CET releases analysis of the sector of Belarusian human rights organisations. Arseni Sivitsky dissects reasons for Belarus’ heavy rearmament with Russian help. Grigory Ioffe analyzes Svetlana Aleksievich’s public speaking. Economist Irina Tochitskaya: Belarus falls in a slow growth trap. Belarus in Focus: Minsk steps back to international and public pressure over the White Legion case. Natalia Ryabova sums up key trends for Belarusian independent think tanks. Liberal Club presents a study on how to stimulate the development of philanthropy and CSR in Belarus. Economist Dmitri Kruk believes that Belarus is ten years behind without reforms.
Every year on 3 July in Minsk, Belarus traditionally conducts a military parade devoted to the official Independence Day. This year, however, the military parade triggered widespread discussions in the media. Just before the most recent parade, more than 9,000 Belarusians signed a petition against military parades in the capital. However, many Belarusians still view the tradition in a positive light. These massive military parades are inconvenient for citizens and require serious financial expenditures. Instead of putting on a costly show, Belarus could invest the money in the development of its army or infrastructure.
Belarus's neighbours regularly voice their concerns about Minsk's role in a potential Russian invasion of the Baltic states or Ukraine. However, on 15 June, Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenka insisted that although Belarusian and Russian troops were operating in the region 'as one,' they had no aggressive intentions. Just a cursory glance at the Belarusian army raises doubts about its ability to engage in any large offensive operations. To make up for its diminishing national army capacities, the Belarusian government went as far as to bring the emergency ministry's aviation to the 3 July Independence Day parade, along with equipment from the DOSAAF, a paramilitary sport association. In addition, the government invited a large number of Russian military aircraft and helicopters to airshows in Minsk and Mashulishchy, a town nearby.
On 19 June, the Russian information agency Regnum published a widely discussed interview with Sviatlana Alieksijevič, the 2015 Nobel Prize Winner from Belarus. Despite the fact that Alieksijevič forbade Regnum to publish the interview, the news outlet went ahead and released the article. In a conversation with journalist Sergei Gurkin, Alieksijevič touched upon the issues of Russification in Belarus, the war in Ukraine, and the status of the Belarusian and Ukrainian languages. The interview led to widespread discussion of Alieksijevič in Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine.
SYMPA/BIPART invite to an anti-corruption party. ECLAB opens student enrolment for the 2017-2018 academic year. First Social Business Forum takes place in Belarus. Civil Society Parallel Forum is held in Minsk ahead of the 26 annual OSCE PA session. Human rights defender becomes member of the government’s penitentiary system monitoring commission. New gender project helps Belarusian women tell their stories. All defendants in the White Legion case are released. Ministry of Economy agrees with Perspektyva’s proposals. This and more in the new edition of the Belarus civil society digest.
On 20 June, during the 2017 Le Bourget international air show which took place near Paris, France, Belarus signed a contract for a batch of 12 Su-30SM fighters from Russia. The contract supposedly amounts to around $600m. The Su-30SM is a modernised version of the Su-30MKI model of fighter aircraft, which was specially designed for the Russian Air Force and is the most modern in the Su-30 series. Russia also sold six Su-30SMs to the Kazakh Air Force. The fighter is able to use modern high-precision air-to-air and air-to-surface weapons. The Su-30SM can not only hit air and surface targets with its own missile weapons, but also direct fighters and bombers with a smaller target detection range.
Belarus hopes to expand its international presence when it presides over the Central European Initiative and hosts the summer session of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly this summer. In an Independence Day speech on 3 July, Lukashenka alluded to prominent cultural figures and mediaeval Belarusian polities as important elements of Belarusian statehood. This marks a shift from the usual Soviet-inspired nation-building discourse. The government is issuing Eurobonds for $1bn and plans to launch assembling production of Chinese Geely cars in the second half of 2017. This and more in the new edition of Belarus state press digest.
On 20 June, Belarus signed a contract with the Russian Irkut corporation to purchase 12 Su-30SM fighter jets for $600m. This would be the largest ever arms deal between Minsk and Moscow. Earlier in June, Minsk also received its first batch of T-72 tanks, which were modernised in Russia. At first glance, Russia seems to be arming Minsk. This fits with conjectures that the Kremlin is becoming increasingly hawkish and Minsk and Moscow are colluding to put their regional and Western opponents under pressure. However, a more scrupulous analysis of such arms deals, as well as the armaments the Belarusian army possesses, paints a different picture. Moscow refuses to bolster the steadily declining Belarusian military's capacity to conduct offensive operations, including joint large-scale operations with Russia.
On 1 June 2017, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenka announced that the oil refining industry was experiencing substantial problems. Meanwhile, the economy is still showing signs of recovery, growing three months in a row. This will encourage the government to make even better economic projections for next year. However, according to Belstat, Belarus's official statistical body, the real price of this economic miracle continues to come at the cost of simple people – every month, half of all Belarusians bring home less than half the average monthly wage.