Political prisoner Statkevich has become common denominator in ’Coalition for Non-recognition’
Supporters of the “Coalition for Non-recognition” have finally joined hands around the initiative group for nominating political prisoner and former presidential candidate Mikalai Statkevich as presidential candidate in the upcoming elections. United Civil Party leader Anatoly Lyabedzka is likely to gain most benefits from the coalition in the presidential race. Meanwhile, unlike the “People’s Referendum” campaign, this coalition is not sustainable and has no long-term cooperation plans.
Political prisoner Statkevich’s campaigning headquarters, who is currently in custody, will be headed by former political prisoner Mikalai Autukhovich.
Originally, Syarhei Skrabets, Statkevich’s counterpart from the Belarusian Social-Democratic Party (Narodnaya Hramada) was thought to head the initiative group to nominate Statkevich as a presidential candidate. However, later it has been decided that his wife Marina Adamovich will lead the nomination group.
This initiative group has united practically all opposition movements, which advocate for changes in the election practices as a condition for their participation in the presidential race, including the United Civil Party, Belarusian Christian Democracy and some other opposition initiatives.
United Civil Party leader Anatol Lyabedzka is likely to use the potential of the “Coalition for Non-recognition” as Statkevich’s backup and may run his own campaign aiming to attract attention to the problem of political prisoners in Belarus. At least, that is what he said about half a year ago. So far, Lyabedzka, who has already announced his presidential ambitions, has somewhat disassociated himself from the Statkevich’s initiative group, where his interests are represented by his deputy.
Meanwhile, according to the law, Statkevich cannot be registered as a candidate due to a conviction. His supporters rather aim to register Statkevich’s initiative group in order to hold a public campaign to draw people’s attention to the problem of political prisoners in the country.
Statkevich’s supporters do not have illusions that their campaign might lead to the release of political prisoners, they aim, however, to collect circa 150,000 signatures in his support.
Meanwhile, the Central Electoral Commission said that registration of Statkevich’s initiative group was impossible. In particular, CEC secretary Nikolai Lozovik said, “I can unequivocally say that it will not be registered so as Statkevich cannot become a candidate for presidency”. That is where Anatoly Lyabedzka may step in as Statkevich’s backup.
It is worth noting that creation of Statkevich’s initiative group would significantly cut the odds of Anatoly Lyabedzka to run for the presidency. In addition, Statkevich has agreed with the creation of the initiative group only if that leads to an elections boycott in the case of ‘guaranteed failure of registration’. It is quite possible that Lyabedzka has joined the coalition in order to be able to get out of the election campaign and become a de facto leader of the coalition until the end of the race, not as a candidate. This would save him from collecting signatures while keeping him in the focus of attention.
The Belarusian authorities may use tough measures against opposition parties, which will try to act outside the outlined frameworks in the election campaign. During previous elections, all political activity attempting to raise awareness of the political prisoners issue has been suppressed. Simultaneously, in May 2015 the authorities tightened conditions of Statkevich detention and transferred him to a stricter prison until the end of his term (about a year and seven months).
Over the past year, military-political relations between Minsk and Kyiv have become complicated. Due to their high inertia and peculiarities, this downward trend would be extremely difficult to overcome.
The root cause of the crisis is the absence of a common political agenda in the Belarusian-Ukrainian relations. Minsk is looking for a market for Belarusian exports in Ukraine and offers its services as a negotiation platform for the settlement of the Russo-Ukrainian war, thereby hoping to avoid political issues in the dialogue with Kiev. Meanwhile, Ukraine is hoping for political support from Minsk in the confrontation with Moscow. In addition, Ukraine’s integration with NATO presupposes her common position with the Alliance in relation to Belarus. The NATO leadership regards the Belarusian Armed Forces as an integral part of the Russian military machine in the western strategic front (the Baltic states and Poland). In addition, the ongoing military reform in Ukraine envisages a reduction in the number of generals and the domestic political struggle makes some Ukrainian top military leaders targets in politically motivated attacks.
Hence, the criticism of Belarus coming from Ukrainian military leadership is dictated primarily by internal and external political considerations, as well as by the need to protect the interests of generals, and only then by facts.
For instance, initially, the Ukrainian military leadership made statements about 100,000 Russian servicemen allegedly taking part in the Russo-Belarusian military drill West-2017. Then the exercises were labelled quazi-open and military observers from Ukraine refused to provide their assessment, which caused a negative reaction in Minsk. Further, without citing specific facts, it was stated that Russia was building up its military presence in Belarus.
Apparently, the Belarusian and Ukrainian Defence Ministries have entangled in a confrontational spiral (on the level of rhetoric). Moreover, only a small part of the overly hidden process has been disclosed. That said, third states are very likely to take advantage of the situation (or have already done so). This is not only about Russia.
The Belarusian Defence Ministry officials are restrained in assessing their Ukrainian counterparts. However, such a restraint is not enough. Current military-political relations between Belarus and Ukraine are unlikely to stabilise without the intervention of both presidents.