Friends in China and Iran - Belarus in Western Press Digest
As the global economy teeters on the brink of breakdown, Belarus’ own financial woes still get a mention in Western financial news. In political terms, suspected links between Belarusian business and the Iranian nuclear programme, as well as the beginning of the Minsk bomb attack trial, have gained some attention over the last month.
Nuclear Allies in Iran. Reuters reported on allegations that Belarus is helping Iran to skirt the UN sanctions against it expanding its nuclear programme. The exclusive report states that Western diplomats have intimated that Belarus is working as middlemen to enable Iran to purchase Russian technology to develop their nuclear capacity. One specific Belarusian businessman is implicated. If the allegations are true, Belarus would join China, North Korea, Russia and the UAE among others in illegally supporting Iranian nuclear missile procurement and manufacture.
Economic crisis endures, and Belarus has gained a fair amount of Western business press coverage for its troubles. The renewed devaluation of the rouble, Belarus’ world-record-setting borrowing, as well as the cosying up of Belarus and China followed the Chinese bail-out are all stories.
Financial advice from next door. On 19 September, Bloomberg reported on a recommendation from Moscow-based former IMF economist Ivan Tchakarov that Belarus raise interest rates yet further to address its balance of payments crisis. Tchakarov also told the agency that the Chinese loan, announced early in the month, is only a short-term solution, reiterating the consensus view that structural economic change is needed. The Belarusian national bank offered Bloomberg journalists no comment on the suggestion. A brief piece in The Scotsman claims that the opposition and nationalist movements in Belarus have been emboldened by the economic crisis.
Russian buy-up? The Independent ran a long feature on leading Russian fertilizer company Uralkali, which hopes to soon begin trading on the UK stock exchange. Purchase of the Belarusian potash giant Belaruskali is one of the company’s “highest priorities” as it looks ahead. However, Uralkali chief executive acknowledges that the Belarusian government is unlikely to sell the state-owned company in the near-future.
Bomb trial. There has been very scant coverage of the trial of the alleged perpetrators of the Minsk metro bombing. The few articles from Reuters, the BBC and Euronews focus on Vladislav Kovalyov’s request to withdraw evidence which he claims he gave under pressure. The fact that both suspects could face the death penalty if convicted is also highlighted.
Belarus outperforms the UK. And finally, Belarus might be irked when it sees itself in this British tabloid story. The Daily Mirror sought to highlight the poor performance of the UK on a recent child healthcare index with the shock-headline that Belarus was ranked nine places better.