Parliamentary campaign coincided with increased repressions
The Belarusian authorities demonstrate to the West that they do not want any interference with the election campaign. Increased repressions against Belarusian journalists working for European media meant to counteract the EU threats to extend sanctions against Belarusian officials and businessmen.
On June 18th, President Lukashenko set the date for elections to the National Assembly. On June 21-22, two journalists working for Belarusian foreign media were arrested: Mr. Poczobut and Mr. Sverdlov.
Announcement of the Parliamentary elections date in Belarus had no impact on the domestic political situation. Pressure on opposition activists and civil society is not released. In fact, the amount of pressure on independent media journalists has increased sharply.
In particular, during last week two journalists, working for foreign media were arrested in Belarus: Andrzey Poczobut and Pavel Sverdlov. As well, security officials have organized a demonstrative surveillance of the European Radio for Belarus offices. Criminal proceeding initiated against Poczobut envisage up to 5 years of imprisonment.
Most likely, with these actions against journalists the Belarusian authorities attempted to respond to a statement by Director for Russia, Eastern Partnership, Central Asia, Regional Co-operation and OSCE, European External Action Service Mr. Wiegand that the EU could expand sanctions against Belarus. On June 18th this information was published in the EUObserver. Prompt and rigid reaction of Minsk indicates that country’s senior management has no double thoughts about resuming a dialogue on the EU conditions.
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.