Sentences for anarchists
On 27 May a court sentenced 5 youth activists from the anarchist movement to prison terms ranging from 2 to 8 years. In particular, the defendants were accused of buring the building of the Russian Embassy in Minsk in 2010, as well as staging a series of demonstrations in the capital city in 2009.
Actions of the authorities follow their own logic. Sentences for the Belarusian Anarchists were tougher than those handed down to the post-elections protestors because they were not part of the formal opposition.
Thereby the rest of the informal Belarusian youth structures, who theoretically could become politically active (for instance, the “White Legion”, the “White Will” or a community of football fans) received an unambiguous signal on the ban on such activities. The mass detention of participants in the annual cycling event in Minsk, “Critical Mass”, which is usually held with the support of the Road Police of the City Executive Committee, also confirms this trend.
However, one should not assume that the authorities designed a plan of suppression of civil and political activity in the country. It is more likely that the authorities react quasi-instinctively to the actions of citizens, and that harsh actions by the law enforcement and judicial system imply weakness rather than strength of the state.
Last week, Belarusian Foreign Minister Makei participated in the foreign ministers’ meeting of the Eastern Partnership and Visegrad Group initiative hosted by Warsaw. The Belarusian FM emphasized Belarus' interest in cooperation in the transport sector, which could be due to Belarus’ desire to export electricity surplus after Belarus finished construction of the nuclear power plant in Ostrovets. Minsk expressed concerns about Warsaw’s stance on the Belarusian NPP, as it refused to buy electricity from Belarus and supported Vilnius’ protest on this issue. Following accusations by the Belarusian leadership and the state media against western states, including Poland, of training "nationalist militants", Minsk did not agree on the visit of the European Parliament deputies from Lithuania and Germany to Belarus and to the NPP construction site near Ostrovets in particular. In addition, the Belarusian authorities have stepped up efforts to enforce education in Russian in Polish-language schools in Grodno and Vaukavysk. Should a rift in Belarusian-Polish relations persist, the Belarusian authorities are likely to step up the pressure on the Polish-speaking minority in Belarus.