusian authorities are interested in de-escalating the Russo-Ukrainian conflict. Belarus is attempting to find a balanced approach and not to spoil her relations with the new Ukrainian authorities.
Following crackdown and arrests of participants in the spring protests, the authorities resumed arrests as punishment for participating in street protests in addition to fines, which for some time were the only punishment for political activity. On September 22nd, 2017, the riot police detained the Belarusian National Congress leader Nikolai Statkevich, the opposition politician was placed in detention centre on Akrestin street. On the same day, after serving seven days of arrest, another BNC leader, Vladimir Neklyaev, was released. He was sentenced for organising a street protest on September 8th against the West-2017 exercises. Other participants in the protest have been fined too. The authorities are likely to continue to use fines and arrests against political activists to punish for their protest activity.