The West ignores signals from Minsk as the regime bets further afield
The seventh package of EU sanctions does not directly affect Belarus; however, it limits the ability to circumvent sanctions with the help of the Russian port and shipping infrastructure. Consequently, the Belarusian regime is trying to reorient itself to economic cooperation with countries further afield. Lukashenka tried again to play on the issue of recognition of Crimea and the separatist republics of Donbas, but these signals remained ignored due to the toxicity of the Belarusian regime.
The EU has introduced the seventh package of sanctions against Russia, mainly targeting Russian gold. The new measures only indirectly apply to Belarus by closing loopholes. In particular, the ban on Russian ships entering European ports has been extended to locks on rivers and canals. However, exceptions for trade in agricultural products, fertilisers and oil products between Russia and third countries do not apply to Belarus.
Minsk is forced to admit that Belarus is under the influence of restrictive measures and pressure from Western countries. In these conditions, Belarus’s foreign policy priorities are to increase the efficiency of foreign economic activity, improve the quality of export goods and services, master new markets, and identify new areas of economic cooperation. Great hopes are pinned on the development of relations with Russia, the countries of the EAEU, the CIS, and the states of Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
May results indicate that Belarusian exports were concentrated in Russia and China. The Ministry of Economy considers this a successful reorientation of export flows. Sectoral action plans have also been developed to increase exports to the states of Southeast Asia, Africa, South America, the CIS, Georgia, Turkey, etc.
So far, the Belarusian side is unfazed by rating agencies declaring a default on Belarusian Eurobonds. Allegedly, this will not have any consequences for the country, and the agencies themselves do not have the right to make such statements. In retaliation, the Ministry of Finance of Belarus invited international rating agencies to declare a default on the “Western financial infrastructure”.
Meanwhile, the US Senate has prepared a draft resolution for the second anniversary of the August 2020 events in Belarus. The resolution’s authors propose to support the sanctions imposed by the EU and the United States and leverage other tools to support democracy in Belarus. The senators also intend to call on the US president to appoint a new special envoy for Belarus to support the pro-democracy movement, which guarantees that the Belarusian crisis remains on the agenda of the US presidential administration.
Following an investigation, the Council of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) condemned the actionsof the Belarusian Government for unlawfully reporting a false threat to a Ryanair aircraft on May 23rd, 2021, violating the Montreal and Chicago Conventions. The relevant decision of the Council will be sent to the UN Secretary-General António Guterres for consideration and adoption of any appropriate measures.
The Aviation Department of the Ministry of Transport of Belarus predictably called the report unacceptable, disgraceful to ICAO, compared it with a “second-rate spy novel”, and questioned the authenticity of the evidence. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Poland supported the conclusions of the ICAO report and confirmed the validity of EU sanctions against Belarus in the aviation sector. In response, the Belarusian authorities destroyed another burial place of soldiers of the Home Army, located in the village of Strievka, Grodno region.
The Belarusian regime tried to mitigate the negative implications of the ICAO via negotiations with the UN Council’s special rapporteur on the rights of migrants, Felipe Gonzalez Morales. In addition, Lukashenka attempted to again play the card of non-recognition of Crimea and the separatist entities of the DPR and LPR.
However, as previous attempts by the Belarusian regime to attract attention to itself through a grain deal have shown, neither Kyiv nor its Western allies want to deal with Minsk because of Belarus’ complicity in Russian military aggression against Ukraine.
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Situation in Belarus