Russia and the Travel Ban, EU Ambassadors Return, Political Prisoners - Politics and Civil Society Digest
While Moscow has confirmed that those on the Belarus authorities' exit ban list will be unable to leave Russia either, official Minsk started to show willingness to release prisoners. It was also hinted that Belarusian Ambassadors to Brussels and Warsaw may return soon. Just in advance of this, Russia announced that it will be lowering the flow of cured oil to Druzhba pipeline and ship more crude to Europe via the BTS 2 terminal at Saint Petersburg. Belarus and Russia continue their “airline” conflict as well.
Belarusian civil society organisations peak this week with civic education events. Topics vary from leadership through assistance to HIV vulnerable groups to registration and security issues for civil society organisations.
Russia will support the Belarusian government in barring citizens from leaving Belarus. Russian Border Services Chief Vladimir Pronichev has announced that Belarusian citizens barred from leaving the country will not be allowed to use Russian territory for travelling to other countries. According to Pronichev, any Belarusian citizen, who is not allowed to leave his country will be stopped both by Belarusian and Russian border guards on the countries' borders.
EU ambassadors returning to Belarus? On March 30, the Brussels-based online newspaper EUobserver reported that EU ambassadors are to return en bloc to Belarus shortly after the Easter break, “unless President Alexander Lukashenka does something drastic in the meantime”.
Minsk started to show willingness of release prisoners. In the near future the decision to pardon opposition prisoners, convicted of the events on December 19, 2010, can be made, said President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenka at the government session held on 5 April to discuss foreign policy matters. At the meeting Lukashenka also noted Belarus did not expel the EU ambassadors, but will consider their return on a name-tol-name basis.
The most likely reason is the Russia beginning to apply pressure. The old days of making hard currency of refined crude seem to be over, so the real fight between Russia and Belarus may kick off soon. “Airline wars” are already a conflict in full swing.
Why Vital Rymasheuski was not detained is the most debated issue of the reported week. Narodnaya Volya "revealed" that in the same compartment, where Sergei Kalyakin, Anatoly Lebedko and Alexander Atroshchankau were detained, Vital Rymasheuski, who was with them, got to Moscow and then to Brussels. At the same time Rymasheuski claims that the authorities allow to travel abroad only to their lobbyists.
Kavalenka is forcibly fed in prison clinic. Jailed Belarusian opposition activist Syarhey Kavalenka, whose health has deteriorated due to a lengthy hunger strike, reportedly is being forcibly fed in a prison psychiatric clinic in the eastern city of Vitsebsk. Prison officials told Kavalenka's relatives on April 2 that Kavalenka’s state of health is “close to grave” and a decision was made to feed him forcibly with a milk formula using a feeding tube. Belarusian Helsinki Committee asked the procurator's office to inspect conditions of Kavalenka's keeping in hospital.
Lebedko Reelected Leader of United Civil Party. Anatoly Lebedko was reelected as chairperson of the United Civil Party (UCP) in a secret ballot at the party’s convention held in Minsk on March 31. At the suggestion of Lebedko, participants elected Lew Marholin, Lyudmila Petsina and Antanina Kavalyova to be deputy chairpersons of the UCP.
Workshop for culture CSOs. On April 6, the Office of European Expertise and Communications (OEEC, Minsk), in collaboration with the Office for Democratic Belarus (Brussels) and EuroBelarus (Vilnius) conducted a workshop for representatives of the Belarusian CSOs working in cultural area. The participants received information on opportunities for cooperation with European partners and organisations and learned about various thematic European programs. The meeting took place in the Gallery Ў in Minsk. According to the OEEC newsletter.
Presentation of the Marketplace. On April 09, at 3 pm the Minsk International Educational Center IBB hosts a presentation of the Capacity Building Marketplace ORGCONSULTING.BY. Marketplace is a joint project of a number of key Belarusian CSOs and is developed as a platform for providing consulting services to CSOs on the basis of market mechanisms. The presentation is conducted for consultants and experts in the field of organizational development and aimed at engaging them to work on the Marketplace platform.
Face Gallery of the campaign "Budzma!" Website budzma.org presents a new section "Faces" where it is possible to meet with prominent personalities of the campaign "Budzma Belarusians!" who push it forward and actively promote Belarusian culture. The circle of participants of the project is very broad: businessmen, public figures, advertisers, historians, and managers.
Award named Lev Sapieha. On April 4, at Warsaw University analyst Ales Lahvinets was awarded with the Lev Sapieha prize, which is given for outstanding contribution to the development of civil society and building of an independent and democratic Belarus. During the year Lahvinets will have the possibility to conduct lectures in five Polish universities, that are the founders of the award.
Young Front addresses MPs concerning death penalty moratorium. Civil organisation "Young Front", registered in the Czech Republic, addressed all members of the Chamber of Representatives of the National Assembly of Belarus with the demand to initiate a vote on introducing a death penalty moratorium in Belarus.
The first Bible in the modern Belarusian language. In January 2012, the Bible Society of Belarus issued the first Bible in the modern Belarusian language. Work on the book lasted for 10 years.
School of nurses in Gomel. Gomel NGO "Social Projects" will prepare 30 qualified nurses out of active senior citizens and students to care for people in need. The project is implemented under the program "The Meeting Place is Dialogue" with the support of the German Foundation "Memory, Responsibility and Future".
Training on security issues. The Assembly of Pro-Democratic NGOs (Lithuania) is recruiting for an in-depth training on the security of social activism. Participants will learn about approaches and special software that help to work more safely and effectively in unfavourable conditions. Dates of workshops: April-May 2012. The venue will be shared with only to selected participants. According to belngo.info newsletter.
Workshop on CSOs registration. On April 16, in the Minsk Legal Transformation Center and the Assembly of Pro-Democratic NGOs will organize a workshop entitled "Creating and registering non-profit organizations." The trainers are experienced lawyers in the Belarusian non-profit law, Olga Smolyanka and Yuri Chausov. The workshop invites participation from representatives with initiative that are going to start registration of a nonprofit organization. According to the newsletter of Legal Transformation Center.
Educational course on work with HIV vulnerable groups. NGO "ACT" and Youth Education Center "Fialta" launched a long-term training course for specialists in the field of HIV on work with hard to reach and vulnerable groups (sex partners of injection drug users, clients of sex business workers and their regular sex partners, etc). The course is held with support from a grant from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
Belarus Digest prepared this overview on the basis of materials provided by Pact. This digest attempts to give a richer picture of the recent political and civil society events in Belarus. It often goes beyond the hot stories already available in English-language media.