Official Minsk interested in Ukraine successfully holding early presidential elections
The Belarusian authorities are supportive of the Ukrainian authorities’ decision to hold early presidential elections on May 25th this year and to stabilize the situation in Ukraine’s southeast. Belarus will send her monitors to observe the vote in Ukraine, which, in her view, might ensure Kiev authorities’ loyalty and might improve her relations with the West. However, the recognition by Belarus of the presidential election results will depend on Russia’s stance and developments in the southeast of Ukraine.
The Belarus’ Central Election Committee has received an invitation to observe the presidential elections in Ukraine.
Belarus has supported the Kiev authorities’ decision to hold the presidential elections on May 25th this year, underscoring that it is “the inherent sovereign right of the Ukrainian people”.
The Belarusian authorities plan to send their observers to the upcoming elections in Ukraine “as the national delegation and within the framework of election observation missions by regional organisations". Belarus’ Foreign Ministry Spokesman Mironchik emphasised that “Ukraine desperately needs a stable government whose legitimacy will be based on the outcome of free elections.”
The Belarusian authorities are interested in the prompt conflict resolution in Ukraine, since it has already started having a negative impact on the Belarus’ economy and has increased Belarus’ risks amid unpredictable foreign policy of the Kremlin.
The protracted conflict in Ukraine has negative consequences for the Belarusian-Ukrainian trade and economic relations. For example, in January-March 2014, trade between the two countries fell by almost 15%, Belarusian exports fell by 7% and imports – by 30%. Ukraine is Belarus’ the second largest trade partner in terms of turnover, and in terms of significant trade surplus.
The Russo-Ukrainian conflict has increased Belarus’ dependence on the Kremlin’s policy. Unlike in previous years, Belarus’ investment costs in the ‘Eurasian integration’ have increased considerably compared with the received benefits. Besides, Russia’s resources have also been dwindling after her invasion of Ukraine and she has fewer means to buy the loyalty of the neighbouring states, including Belarus.
It should be noted, that the Belarus’ president attempted to disavow the statements he made after the meeting in Moscow, which were closely repeating the Russian propaganda as regards events in Ukraine’s southeastern regions. At a meeting with the Ukrainian Ambassador Mykhailo Yezhel on May15th, President Lukashenko reiterated that his previous statements concerning Ukraine’s territorial integrity, undesirability of her federalisation and recognition of the authorities in Kiev remained unchanged: “Ukraine has to remain a united state. Her 45 million population is our brotherly nation”.
Having Belarus’ official observers at the presidential elections in Ukraine implies that the authorities in Minsk may count on the loyalty of the new authorities in Kiev, which will be particularly important when the presidential campaign kicks off in Belarus in 2015. In addition, the Belarusian authorities aspire that related viewpoints with the European Union might improve contacts with Brussels without additional conditions.
Depending on the Moscow’s stance and peculiarities of the vote in the southeastern Ukraine, the authorities in Minsk may recognize the elections’ outcomes however with certain reservations. Meanwhile, regardless of what they say, the Belarusian leadership is interested in developing the Belarusian-Ukrainian economic relations.
The Belarusian authorities regard the Catholic conference as yet another international event to promote Minsk as a global negotiating platform. Minsk’s proposal to organise a meeting between the Roman-Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church is rather an image-making undertaking than a serious intention. However, the authorities could somewhat extend the opportunities for the Roman-Catholic Church in Belarus due to developing contacts with the Catholic world.
Minsk is attempting to lay out a mosaic from various international religious, political and sportive events to shape a positive image of Belarus for promoting the Helsinki 2.0 idea.
Belarus’ invitation to the head of the Holy See for a meeting with the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church should be regarded as a continuation of her foreign policy efforts in shaping Minsk’s peacekeeping image and enhancing Belarus’ international weight. The Belarusian authorities are aware that their initiative is unlikely to find supporters among the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow. In Russia, isolationist sentiments prevail.
In addition, for domestic audiences, the authorities make up for the lack of tangible economic growth with demonstrations of growth in Minsk’s authority at international level through providing a platform for religious, sportive and other dialogues.