Who is Happy in Belarus, State and Independent TV Compared – Digest of Belarusian Analytics
Who is happy in Belarus? BISS analyzes official government and UNICEF statistics and finds out who is happy in Belarus. Mediakritika.by monitors the media situation in Belarusian state TV media, but also Warsaw-based Belsat.
Sergey Drozdovskii, Coordinator of the Office for the Rights of People with Disabilities, explains why the Belarusian authorities hold back from signing the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Liberal Club presents a policy brief on the results of the recent sociological surveys regarding attitudes towards the public administration.
Numbers: Who is Happy in Belarus? – Elena Artyomenko, BISS, analyzes the report on women and children, developed jointly by the Ministry of Statistics and UNICEF. In particular, data on subjective well-being and the happiness of young people allows them to derive a formula of a happy Belarusian – to be happy, you have to be a young unmarried girl from a wealthy family from Minsk with a basic education. To feel satisfied with life, you need to be born in Brest in a well off family, do not receive secondary education and have experience with being married.
Censorship and Violation of Journalistic Standards on All Channels– The project mediakritika.by released its regular monitoring of news on state-run TV channels ONT and "Belarus 1" as well as the Warsaw-based "Belsat". The monitoring data for September shows that all three channels were characterized by violations of professional standards such as a balance of opinion, completeness of coverage, separating facts from opinions, reliability and timeliness. State TV did not mention the opposition at all and almost half of their air time was filled with positive stories about the president and government bodies.
Seviarynets on his Release, Spiritual Revolution and Isolation of Opposition from the People – The deep isolation of the opposition from the electorate cannot be compensated by a few and not too ambitious actions. The opposition will gain popularity only when its leaders show by personal example how to live without lies and live according to a moral code. These and other issues are raised in the studio TUT.BY-TV by former political prisoner, Pavel Seviarynets.
BISS Political Mediabarometer (April-June 2013) – The Belarusian Institute for Strategic Studies (BISS) presents the fifth edition of its quarterly report covering April-June 2013. The report summarizes the half-year and contains information about the communication of political forces and its reflection in the media. In particular, among the positive trends experts point to the increased attention on the part of the media to the political forces with a higher level of offline activity and a greater proactive communications.
What do Belarusians think about the National System of Public Administration?– Vasily Korf, Liberal Club, has prepared a policy brief on the results of the recent sociological surveys. The expert uncovered that the data of both government (Information-Analytical Centre at the Presidential Administration) and independent (Independent Institute of Socio-Economic and Political Studies, IISEPS) centres indicate that not only tops officials, but also the ordinary Belarusians worry about the low efficiency of public administration in the country – "the majority of society does not feel its unity with the state, but rather opposes to it."
In Europe the Death Penalty was Abolished in Defiance of Public Opinion, Belarus has its Own Way (video) – In the studio of TUT.by-TV, an attitude of the Belarusians to capital punishment was discussed by Nikolai Samoseiko, MP, Grigory Vasilevich, a former attorney general, Valentin Stefanovich, a human rights activist of the campaign "Human rights defenders against the death penalty", and Oleg Gajdukevich, deputy chairperson of the Liberal Democratic Party.
Vytis Jurkonis: Lukashenka is a project of the Kremlin – The Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius will remind the official Minsk about obligations as the EU repeats from 19 December, 2010. The European Union has no illusions regarding Lukashenka. The current regime does not have a European perspective, as Lukashenka is a project of the Kremlin. These theses are articulated by a lecturer of the Institute of International Relations and Political Science of Vilnius University, Vytis Jurkonis during his interview about the current relationship between Belarus and Lithuania, between Minsk and the EU.
Andrei Yegorov: Civil Society in Belarus has a Low Temperature of Development – Despite its visible activity, Belarusian civil society is developing slowly. These are the results of a project that monitored civil society in Belarus, held by the Centre for European Transformation over the past two years. The project tracked the development of CSOs working in the field of democratic change, advocacy campaigns, protection of human rights, and an organisational development component as well. The presentation of the recent results of the monitoring was held on 8 October in Minsk.
Why Belarus does not Sign the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities? – The intention to join the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is discussed since 2009. But up until now, Belarus remains the only one in Europe that has not signed the document. Sergey Drozdovskii, Coordinator of the Office for the Rights of People with Disabilities, explains that the Convention imposes a serious commitment on the country, and it is alarming for authorities, because additional legislative regulatory changes and financial investments will be necessary.
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.
Opening a Russian Fighter Planes Base in Belarus Seems Unlikely
When seeing Lukashenka in Minsk on 23 April, the Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoygu said that a Russian air regiment and an airbase will have been created Belarusian territory by 2015. Shoygu said that the first military planes would come to Belarus already this year. His statement did not provoke a negative response from Lukashenka at that meeting.
However, on 26 April Lukashenka said in an interview: “You know my character and you realize that such thing will never happen. I am not a president who would give his to somebody else, let alone the highest thing – the sovereignty… As the Chief Commander, I lack two dozen modern airplanes. We buy Russian Su-27s, MiG-29s or some more modern planes to ensure inviolability of our state borders.”
Further, the Chief Commander of the Russian Air Force, General Victor Bondarev, said that an airdrome near the city of Lida (Hrodna region) had been set aside for accommodating the regiment of Russian fighter planes.
The fact that the statements by Russian military officials occurred after the above mentioned claims by Lukashenka causes a sense of vagueness with this issue. Several experts suppose that Lukashenka will have to agree to the insistent offer from Moscow for two reasons:
First, the stock of Belarusian fighter planes consists of mainly Su-24 whose service life has expired and which must be written off. Fighter planes are needed for a properly functioning and reliable air defence system.
Second, Russia exerts pressure on Belarus and reduces its oil supplies. The Belarusian side will have to agree to deploy Russian fighter planes also because it needs Russian oil.
Deployment of a full-fledged Russian fighter air base is unlikely for the reasons discussed below.
If Belarus agrees that Russian fighter planes can he deployed to its territory, the negotiating capacity of Belarus regarding subsidies from Russia will get weaker. Russia will be less dependent on Belarus regarding air defence support in particular, and regarding military safety in general.
This is why Lukashenka said that the initiative of Shoygu was an encroachment on the sovereignty of Belarus.
Lukashenka has several times said that deploying a US anti-missile defence system and developing NATO's military infrastructure in the territory of Eastern members of the Alliance was aimed against Russia. It is in the interest of Russia in the first place that Belarus has a reliable air defence system.
Currently, Russia is not interested in being in conflict with Belarus. At large, several steps by Lukashenka's team (the release of the Uralkali CEO, end of the anti-Russian informational campaign – especially when the goals have been attained) can be enough to secure a sufficient quantity of Russian oil.
Despite the reduction of oil deliveries, Belarusian officials are pretty optimistic in their assessment of their porspects for cooperation with Russia in the sphere of oil refining. One should take note of the respective statements of the First Vice Premier Vladimir Siamashka. He says that by the end of the year Belarus will have received 23 million tonnes of oil.
On 11 October Lukashenka said that he had asked Putin to leave Belarus the revenue from oil products exports, part of which usually is transferred to the Russian budget. The sum is around four billion US dollars.
It is unlikely that the Kremlin will decide in favour of this request. Russia has budgeted for revenues of 118.5 billion Russian rubles to come out of Belarus as an export tax for oil and petroleum products; the forecast for the same category revenue in 2014 is 112.9 billion Russian rubles.
The initiative of Lukashenka indicates that official Minsk is optimistic about its chances to get a portion of the Russian oil pie, and at least as large of one as earlier.
Lukashenka has plenty of domestic policy reasons not to agree to Russian military presence.
The fact that Lukashenka has been in power in Belarus since 1994 accounts for the fact, above all, that in authoritarian Belarus, like in other countries, authorities take into account public opinion, as well as the data of independent sociologists. According to an opinion poll, conducted by NISEPI in June 2013, less than 20 per cent of the respondents had a positive attitude towards the statement of the Russian Air Defence Minister Shoygu to deploy Russian air base in Belarus; 35.6 per cent said they were indifferent and 36 per cent were negative about it.
The idea to turn Belarus into a frontline of the Russian defence is unpopular with Belarusian society. Lukashenka can hold large-scale shows with the participation of the Russian military. However, he must bear in mind what people think about real military cooperation with Russia.
Perhaps, another factor is less significant here. Lukashenka is unpopular with the Belarusian army officer corps. Belarusian army officers often say that Lukashenka’s notion of the military sphere is dilettantish, and his concepts of military actions are at the level of the mid-20th century.
A monthly salary of a Belarusian lieutenant colonel is equivalent to $650, whereas the salary of their Russian counterparts is RUR 64,000 (around $1,900). Lukashenka, therefore, has many reasons to be against frequent contacts between Belarusian and Russian military servicemen.
Unlike in Russia, Belarus saves money on its army. Armed forces use ammunition from stores that were collected back in Soviet times. Lukashenka is not going to fight with anyone. He is concerned by domestic threats, and not by those outside the country.
The financing priority goes to security, defence and law enforcement agencies aimed for affairs at home – the KGB and the Ministry of the Interior. After the presidential elections in 2010, Lukashenka’s praetorians got more convenient armour and shields with built-in electric shockers.