Criminal, labor, and electoral legislation to change in Belarus
Alexander Lukashenko chaired a meeting on the improvement of legislation on January 28. He pointed out the ineffectiveness of the current legislation, its inability to timely respond to emerging challenges. The risks associated with this are unacceptable, the head of state emphasized and demanded that measures be taken.
In this regard, lawmakers must respond to the risks and threats that the country faced in the second half of 2020.
The main result of the meeting is that amendments will be made in the next two months to the Administrative, Criminal, Penal-Executive Codes, as well as to labor and electoral legislation.
They will be aimed at suppressing calls for strikes and protecting the personal data of officials, security officials, and pro-government journalists.
Lukashenko said there will be no political amnesty in Belarus
At the same meeting, Alexander Lukashenko said that now “some are moaning and crying” about the political amnesty. He drew attention to the fact that there are no political articles in the Criminal Code of Belarus.
According to human rights activists, there are 220 political prisoners in Belarus. Lukashenko claims that none of the so-called political prisoners have been convicted or arrested for political reasons.
Earlier, politician Yury Voskresensky spoke about the amnesty for political prisoners. According to him, he will make such a proposal to the All-Belarusian People’s Assembly.
In the 2020 presidential elections, Voskresensky collected signatures in support of Viktor Babariko, after the elections he was detained on charges of organizing mass riots, and imprisoned in the KGB pre-trial detention center. After his early release, he claimed that Lukashenko instructed him to draft amendments to the Constitution, and organized a round table that does not enjoy wide public support.
Foreign Ministry accuses EU ambassadors of anti-state posts in social networks
The Belarusian Foreign Ministry closely monitors the activity of European diplomats on social networks and draws conclusions. Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei said that the remarks of some ambassadors have already been assessed as anti-state, and the Foreign Ministry will give them a harsh assessment.
“We see that some ambassadors representing the European Union are posting information, posts of a specific anti-state orientation. We are not yet responding to these facts, but we are tracking them. Be sure that we will give a very specific, substantive, and harsh assessment of such facts,” Makei said.
He reproached the fact that, during the aggravation of the situation in Belarus, the “planting of so-called democracy,” representatives of diplomatic institutions called on Belarusian citizens to participate in some actions and took part in them.
The Foreign Ministry had to react very harshly to this and will continue to act this way in the future, Makei added.
Belarus redirects transit of oil products to Russia, but not diesel fuel
Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin ordered the Ministry of Transport of the Russian Federation to sign an agreement with Belarus on the transit of oil products through Russian ports. The agreement will be concluded for a period until December 31, 2023.
The document assumes the conclusion of take-or-pay contracts. If the Belarusian shipper provides transshipment in a volume less than the agreed one, the Russian sea terminal will still receive payment for the entire agreed volume.
The draft agreement implies 9.8 million tons of gasoline and dark oil products in 2021-2023. Belarus can supply 3-3.5 million tons of oil products through Russian ports per year. In 2021, there is an agreement to transship 2 million tons of gasoline, fuel oil, gas oil, and oil.
In the next three years, Belarusian exporters pledged to send 2.9 million tons of fuel oil from the Mozyr refinery and 0.96 million tons of oil products from the Novopolotsk refinery through the port of St. Petersburg.
Ust-Luga is preparing to receive 4.3 million tons of gasoline and 0.4 million tons of gas oil from the Mozyr refinery, and another 1.3 million tons of gas oil from the Novopolotsk refinery.
The entire export of Belarusian diesel fuel will continue through Klaipeda for now, because such logistics are much cheaper.
In recent years, 1.4-2 million tons of Belarusian oil products per year have been supplied through the port of Klaipeda. Another 4 million tons were shipped by Belarus through the ports of Latvia and Estonia.
At the end of August, Alexander Lukashenko announced a possible reorientation of trade flows in response to the EU sanctions supported by Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. Later, Lukashenko noted that he had informed Russian President Vladimir Putin about Minsk’s readiness to reorient its cargo flows from the Baltic countries to Russia if conditions are similar.
Russian Railways undertakes the delivery of oil products to ports, confirming a 50% discount. Nevertheless, according to market participants, the profitability of the export of Belarusian oil products through Russian port terminals turned out to be about $10-15 per ton lower than shipments through the ports of the Baltic countries.
Nevertheless, Lukashenko is taking such an economic step in support of his political interests in Russia.
Russia will soon transfer a state loan tranche of $500 million to Belarus
Russian Ambassador to Belarus Dmitry Mezentsev said that soon the Belarusian side will receive the second tranche of the state loan in the amount of $500 million. This is the financial assistance that Lukashenko and Putin had previously agreed on. The previous tranche was received at the end of 2020.
This money will mostly be used to refinance old debts to Russia. The total amount is $1.5 billion. Part of it technically does not come from the Russian government, but from the Eurasian Fund for Stabilization and Development.
BYPOL reveals information to initiate a case on the death of Bondarenko
The BYPOL initiative, an independent association of Belarusian law enforcement officials, published the results of a “preliminary check” into the death of Roman Bondarenko, who died of serious injuries in hospital after masked men detained him at the Courtyard of Change in Minsk. The authors of the investigation believe that now the Prosecutor General’s Office has enough grounds to initiate a criminal case for premeditated murder.
BYPOL lists the names of all the participants in the events on the evening of November 11, which preceded the death of Bondarenko. BYPOL draws a conclusion about the location of the named persons in the courtyard based on the billing of their registered cell phones and data on their location. There are also records of conversations between participants in the events and calls to the ambulance from the police department. In addition, the previously known information about Bondarenko’s condition during hospitalization and about the events that took place in the Courtyard of Change that evening, which was published in the media, is also taken into account.
Roman Bondarenko died in an emergency hospital on the evening of November 12. On the evening of November 11, he went out into the courtyard of his house, which received the unofficial name Courtyard of Change, in order to prevent unknown people from cutting off the red and white ribbons hung by residents. He was detained, loaded into a minibus, and taken away in an unknown direction. After some time, Bondarenko was found unconscious in the Central Police Department, from where an ambulance took him to the hospital. There, the man was operated on, but couldn’t survive.
Later, the Prosecutor General’s Office said that Bondarenko was drunk at the time of his arrest, but the TUT.BY portal published medical documents testifying to the opposite. Subsequently, the journalist and the doctor who passed the information to her were detained; they are still in custody for divulging medical confidentiality.
Residents of the Courtyard of Change, like many other neighborhoods, constantly decorated their courtyard with symbols of protest colors, which led to conflicts with representatives of the authorities and Lukashenko’s supporters, who destroyed these symbols.