Tag Archives: Minsk

EU-Russia: “many disagreements”

Brussels 22.03.2021 With a view to the European Council meeting of 25 and 26 March a phone call between the President of the European Council Charles Michel and President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin took place on Monday 22 March 2021.

The Presidents discussed relations between the EU and Russia.

President Michel expressed the view that EU-Russia ties are at a low point and confirmed the EU’s approach of the five guiding principles, based on the EU’s core values.

There is currently disagreement in many areas.

From the EU perspective, the relationship with Russia can only take a different direction if there is sustained progress on issues like the implementation of the Minsk agreements, stopping hybrid and cyber-attacks on Member States and respect for human rights. In this context Alexey Navalny’s case was raised. Charles Michel reiterated the EU’s call on the Russian authorities to release Mr Navalny and proceed with a transparent investigation into the assassination attempt on him.
The leaders also exchanged views on the Covid pandemic, on vaccines and on regional and global issues.

Kremlin readout: “Taking into account the upcoming discussion at the European Council meeting on March 25-26 of the problems of relations between Russia and the EU, Charles Michel touched upon a number of issues concerning the current state of affairs and the prospects for dialogue between Moscow and Brussels.

Vladimir Putin assessed the unsatisfactory state of Russian-EU ties, which has developed due to the non-constructive, sometimes confrontational line of partners. The Russian side emphasized its readiness to restore a normal, depoliticized format of interaction with the European Union, if a real reciprocal interest is shown in this.

The issues of combating the coronavirus pandemic were also touched upon, in particular the possibility of using the Russian Sputnik V vaccine, the political settlement of the internal Ukrainian conflict, the situation in Belarus and some other topical issues”.

Cyprus blocks EU anti-Lukashenko sanctions

Cyprus vetoed attempts by the EU member-states to impose sanctions against some 40 Belarusian officials, including incumbent President Alexander Lukashenko.

The measures were being considered in response to the sham election that saw Lukashenko elected to a sixth term in office, and the Minsk government’s tough response to protesters who dispute the result.

Cyprus has demanded the sanctions against President Recep Tayip Erdogan to be applied first, due to a dispute over gas drilling in the eastern Mediterranean.

The chief of the EU diplomacy Josep Borrell vowed during the press-conference following the foreign affairs Council to reach unanimity by the next meeting. He added, that it is also his personal commitment.

Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics condemned the actions by Cyprus in a tweet, saying that it “sends a wrong signal to Belarusians, our societies and the whole world.”

#SOTEU: Leyen on FOREIGN POLICY

On 16 September, the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, in her first State of the Union speech, shared her vision for a stronger Europe and a better world after the coronavirus pandemic. Every year in September, the President of the European Commission delivers the State of the Union address before the European Parliament, Strasbourg. However this year the event took place in Brussels due to the coronavirus restrictions in France. Part of the speech, although significantly reduced, was devoted to foreign policy and human rights.

Be it in Hong Kong, Moscow or Minsk: Europe must take a clear and swift position. I want to say it loud and clear: the European Union is on the side of the people of Belarus. We have all been moved by the immense courage of those peacefully gathering in Independence Square or taking part in the fearless women’s march” president von der Leyen said.

“The elections that brought them into the street were neither free nor fair. And the brutal response by the government ever since has been shameful.The people of Belarus must be free to decide their own future for themselves. They are not pieces on someone else’s chess board.

“To those that advocate closer ties with Russia, I say that the poisoning of Alexei Navalny with an advanced chemical agent is not a one off. We have seen the pattern in Georgia and Ukraine, Syria and Salisbury – and in election meddling around the world. This pattern is not changing – and no pipeline will change that.
Turkey is and will always be an important neighbour. But while we are close together on the map, the distance between us appears to be growing. Yes, Turkey is in a troubled neighbourhood. And yes, it is hosting millions of refugees, for which we support them with considerable funding. But none of this is justification for attempts to intimidate its neighbours.

“Our Member States, Cyprus and Greece, can always count on Europe’s full solidarity on protecting their legitimate sovereignty rights.

“De-escalation in the Eastern Mediterranean is in our mutual interest. The return of exploratory vessels to Turkish ports in the past few days is a positive step in this direction. This is necessary to create the much needed space for dialogue. Refraining from unilateral actions and resuming talks in genuine good faith is the only path forward. The only path to stability and lasting solutions”.

EU condemns Belarus arbitrary detentions

“We strongly condemn the unabating arbitrary and unexplained arrests and detentions on political grounds in Belarus that have been taking place since the start of the pre-presidential election campaign. Most recently, Maria Kalesnikova, Andrei Yahorau, Irina Sukhiy, Anton Radniankou, and Ivan Krautsou have all been targeted, while 633 people were detained following Sunday’s peaceful Unity March. It is clear that the State authorities in Belarus continue to intimidate or allow intimidation of its citizens in an increasingly lawless way and crudely violate both their own domestic laws and international obligations” reads the statement by the head of the EU diplomacy Josep Borrell on arbitrary and unexplained arrests and detentions on political grounds in Belarus.

“The EU expects the Belarusian authorities to ensure the immediate release of all detained on political grounds before and after the falsified 9 August presidential elections.

“Civil society and actors engaged in discussions on the future of Belarus, including members of the Coordination Council, must be protected from intimidation, forced exile, arbitrary arrest and violence. The rule of law and justice must prevail and a thorough and transparent investigation into all alleged abuses must take place, in order to hold those responsible to account.

“We expect the authorities to stop political persecution and engage in an inclusive national dialogue, in full respect of the Belarusian people’s democratic and fundamental rights.

“The EU will impose sanctions on individuals responsible for violence, repression and falsification of election results”.

Tikhanovskaya in exile in Lithuania

Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya,37, has taken a “very difficult decision” to leave the country, after disputing an election she claimed was rigged.

Ms Tikhanovskaya said she did it for her children as protests continued for a second night.

In exile but “safe” in Lithuania, according to the country’s foreign minister.

The announced election results gave President Alexander Lukashenko 80% of the vote, but there have been widespread claims of fraud, and foul play with ballots.

Violent clashes between police and protesters have broken out over the two nights since the election was held, and there have been numerous reports of police brutality.

Ms Tikhanovskaya has united and galvanised the opposition, which presented a stronger than ever challenge to Lukashenko 26 years long presidency. Dabbed in free media as «Last Dictator» in Europe, he has established an autocratic rule after the collapse of the USSR.
The spontaneous opposition leadere announced her candidacy replacing her husband, a political blogger, who was arrested and prevented from registering for the vote.

But the 65-year-old president, who has ruled the former Soviet country since 1994, has described opposition supporters as a flock of “sheep” manipulated from abroad.

Belarus: Lukashenko announced 80% eleciton winner

Protesters and riot police have clashed Minsk and other cities of Belarus, after a state TV exit poll said long-time leader (26 years) Alexander Lukashenko was re-elected in Sunday’s election.

In Minsk, the police used stun grenades to disperse crowds in the city centre. There have been reports of injuries, however in abesence of funcitonal internet connectivity the full picture of the police action has not been established yet.

The state TV exit poll showed that Mr Lukashenko won nearly 80% of the vote.
Main opposition candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya said she had no confidence in the figures announced which gave her 7%.

“I believe my eyes, and I see that the majority is with us,” she said at a news conference after the TV annoucement evening.
The opposition had said it expected the vote to be rigged, saying it would keep an alternative count of the votes.

Ms Tikhanovskaya, 37, entered the election in place of her jailed husband and went on to lead large opposition rallies.

Mr Lukashenko, in power since 1994, has vowed that the situation in the country will remain “under control”.

Lukashenko in whirlwind of political crisis

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko is Europe’s longest-serving ruler and the 65-year-old former Soviet collective farm chairman now wants a sixth term as president.
But in the run-up to the 9 August presidential election he has faced the biggest opposition protests for a decade.

“An authoritarian style of rule is characteristic of me, and I have always admitted it,” he said in August 2003. “You need to control the country, and the main thing is not to ruin people’s lives.”

There have been hundreds of arrests in a wave of demonstrations since May.

Lukashenko has been in power since 1994, with an authoritarian style reminiscent of the Soviet era, controlling the main media channels, harassing and jailing political opponents and marginalising independent voices.

The powerful secret police – still called the KGB – closely monitors dissidents.
On 30 July tens of thousands rallied in the capital Minsk in support of political novice Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, now his main rival.

She stepped in to challenge Mr Lukashenko after her husband Sergei Tikhanovsky, a popular blogger, was firstly barred from running for presidency and then sent to jail.

A referendum in 2004 lifted the two-term limit on presidents, paving way for Lukashenko to stay life-long President of Belarus.
Lukashenko is self-made man from humble origins raised by a single mother in a poor village in eastern Belarus.
He is married to Galina Lukashenko, with whom he has two adult sons, Viktor and Dmitry, however she has been always out of public life. In spite of the fact of being separated for decades, he told an interviewer in 2015 that he had no intention of divorcing Galina.
He has a third son, Nikolai (Kolya), born in 2004, whose mother Irina Abelskaya was Mr Lukashenko’s personal doctor. It is still unclear if the mother has un opportunity to see her son, there is a predomiant public opinon among Belorussians that Abelskaya was denied any contacts with the boy. The child has been exposed to public to such an extend that many analysts suggested Lukashenko aims to restore monarchy and pass the presidency to his youngest son.

However recently in an interview to the Ukrainain press Lukashenko has denied his allegations and said that he did not with to see his youngest son Nikolai as president and is not preparing him to be his successor.

Answering the reporter’s question whether he would like Nikolai to assume the office of president, Lukashenko said, “No, no. My Kolya is unlikely to ever be president.”

In his address to the parliament which lasted exactly one and a half hours, Lukashenko covered the essence his entire election program.

The President promised not to allow a return to the “dashing 90s”, insisted on absence of alternative to evolutionary (on contrary to revolutionary) development, exposed the incompetence of opponents and urged against expecting «miracles».

At the same time, he paid a lot of attention to Russia: in particular, he made it clear that fraternal relations were in the past – and through the fault of Moscow, not Minsk.

Russia has always been, is and will be our closest ally, no matter who is in power in Belarus or Russia. This is an overwhelming factor. It is deep within our peoples. This is deep within our peoples, even though Russia has exchanged fraternal relations with us for partnerships. In vain! “ Lukahsenko underlined.

Talking about the rival candidates the President said: “Found these three unfortunate girls (the joint opposition headquarters: Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, Veronika Tsepkalo, Maria Kolesnikova). They don’t understand what they are reading. What are you writing to them? “

“Let’s hold unfair elections, release economic, political, drug addicts, criminals, hold fair elections and live”.

“But at least tell them that it is not the president in Belarus who calls the elections. That after the unfair elections the Belarusian parliament will never plunge the country into a series of election campaigns and will not appoint the next elections. Think about it at least. What are you writing to them? They don’t understand what they are saying and what they are doing. But we see who is behind them.”

Borrell urges Belarus to respect political rights

The presidential elections in Belarus will take place this Sunday, 9 August, and early voting has already started.

“During the electoral campaign, the Belarusian people have shown unprecedented political mobilisation in favour of free elections and democracy. The peaceful mobilisation of the society has been met so far with unacceptable further restrictions on freedoms of media and assembly, as well as with detentions of peaceful protesters, domestic observers, journalists and activists, reads the Statement by High Representative Josep Borrell ahead of the Presidential Elections.

The country’s sovereignty and independence can only be strengthened by peaceful, free and fair elections. The EU continues to call on the Belarusian authorities to ensure that fundamental freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly, in line with Belarus’ international commitments, are respected.

“The EU appeals to the Belarusian authorities to guarantee the exercise of full political rights of the candidates, to avoid using force against peaceful protesters, to refrain from further detentions of elections observers, peaceful protesters, candidates and members of their teams and immediately release all activists, human rights defenders, bloggers and journalists detained on political grounds.

“The EU remains committed to strengthening its engagement with the Belarusian people. We support the independence and sovereignty of Belarus, while human rights and democracy will remain at the forefront of the EU’s considerations when shaping its policy towards the country”.

EU prolongs Belarus arms embargo

Today the Council decided to prolong the restrictive measures against Belarus for one year, until 28 February 2021. These measures include an embargo on arms and on equipment that could be used for internal repression, as well as an asset freeze and travel ban against four people designated in connection with the unresolved disappearances of two opposition politicians, one businessman and one journalist in 1999 and in 2000.

The Council also prolonged the derogation to the restrictive measures to allow the export of biathlon equipment and limited number of specific-use sporting rifles and sporting pistols to Belarus, which remain subject to prior authorisation by national competent authorities on a case by case basis.

The restrictive measures against Belarus were initially introduced in 2004 in response to the disappearance of the four persons referred to above. Additional restrictive measures were adopted in 2011 against those involved in the violation of international electoral standards and international human rights law, as well as in the crackdown on civil society and democratic opposition. The arms embargo was introduced in the same year.

On 15 February 2016, the Council decided to lift the restrictive measures against 170 individuals and four companies, while maintaining the arms embargo and the sanctions against the four persons.

Image: illustration EU Council Europa building interior

Russia-Belarus oil supply halt

Russia has stopped oil supplies to Belarus, resulting in reduced two oil refineries operations to the minimum acceptable level, a source in Belneftekhim Concern informed Russian TASS News agency on December 3.

“Russian oil is not delivered. The capacity of oil refineries has been reduced to the minimum technologically permissible level,” the source said.

On December 30 and December 31, 2019, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko held telephone conversations to discuss issues related to Russian oil and gas exports to Belarus. The Belarusian leader also raised these issues at his meetings with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and Energy Minister Alexander Novak on December 21.

Shortly after exchanges, Lukashenko instructed the top officials of the petrochemical complex to sign oil supplies contracts and explore the possibility of supplies from the Baltic ports by rail and through the Druzhba oil pipeline. Earlier he said that Minsk planned to purchase about 20 bln cubic meters of gas and 24-25 mln tonnes of oil from Russia in 2020.

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