Belarus. This year’s Ice Hockey World Cup in Belarus was used according to critics in the dictator Aljaksandr Lukasjenka’s propaganda. Belarusian democracy activists were arrested and held in custody during the World Cup, and in the capital Minsk, the police drove away outlaws and drug addicts. Journalists from outside who planned to write about more than ice hockey must apply for a special permit.
According to Countryaah.com, Belarus population in 2020 is estimated at 9,449,334. Belarusian media and publishers are subject to strict censorship, and the state has a monopoly on etheric media, printing and postal dispatches and more. State media are used as Lukashenka’s political tools, and if editors and journalists criticize or question the regime, they are subjected to raids, revoked editions and other harassment.
The conflict between the Russian Federation and Ukraine, both neighboring Belarus, became sensitive to Minsk, which has a good relationship with Ukraine and at the same time is economically and energy-dependent on Moscow. However, Lukashenka criticized the Russian annexation of Crimea, saying that the Ukraine crisis threatened Belarus security. Lukashenka declared that he would fight every attacker, including Russian President Vladimir Putin.
After the Crimean invasion, Lukashenka warned Moscow to accept more territory from the former Soviet Union. He said that Ukraine must remain a united state, and he criticized the separatist referendums in eastern Ukraine.
President Lukashenka tried to play the role of mediator in the Kiev-Moscow conflict, and he hosted a meeting in Minsk between Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Russian President Putin.
In May, the Russian Federation, Belarus and Kazakhstan signed an agreement to form a Euro-Asian Economic Union, a counterbalance to the EU, with free movement of goods, labor, services and capital in a common market with over 170 million people. The agreement is set to take effect by New Year 2015, and critics see it as an attempt by Putin to recapture some of Moscow’s lost power from the disbanded Soviet Union.
Lukashenka first threatened to boycott the signing, but the Kremlin agreed to Minsk’s demands, including on increased supplies of oil to Belarus. The country’s weak economy is in dire need of an injection, and Minsk expects major economic benefits if all barriers to trade are removed.
Belarus’s economy grew by only 0.5% in the first quarter, compared with 4% in the same period the year before. The country must pay over $ 3 billion on its debt in 2014, a sum equivalent to about half of the country’s reserves of gold and foreign currency. During the year, Minsk pledged $ 1.5 billion in new loans from Moscow.
In June, human rights defender Ales Bjaljatski was released after nearly three years in prison. The decision came as a surprise, as the verdict against him for tax offenses was formally valid for another year and a half. The release was included in an amnesty to the 70th anniversary of Belarus’s liberation from the Nazis. The jail sentence against Bjaljatski was considered politically motivated.
At the same time as Bjaljatski was released, four artists were sentenced for work on a mural by a late regime-critical writer. They were indicted for damages and all were sentenced to tangible fines. Later, human rights defender Andrej Bandarenka was sentenced to three years in prison accused of hooliganism. He works for prisoners’ rights.
The Russian ruble crisis in December led to Belarus raising the key interest rate to 50 percent, a fee on purchases of foreign currency and trading with the Russian Federation in dollars and euros. The Belarusians panicked for foreign currency, while Lukashenka dismissed Prime Minister Michail Mjasnikovich, the head of the central bank and several ministers. He appointed his new head of government Andrej Kabjakau as new head of government.