Oppositions reaction to the news about possible deployment of Russian air base in Belarus

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April 22, 2016 18:29

On April 23rd, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said in Minsk that by 2015 Russian airbase will be deployed to Belarus.

Nationalists, conservatives and a number of Belarus’ social movements have strongly opposed the idea, referring to the Belarus’ sovereignty. Liberal and left-wing parties take restrained and constructive stand. At the same time, the opposition has generally refrained from making collective statements in this regard.

The statement by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu received a strong response from the Belarus’ political opposition. In particular, the Organizing Committee of the Belarusian Christian Democracy party leader, Vital Rymashevski, said that such plans were in violation of the neutrality principle declared in the Belarus’ Constitution. “European Belarus” campaign leader, Andrei Sannikov, said that such plans would strengthen the dictatorship and called upon the EU not to resume cooperation with the Belarusian authorities.

The opposition “trio” members were almost in unison. BPF leadership announced that the party would protest against the deployment using all available non-violent means. “For Freedom” movement also strongly opposed the plans, referring to the constitutional principle of neutrality. “Tell the Truth” movement stated that it was Russia that needed the airbase, not Belarus and that such project could have economic benefits for the Belarusian budget.

Liberal and left-wing parties’ reactions to the Shoigu statement were less explicit. United Civil Party member and former Belarus’ Defense Minister Kozlovski praised Lukashenko’s statement on April 26th about the potential supply of Russian fighter jets and S-300 missiles for the Belarusian army as strengthening Belarus’ defense capacities.

In turn, the Liberal Democratic Party leadership urged to have a constructive approach and to hold parliamentary hearings. Representatives of the newly formed Leftist Platform refrained from comment.

Thus, the majority of political actors took advantage of the situation to outline their positions clearly. Regardless of the existence of semi-formal opposition coalitions (‘Trio’, Leftist Platform) there were no joint statements made. The individual character of the statements made by the opposition leaders are the effects of the centrifugal trends in the Belarusian opposition, which have intensified during the parliamentary election campaign in 2012.

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President Lukashenka continues to rotate staff and rejuvenate heads of departments and universities following new appointments in regional administrations. Apparently, new Information Minister Karliukevich could somewhat relax the state policy towards the independent media and introduce technological solutions for retaining control over Belarus’ information space. New rectors could strengthen the trend for soft Belarusization in the regions and tighten the disciplinary and ideological control over the student movement in the capital.

President Lukashenka has appointed new ministers of culture and information, the new rector of the Belarusian State University and heads of three universities, assistants in the Minsk and Vitebsk regions.

The new Information Minister Karliukevich is likely to avoid controversial initiatives similar to those former Minister Ananich was famous for, however, certainly within his capacities. Nevertheless, the appointment of Belarusian-speaking writer Karliukevich could be regarded as the state’s cautious attempt to relax environment in the media field and ensure the sovereignty of national media.

The Belarusian leadership has consolidated the trend for mild Belarusization by appointing a young historian and a ‘reasonable nationalist’, Duk as the rector at the Kuleshov State University in Mogilev. Meanwhile, while choosing the head of the Belarusian State University, the president apparently had in mind the strengthening of the ideological loyalty among the teaching staff and students at the main university in order to keep the youth movement at bay. Previously, Korol was the rector of the Kupala State University in Grodno, where he held purges among the disloyal teaching staff.

The trend for the renewal of mid-ranking executives and their rejuvenation has confirmed. The age of the Culture Minister and three new rectors varies from 39 to 44 years old.

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