Sentences to Nyaklyaeu and Rymasheusky
On 20 May two former Presidential candidates Nyaklyaeu and Rymasheusky were sentenced along with other members of their campaigns. Nyaklyaeu was sentenced to 2 years of imprisonment suspended for 2 years and 5 other defendants were given conditional sentences ranging from 1 to 2 years.
With these sentences the Belarusian authorities have actually declined earlier charges of “mass disorder” against U. Nyaklyaeu and his colleagues announced immediately after 19 December. Lenient sentences for the "Nyaklyaeu group" could be regarded as a sign of willingness to cooperate. The movement "Tell the Truth!" was initially presented by the Belarusian propaganda as the main revolutionary force, led by Polish and German think tanks.
Obviously, the EU, USA and Russia, who previously strongly negatively reacted to the harsh sentence to the ex-candidate A. Sannikov on 14 May, could not make positive assessment of such move. In anticipation of the EU sanctions following a meeting of the Council of Ministers of the EU on 23 May Belarus postponed the announcement of the verdict in a trial against the ex-candidates N. Statkevich and D. Uss scheduled for 20 May, allegedly in connection with the illness of a judge. Both were charged under Part 1 of Article 293 (organization of mass disorder), envisaging imprisonment for up to 15 years. It can be safely assumed that the sentences will depend on the decision of the EU Council.
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.