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Flirtations with Warsaw, credits from Moscow, and demographic worries – State press digest

In recent weeks, Minsk has flirted with Warsaw and praised Ukraine for moving “in the right direction”. Meanwhile, foreign minister Uladzimir Makei rebuked former NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, while hoping to sign a visa agreement with the European...

In recent weeks, Minsk has flirted with Warsaw and praised Ukraine for moving “in the right direction”. Meanwhile, foreign minister Uladzimir Makei rebuked former NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, while hoping to sign a visa agreement with the European Union. Alexander Lukashenka met Vladimir Putin once again, yet achieved no progress concerning Belarus’s dissatisfaction with Russia’s latest tax manoeuvre.

Belarus requests $600m credit from Russia. Nuclear fuel should arrive at the Astraviets nuclear power station by summer 2019. The scandalous battery plant “IPower” near Brest is ready for exploitation.

Lukashenka bemoans the country’s demographic crisis and a lack of army conscripts. Minsk National Airport introduces Belarus-made barista-robots. All of this and more in the latest edition of State Press Digest.

Politics

Lidziya Jarmoshyna names the election date, reports Belarus Segodnya. Jarmoshyna, the chairperson of the Central Election Commission, expects that the next Belarusian presidential elections will take place no later than 1 December 2020.  However, according to Jarmoshyna, president Lukashenka should announce the precise date himself, quite possibly during his annual constitutional address.

Minsk flirts with Warsaw, according to Belarus Segodnya. On 11-14 February 2019, Michail Miasnikovich, the chairman of the Council of the Republic, visited Poland. Miasnikovich met with Polish president Andrzei Duda, prime minister Mateusz Moraviecki, the chairpersons of Polish Seim and Senat, as well as with a range of other ministers. Both Belarus and Poland have high expectations from this visit and expect to boost inter-state relations afterwards.

Makei declines to comment on Rasmussen’s statement on Russia, reports BELTA. Foreign minister Uladzimir Makei rebuked Rasmussen’s statement on Russia’s intention to annex Belarus in the near future. In particular, he remarked: “How is it possible to comment on some nonsense spoken by ex-officials who lost touch with reality? No comments will follow from our side.”

In addition, Makei failed to provide a substantive comment on the rising cost of Schengen visas for Belarusian citizens from 60 to 80 euros, reports Belarus Segodnya. According to Makei, “When we observe that a certain problem becomes an insurmountable obstacle, the Belarusian side always expresses its willingness to compromise.”

On the contrary, should Belarus eventually sign the visa agreement with the European Union, the cost of Schengen visas for Belarusian citizens will drop to 35 euros.

Meanwhile, one of Belarus’s deputy ministers for foreign affairs praises Ukraine, reports Belnovosti. On 25 February, deputy minister for foreign affairs Andrei Eudachenka visited Ukraine’s Lviv region and expressed interest in increased trade cooperation. According to Eudachenka, Ukraine remains “a brotherly nation and a trusted neighbour,” which moves into the “right direction”.

Lukashenka meets Putin again, yet the meeting brought no clarity about Russia’s tax manoeuvre, states BELTA. On 13 February 2019, Lukashenka attended an informal meeting of the presidents of Iran, Russia and Turkey on the Syrian crisis in Sochi. According to Lukashenka, despite the existence of “serious problems” in Belarus-Russia relations, especially in the field of taxation, the presidents failed to mention those problems during the meeting. As Lukashenka noted, “We will undoubtedly touch upon the tax manoeuvre, yet, aside from the tax manoeuvre, we have a lot of problems to resolve – that’s what we are about now.”

Economics

Belarus asks Russia for $600m credit, according to Soyuznoe Veche. According to Maksim Yermalovich, the head of Belarus’s finance ministry, Belarus has asked for the credit to refinance its debt obligations to Russia.

Source: Soyuznoe Veche

Nuclear fuel will arrive at the Astraviets nuclear power station by summer 2019, reports Belarus Segodnya. As noted by Mikhail Mikhadziuk, the executive from the Ministry of Energy, the infrastructure is ready for the transportation of nuclear fuel. According to Mikhadziuk, the first power unit is 87–88 per cent complete, while the second one – 65–67 per cent.

Lukashenka approves the state investment program for 2019, reports BELTA. Infrastructure appears the key focus and the state plans to reconstruct 26 major sites across Belarus. The list includes: Minsk’s building for surgery, Hrodna University’s dormitories, a bridge across the Pina river, and apartment buildings for families bringing up orphans.

The scandal-hit battery plant “IPower” near Brest has been completed, reports Belarus Segodnya. The total investments into the plant’s building reached $26m, with 138 workplaces created. While the plant’s management expects to launch battery production in March, a significant number of the locals have expressed concerns about the plant’s ecological safety.

Prime Minister Siarhei Rumas sceptical about market mechanisms, says Finansovyi Director. Prime minister Rumas expressed scepticism about the effectiveness of market mechanisms for financial stabilisation. According to Rumas, market mechanisms remain unsuitable for the revival of numerous state enterprises, which still rely on state support.

Society

Lukashenka worries about future demographic problems claims Belarus Segodnya. The President of Belarus expressed serious concerns about the worsening demographic situation in Belarus and its impact on the national economy. Lukashenka promised to take “extraordinary measures” to combat the national demographic crisis and promised to provide additional state support to families with children.

In regards to demography, Lukashenka also touched upon the decrease in army conscripts. The President of Belarus complained about the legal loops allowing young men to skip the army service, reports BELTA. According to Lukashenka, the growing number of young men without basic military training creates a dangerous situation for national security.

Source: Soyuznoe Veche

Lukashenka reprimands the Minister of Education, reports President’s Press Service. On 25 February, the President of Belarus reprimanded Ihar Karpienka, Belarus’s Minister of Education, for failing to provide the necessary security measures in Belarusian schools. Lukashenka reprimanded Karpienka amid the teacher’s murder committed by a pupil from Slonim.

Culture

A secret bunker opens to visitors near Shchychyn, reports Gazeta Slonimskaya. The secret bunker should remind tourists about military resistance during the Cold War. During the Soviet era, the Shchychyn bunker served as a command base for coordinating the air force’s flights. When the Soviet Union dissolved, the Belarusian military failed to use the bunker properly; hence, it later passed to the local authorities for preservation.

Minsk’s National airport introduces Belarus-made barista-robots, reports BELTA. Both Minsk and Kyiv envisage coffee houses equipped with collaborative robots made in Belarus. According to the director of the production company “Rozum Robotics”, the company decided to launch a brand new unusual product and thus conquer CIS markets. In the first instance, Kyiv will be the target market for these innovative robots.

Soyuznoe Veche reports on Belarus and Russia’s celebration of Soviet Army day. Men from both countries engaged themselves in “half-naked” marathons and group games. Marathons in Soviet military attire proved the most popular activities in Minsk and Moscow that day.

The State Press Digest is based on the review of state-controlled publications in Belarus. Freedom of the press in Belarus remains restricted and state media convey primarily the point of view of the Belarusian authorities. This review attempts to give the English-speaking audience a better understanding of how Belarusian state media shape public opinion in the country.

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Olga Hryniuk
Olga Hryniuk
Olga Hryniuk holds degrees from Coventry University and the European Humanities University. She is based in Minsk, Belarus.
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