Do Belarusians Want Merger?
11:20, 17/12/2002, Viktor Agaev, Deutche Welle
Viktor Ivashkevich became the third Belarusian journalist, condemned for slandering the incumbent. Apart from him the authorities also sentenced to freedom restriction the editor-in-chief and the journalist of the shut newspaper “Pagonya” Nikolai Markevich and Pavel Mozheiko.
Over the past year the authorities ruled to shut down four independent newspapers in total, the last one being the weekly “Mestnoye Vremya”, whose editorial board only managed to produce 3 issues. The main reason for the shutdown, claims editor Anatoly Gulaev, was local election, scheduled for March next year. “Mestonye Vremya”, according to its editor, sold especially well in the regions. “The authorities considered dangerous the edition’s rise in popularity,” – asserts Gulaev.
Opposition Can’t Get Through into Electoral Commissions
Meantime, the outcomes of the first stage of the electoral campaign showed that in total less than 10 representatives of all opposition parties were appointed into the commissions’ composition. That fact, says the Chairwoman of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee Tatiana Protko, testifies that the state didn’t draw proper conclusions on the necessity of the elections’ transparency. In this connection, stressed Protko, one could assume that the authorities are readying to falsify the elections’ results again.
The parliamentary and presidential elections were monitored and evaluated by OSCE AMG. Today the group’s activities have been almost halted for there are no officials left in it, as far as the authorities denied them prolongation of entry visas. At the same time official Minsk insists on the revision of the group’s mandate. It is likely that the issue will be raised high on the agenda of the negotiations of Belarus with the Portuguese representatives, which started last week in Vienna. Portugal, as you know, is chairing OSCE at the moment.
UCP head Anatoly Lebedko explains the start of the talks by saying that president Lukashenko bumps into problems both in the West and East and is therefore trying to broaden space for maneuver. Lebedko forecasts that if the AMG returns to Belarus, this will not happen until after the local elections. The key issue for Lukashenko, says he, is the prolongation of his tenure in office. The man himself didn’t rule out a possibility that he may well engage in the ballot for the third time. The country’s Constitution, passed through the referendum, contains a provision, which does not let one person to occupy the country’s supreme post for more than two terms in a row. One can only cancel that provision through a referendum. According to Lebedko, Lukashenko hasn’t yet determined as to when he should launch such a referendum. However, if he will decide to hold it next fall, then they will never allow OSCE presence here before that.
As if confirming the reality of these fears, Lukashenko appointed these days former chief of his security service Oleg Proleskovsky director general of the state telegraph company BelTA. This move came as kind of a response to the letter of the Universal Association of newspaper, which asked the president of Belarus to stop “suppressing critical voices” and enable press to function without state’s interference. No wonder, some politicians and journalists, which fell into state’s disfavor, can only be given floor abroad.
Two Percent Belarusians Ready to Take Up Arms
On Monday the Moscow Institute of the press development hosted round table “Transformation of integration of Russia and Belarus into a dynamic process, objectively targeting concrete results”. The participants – Belarusian opposition politicians and Russian human rights advocates – were involved in debates on integration themes.
Contrary to the stated theme, the majority of the press-conference’s participants exposed to strong criticism the very idea of Belarus and Russia’s unification into a common union state, especially under the present-day scheme.
“Kremlin must realize that all Belarusian political forces, even communists, stand united in opposition to Lukashenko. Lukashenko simply monopolized Russian-Belarusian relations and our main task is to erect new bridges between the Belarusian and Russian societies, avoiding Lukashenko,” – underscored the delegates.
The Problem As Viewed by Belarusian Emigrants
Relations of the Belarusian community in the Czech Republic to the issues of Russian-Belarusian integration is defined by their attitude to the policy and person of Alexander Lukashenko, for he was the main initiator and inspirer of the merger.
According to the Belarusian opposition, the main reason for his pro-Russian orientation is his inability to solve the acute problems of the Belarusian economy through the market reforms.
A significant number of opposition-minded Belarusians categorically object to any integration, for, they claim, Russia will profit from it way more through getting new borders with the West, while Belarus will temporarily improve her economic condition, though lose her political independence. Nonetheless, even the most zealous nationalists don’t call into question the need to cooperate with Russia. All they want is to put it in balance by a similar cooperation with other European neighbors.