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.
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.