West-2017 Russo-Belarussian military drill causes controversy in Belarusian society
The Russo-Belarusian military drill and its scenario, which envisaged a separatist area in Belarus have prompted a heated discussion in civil society about national unity. The Belarusian leadership has failed in imposing its vision on the development of Belarusian society and lost the monopoly in the media sphere, while alternative political projects have gained in popularity. The fact that the Belarusian authorities keep alternative political views exclusively outside the political system, has increased the risks of external influences or interference in domestic political processes with possible destabilisation.
The Belarusian Defence Ministry has condemned Russophobia and "pseudo-imperial ambitions" of radicals from Russia.
Politically engaged part of Belarusian society has expressed concerns about the scenario of the West-2017 military drill, which envisaged a separatist area in the north-west of Belarus with ethno-confessional diversity and protest potential. Separatist moods and the separation of hypothetical "Weishnoria" from Belarus, presented in a humorous form on the Internet, point to a serious latent split in the power/opposition (in a broad sense), and lower the threshold of perception and fears of possible conflicts in Belarusian society.
That said, Belarusian publicists with a pro-Kremlin stance have attempted to shift the focus of public discussion from foreign (Russian) troops presence in Belarus to the domestic ideological split in Belarusian society.
Political emigration has attempted to step up its role in determining the domestic agenda, regain its influence in Western capitals and international organisations (NATO, the UN Security Council, etc) and draw additional attention to the joint Russo-Belarusian exercise. The diaspora actions have been at odds with the Foreign Ministry’s attempts to form a new peacekeeping image for Minsk to disassociate it from the Kremlin's aggressive foreign policy.
Overall, the Belarusian authorities seem to have lost the lead in the information support of the West-2017 Belarusian-Russian military exercise, which has enhanced tension in Belarusian society.
During searches of social and "green" activists and anarchists, law enforcement has seized computers, mobile phones and publications. The authorities have also exerted additional pressure on supporters of unauthorized street protests and independent lawyers, who represented defendants in the White Legion case. The security services have stepped up the persecution of opponents before the street protests announced by the opposition. Apparently, the Belarusian authorities aspire that participants in street protests would reduce in number and that the low interest of the population to socio-political agenda before the local election campaign would retain.