Sentences to post-election protesters pronounced
On 5 May the October district court in Minsk found guilty four accused of participation in “mass disorder” on 19 December. All were sentenced to 3 to 4 years of imprisonment.
The court handed down tough sentences, as expected. All the accused were found guilty of the participation in “mass disorder” (under Part 2 of Article 294 of the Criminal Code), the charges envisage prison term from 3 to 8 years. Other accused, tried on the same charges earlier, also were sentenced to 3 to 4 years high security prison term. In all these cases, the sentences follow the pattern outlined earlier, i.e. those directly participated in the demonstration are punished the most severely, all of them are active young people of about 30 years old.
Among those recently sentenced to 4 years of prison was the Deputy Head of the Young Front A. Kirkevich, who was not detained during the demonstration on December 19, but much later, on 29 January. Earlier, on 24 March the leader of Malady Front Dashkevich, who was arrested on 18 December before the rally, was sentenced to 2 years of imprisonment under Part 3 of Article 339 of the Criminal Code (particularly malicious hooliganism). It is obvious that with their sentences courts aimed at neutralizing the leaders of the well-known and active youth organization.
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.