Trials of Sannikov and Bondarenko
On 26-27 April trials of a former presidential candidate Alexander Sannikov and his proxy Dmitry Bondarenko opened. The latter was sentenced to 2 years of minimum security prison term.
As we have anticipated, 19 December aftermath trials follow the line of softening of the charges. The first penalties to active participants of the demonstration in Minsk were the most severe (up to 4 years of imprisonment), while the charges against many other senior organizers of the protests were changed in the course of the investigation to the Article 342 of the Criminal Code. D. Bondarenko was sentenced to a 2-year prison term under the Article 342 which envisages imprisonment up to 3 years.
Charges against Sannikov Statkevich and Uss remained unchanged, i.e. Article 293 of the Criminal Code (mass rioting), which implies imprisonment up to 15 years. The Belarusian Ministry of Internal Affairs previously issued a statement, that investigators had sufficient evidence proving the involvement of these politicians in the organization of rioting, therefore one should expect the most severe punishment in their regard. The trail of Andrey Sannikov is expected to resume on 4 May.
President Lukashenka continues to rotate staff and rejuvenate heads of departments and universities following new appointments in regional administrations. Apparently, new Information Minister Karliukevich could somewhat relax the state policy towards the independent media and introduce technological solutions for retaining control over Belarus’ information space. New rectors could strengthen the trend for soft Belarusization in the regions and tighten the disciplinary and ideological control over the student movement in the capital.
President Lukashenka has appointed new ministers of culture and information, the new rector of the Belarusian State University and heads of three universities, assistants in the Minsk and Vitebsk regions.
The new Information Minister Karliukevich is likely to avoid controversial initiatives similar to those former Minister Ananich was famous for, however, certainly within his capacities. Nevertheless, the appointment of Belarusian-speaking writer Karliukevich could be regarded as the state’s cautious attempt to relax environment in the media field and ensure the sovereignty of national media.
The Belarusian leadership has consolidated the trend for mild Belarusization by appointing a young historian and a ‘reasonable nationalist’, Duk as the rector at the Kuleshov State University in Mogilev. Meanwhile, while choosing the head of the Belarusian State University, the president apparently had in mind the strengthening of the ideological loyalty among the teaching staff and students at the main university in order to keep the youth movement at bay. Previously, Korol was the rector of the Kupala State University in Grodno, where he held purges among the disloyal teaching staff.
The trend for the renewal of mid-ranking executives and their rejuvenation has confirmed. The age of the Culture Minister and three new rectors varies from 39 to 44 years old.