Political prisoner Statkevich is still a player in political field
On February 5th, website of Statkevich (he is a former presidential candidate and political prisoner) published his 2nd letter from prison. Statkevich again proposed to analyze the 2010 presidential campaign and its consequences. In particular, he wrote that one of the candidates had filed 3 denunciations against him.
On the one hand, revision of the 2010 presidential campaign events will further reduce mutual trust within the Belarusian opposition and the possibility for coalitions’ expansion. On the other hand, lustration is unavoidable because the opposition movements are not growing and they have abounded mutual claims.
Public debate, following publication of Statkevich’s letters, demonstrates, that all those involved acknowledge extensive “shady side” in the preparation for the 2010 presidential campaign. While participants of the debate (Neklyaev, Rymashevsky, Statkevich’s proxy Martselev) willingly refer to these shady agreements, they do not disclose details, as this could allegedly damage the political prisoners remaining in prison.
It is important to emphasize that prison censors allowed the letters in question out of the prison. The authorities are interested in fights among the opposition therefore do not seize these discussions. Moreover, the authorities are interested in that the participants in the debate keep the distance, because Statkevich’s release is likely to settle all the issues he raises.
In particular, in his first letter Statkevich asks ex-candidate Nyaklyaeu why the agreement about a meeting in a neutral territory on Decembef 19th, 2010 had been broken. As a consequence, Statkevich had to go to “Tell the Truth!” movement offices and later was attacked by unknown persons along with Nyaklyaeu hours before the meeting in the Minsk center. In his second letter Statkevich says that the most ‘Christian’ candidate (probably Vitaly Rymashevsky) thrice denounced him, which he learned from the case files. Rymashevsky publicly refuted these allegations.
Thus, the authorities are interested in the opposition leaders back-firing at each other. A year ago, in the run-up to parliamentary elections, opposition leaders also spar with each other amid accusations of lobbying the regime interests when raising the issue of lifting of economic sanctions. As a result, a broad electoral coalition was not created and the opposition carried out several disparate campaigns. In the meanwhile, the release of Statkevich depends on other political factors, for example, on guarantees for a new credit programme with the IMF.
President Lukashenka has met with the head of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov, who visited Minsk and the Minsk Automobile Plant. Minsk has always sought to have independent links with Russian regional elites, partially, to compensate for the Kremlin's diminishing interest in Belarus. In recent years, Belarus’ contacts with the Russian regions have been extremely intense. However, with some leaders of Russian regions, primarily heads of large republics, communication was more difficult to build. As many analysts in Minsk suggested, Minsk could regard contacts between President Lukashenka and the head of Chechnya as an additional communication channel for relieving tension in relations with the Kremlin. However, most likely, a trusting relationship with Kadyrov is a value for Minsk as such, provided Kadyrov’s broad business and political interests, and a high degree of autonomy for the Chechen leader from the Kremlin.