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.
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.