Kremlin’s "Dove of Peace": Why Lukashenko supported Russia in the UN

Author : Georgiy Kuhaleyshvili

As long as Belarus benefits from trade and economic cooperation with Russia, its leaders would treat Ukraine in a manner that meets Russia’s interests
14:28, 21 November 2016

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Belarus voted against the UN General Assembly resolution on human rights in Crimea, which is profitable for Ukraine (accepted by votes 73 countries). Resolution on Crimea recognizes Russia as the invader and urges its leadership to ensure access to Crimea to monitor the human rights situation. From Russia should release all illegally detained and sentenced Ukrainian citizens. Moscow should cancel the decision on Mejlis as extremist organization. The Belarusian delegation raised the issue of how to cancel the vote on the document. According to the press secretary of the Foreign Ministry of Belarus Dmitry Myronchyk, his country has traditionally opposed the adoption of UN General Assembly resolutions relating to human rights, without reference to the situation in Crimea.

Related: Belarusian president: Minsk ready to organize local election in Donbas

First Deputy Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine Iryna Gerashchenko position described Belarus as "a stab in the back". Despite the reputation of "peacemaker" in the conflict in Donbas, there are several reasons why Belarus does not support Ukraine's intention to return Crimea.

Second Crimea

The provisions of the UN General Assembly resolution on human rights in Crimea provide grounds to Belarusian opposition and human rights activists promoted through the media to develop proposals similar to the UN international instrument. In Belarus, there is a restriction of democratic rights and freedoms.

Related: Belarus tried to block UN’s consideration of human rights violations in Crimea

As in annexed Crimea, Belarus uses arrest and imprisonment of opposition as political actors. According to the Belarusian human rights center "Viasna", the citizens of Belarus, whose political views odds with the course of Alexander Lukashenko, placing the charges of committing economic crimes. There is a practice of detention of dissidents to psychiatric hospitals fines in the amount of several times the minimum wage. In Belarus, there is still death penalty. By the early 2010's, more than 46 cases against journalists, bloggers, and opposition politicians were initiated. Number of prisoners in detention facilities for 2012-2014 years. Increased by 20%. Prisons for adults in 2015 contained more than 22 thousand people.

Related: Poroshenko and Lukashenko discussed economic and political cooperation between Ukraine and Belarus

There are several high-profile cases that can be used as a basis for the adoption of a similar resolution on Belarus. The founder of the human rights organization "Platform", which specializes in protecting the rights of prisoners, Mykhaylo Zhemchuzhnyy serving a 6-year sentence on charges of bribe police officers in exchange for information that constitutes official secret. There is also a trial of philanthropist Vladimir Kondrus for his part in protests against the rigged presidential elections in 2010. Dissident cut his wrists in protest just in the hall of the court. The court put into a psychiatric hospital pensioner Alexander Lapytskyy. The reason for insanity was a violation of articles on "insulting the president", "insulting a representative of authorities", "insulting the judge" Criminal Code of Belarus. Earlier in the psychiatric hospital was known Belarusian blogger Eduard Palchys under the pretext of spreading racial intolerance and ethnic hatred and pornography in Belarus. Even domestic criticism of the governing regime in Belarus is punishable with the letter of the law.

Related: Would Belarus parliament emerge from the shadow?

The situation with political pluralism in Belarus is not better. Since 1999, the number of registered political parties decreased from 43 to 15. The House of Representatives of the Parliament of Belarus (110 seats) is dominated by independents MPs and political forces that support the political course of the current president, including the Communist Party, "Republican Party of Labor and Justice", "Belarusian Patriotic party. " "Liberal Democratic Party", which follows the constructive opposition, and the "United Civil Party," which does not support the policy of the president, with one deputy and did not affect the decision-making. Other opposition parties are behind the Belarusian political Olympus.

Related: Belarus elections: opposition in parliament

Minsk fears that the UN General Assembly resolution on human rights in Crimea will create a pretext to intensify attention to the situation of democratic rights and freedoms in Belarus. Alexander Lukashenko is not interested in restoring the EU sanctions, which operated from 1998 on certain Belarusian companies and individuals in connection with violations of human rights and democratic procedures. In February, the EU eased sanctions, while maintaining the arms embargo to Belarus and visa sanctions against individuals.

Russian factor

Minsk did not support UN General Assembly resolution on human rights in Crimea in order not to aggravate relations with Moscow. Belarus does not seek to express disagreement with the foreign policy of the Kremlin. Russia is the main partner of Belarus in trade-economic sphere. About 40% of the export of products supplied to Russia. For comparison, the share of EU exports of Belarus is 24%, and Ukraine - about 10-12%. Belarus is dependent on natural gas supplies from Russia. "Gazprom" fully covers the energy security of the country. In 2015, Russia supplied to Belarus over 20 bn. cu. m of gas.

Related: Poroshenko discusses economic cooperation with Belarus Foreign Minister

Significant economic dependence of Belarus on the Russian market could be used by Russia as a factor of political blackmail. If Belarus supported the UN resolution on Crimea, Russia could go to the appropriate restrictive measures, including manipulating the price of gas. During the 2000s, Moscow traded with Belarus on the terms of natural gas supplies to persuade Minsk to join the pro-integration associations, including the Union State and the Customs Union. There have been periodic ban on the supply of meat and milk and other products from Belarus to the Russian market.

Donbas scenario

No wonder why after refusing to support the resolution on Crimea Belarus took the "own" peace initiative to resolve the conflict in Donbas. Alexander Lukashenko has offered Belarus' participation in the organization of local elections in the occupied territories and take control of the 400 km of Ukrainian-Russian border to "restore order".

Related: The Moscow Times: Ukraine, Belarus and Russia Mourn Slain Journalist Pavel Sheremet

This scenario is beneficial for Russia out of the conflict in Donbas. Thus, Russia will fulfill Minsk agreements and simultaneously keep the occupied territories of Donbas in their own sphere of influence. Belarus together with Russia is a party to the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). It is a military-political bloc, aimed at deterring NATO security guarantees and political regimes, pleasing Russia, on the territory of the Member States. Place of Russian terrorist troops on Ukrainian-Russian border will take militias military and political ally in Belarus. The elections in uncontrolled Ukraine’s eastern territories, monitored by Minsk, would be won by the pleased for Russia separatists, who would advocate for the preservation of unrecognized formations "LPR" and "DPR" and support the idea of integrating Ukraine into the Customs Union, whose members are Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan. Russia and Kazakhstan have also voted against a UN General Assembly resolution on human rights in Crimea.

Related: Ukraine and Belarus to cooperate in customs sphere

Related: Ukraine to inititate an alliance with Armenia, Azerbaijan and Belarus

As long as Belarus is beneficial to trade and economic cooperation with Russia and its leadership will take steps in relations with Ukraine that meet the interests of Russia. Ukraine does not make sense to take peace initiatives of Belarus, with which Russia intends to legalize the annexation of the Crimea and Donbas save in his own sphere of influence.

Related: KGB is listening: Amnesty International tells about surveillance in Belarus

Related: The National Interest: Poland’s Nightmare: Russia Deploys More Lethal S-300 Batteries to Belarus

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