Political prisoner Statkevich is still a player in political field
On February 5th, website of Statkevich (he is a former presidential candidate and political prisoner) published his 2nd letter from prison. Statkevich again proposed to analyze the 2010 presidential campaign and its consequences. In particular, he wrote that one of the candidates had filed 3 denunciations against him.
On the one hand, revision of the 2010 presidential campaign events will further reduce mutual trust within the Belarusian opposition and the possibility for coalitions’ expansion. On the other hand, lustration is unavoidable because the opposition movements are not growing and they have abounded mutual claims.
Public debate, following publication of Statkevich’s letters, demonstrates, that all those involved acknowledge extensive “shady side” in the preparation for the 2010 presidential campaign. While participants of the debate (Neklyaev, Rymashevsky, Statkevich’s proxy Martselev) willingly refer to these shady agreements, they do not disclose details, as this could allegedly damage the political prisoners remaining in prison.
It is important to emphasize that prison censors allowed the letters in question out of the prison. The authorities are interested in fights among the opposition therefore do not seize these discussions. Moreover, the authorities are interested in that the participants in the debate keep the distance, because Statkevich’s release is likely to settle all the issues he raises.
In particular, in his first letter Statkevich asks ex-candidate Nyaklyaeu why the agreement about a meeting in a neutral territory on Decembef 19th, 2010 had been broken. As a consequence, Statkevich had to go to “Tell the Truth!” movement offices and later was attacked by unknown persons along with Nyaklyaeu hours before the meeting in the Minsk center. In his second letter Statkevich says that the most ‘Christian’ candidate (probably Vitaly Rymashevsky) thrice denounced him, which he learned from the case files. Rymashevsky publicly refuted these allegations.
Thus, the authorities are interested in the opposition leaders back-firing at each other. A year ago, in the run-up to parliamentary elections, opposition leaders also spar with each other amid accusations of lobbying the regime interests when raising the issue of lifting of economic sanctions. As a result, a broad electoral coalition was not created and the opposition carried out several disparate campaigns. In the meanwhile, the release of Statkevich depends on other political factors, for example, on guarantees for a new credit programme with the IMF.
Over the past year, military-political relations between Minsk and Kyiv have become complicated. Due to their high inertia and peculiarities, this downward trend would be extremely difficult to overcome.
The root cause of the crisis is the absence of a common political agenda in the Belarusian-Ukrainian relations. Minsk is looking for a market for Belarusian exports in Ukraine and offers its services as a negotiation platform for the settlement of the Russo-Ukrainian war, thereby hoping to avoid political issues in the dialogue with Kiev. Meanwhile, Ukraine is hoping for political support from Minsk in the confrontation with Moscow. In addition, Ukraine’s integration with NATO presupposes her common position with the Alliance in relation to Belarus. The NATO leadership regards the Belarusian Armed Forces as an integral part of the Russian military machine in the western strategic front (the Baltic states and Poland). In addition, the ongoing military reform in Ukraine envisages a reduction in the number of generals and the domestic political struggle makes some Ukrainian top military leaders targets in politically motivated attacks.
Hence, the criticism of Belarus coming from Ukrainian military leadership is dictated primarily by internal and external political considerations, as well as by the need to protect the interests of generals, and only then by facts.
For instance, initially, the Ukrainian military leadership made statements about 100,000 Russian servicemen allegedly taking part in the Russo-Belarusian military drill West-2017. Then the exercises were labelled quazi-open and military observers from Ukraine refused to provide their assessment, which caused a negative reaction in Minsk. Further, without citing specific facts, it was stated that Russia was building up its military presence in Belarus.
Apparently, the Belarusian and Ukrainian Defence Ministries have entangled in a confrontational spiral (on the level of rhetoric). Moreover, only a small part of the overly hidden process has been disclosed. That said, third states are very likely to take advantage of the situation (or have already done so). This is not only about Russia.
The Belarusian Defence Ministry officials are restrained in assessing their Ukrainian counterparts. However, such a restraint is not enough. Current military-political relations between Belarus and Ukraine are unlikely to stabilise without the intervention of both presidents.