Authorities have no plans for liberalization, Belarusian Popular Front leader says

Alyaksey YanukevichThe Belarusian authorities have no intention to move toward political liberalization despite stepping up their dialogue with the West, Alyaksey Yanukevich, leader of the Belarusian Popular Front, said at a meeting of the opposition party’s Soym (Council) in Minsk on May 30.

“A few days ago Yury Rubtsow was sentenced to two years in prison. This is evidence that those who expected the establishment of the authorities’ dialogue with the West were so much wrong,” said the politician.

He predicted that the authorities would crack down on “all opposition activists” in the run-up to this year’s presidential election.

Although the government has managed to restore its dialogue with the West, Alyaksandr Lukashenka still heavily depends on Russia, according to Mr. Yanukevich.

“The [Eastern Partnership] Riga summit has shown that Belarusian diplomats have achieved certain success,” he said. “Contacts with the West are expanded, government officials make visits. But when the subject of Crimea was raised at the summit the Belarusian authorities were forced to choose in Russia’s favor.”

While Mr. Lukashenka may not always be liked by the Kremlin, he is still someone who allows Moscow to advance its interests, noted the politician. He suggested that Russia may try to provoke violent unrest during the election to discredit his pro-independence political opponents and further isolate Mr. Lukashenka from the West.

Mr. Yanukevich said that the West was unlikely to provide considerable financial support to any of Mr. Lukashenka’s rivals in this year’s election. “But Russia may be ready to extend support to someone who would try to implement its scenario,” he added. // BelaPAN