The internal situation: the stability of state power. November was marked by two events that are important in analyzing the processes taking place in Belarusian government:
— The different views on further economic development of Belarus of the Administration and the Council of Ministers;
— A package of agreements between Belarus and Russia signed in Moscow on November 25, 2011.
In November, the Belarusian-Polish confrontation continued: there will be no way for holders of so-called “Polish card” to get access to public service. At the same time in November there were several cases of deportation of citizens ofPolandout ofBelarus.
The main reason for confrontation with Poland Belarusian authorities see the fact, that in spite of an inconsistent position in bilateral relations,Polandis one of the major sponsors and a kind of rear base of Belarusian political opposition. In addition, it’s necessary to consider the Belarusian-Polish antagonism, having deep historical roots (at least since the time of the Lublin Union in 1569). A significant part of Belarusian society (and elite), consider the threat of the Polish expansionism to be really strong, although it is not really serious. At this rate it is wrong to assert that the Belarusian authorities are trying to aggravate relations withPolandin order to create an image of an external enemy and distract people from domestic problems. But it’s necessary to underline that Belarusian authorities are carrying out consistent policy of exclusion of the Polish citizens from the Catholic clergy. And in this case the actions of the authorities have the absolute support of society, including the political opposition.
In November the local protests of workers continued. In general, the government makes concessions to the protesters and tries to raise their wages. Socio-economic situation remains under control of the authorities and there is no threat of massive social protests. But at the same time, the position of independent trade unions, which are the biggest NGO inBelarus, is completely passive.
On November 8, 2011 during the Government meeting on a draft of the socio-economic development in 2012 there was a split between the so-called “reformist bloc” of the Council of Ministers and the Administration. Mr. Tkachev (assistant of Alexander Lukashenka) tried to challenge the plans to reduce public investment programs, and received quite a harsh response from the Prime Minister Mikhail Myasnikovich, who told, that the Administration was one of the culprits of the financial crisis in the country. It should be noted that inBelarus, where the Council of Ministers is only advisory and executive organ of the Administration, the behavior of Mr. Myasnikovich is sensational.
Mr. Tkachev is known to be a consistent supporter of the preservation of state control over the economy and an opponent of privatization.
The behavior of Mr. Myasnikovich and his fairly straightforward claims indicate, that he has a strong ally, that is considered even by Alexander Lukashenka. This is indirectly confirmed by the fact that later, at a meeting with the government Alexander Lukashenka talked only about the government’s excessive enthusiasm for market reforms. It is interesting to note, that Alexander Lukashenka has recently claimed that there is no crisis in the country, but there are just some temporary difficulties. He also used the term “they”, talking about Belarusian people. But now he is trying to restore the image of the “guardian for the welfare” of people. That’s the way to evaluate his speeches about soaring prices and the impoverishment of the population. However, the effectiveness of such a “rebirth” is questionable: after losing the internal information field to the opposition and the Russian media, the authorities simply do not have the way to form public opinion and manage it effectively. This fact was clearly demonstrated during the trial of Mr. Kovalev and Mr. Konovalov. Open trial, which was supposed to disavow all the rumors, had just the opposite effect: drawbacks of preliminary investigation were so obvious, and the validity of the conclusions of the court was so doubtful, that the death penalty for terrorists was seen as an attempt of the authorities to conceal their involvement in the crimes by a large part of society.
On November 11, 2011 Mr. Tur was appointed the Deputy Chief of Administration, where he will be responsible for economic issues. Despite the fact that Mr. Tur is considered to be a man without his own opinion, it should be noted that during his scientific activity he has been known as a consistent supporter of the liberal economic model.
November was marked by the integration in the Customs Union: countries of theUnionhave agreed to a new level of economic integration by creating a single economic space. With high probability we can say that the rules of the World Trade Organization, which actually includesRussia, will actually be extended to the economic community mentioned above. It should be noted that on November18 inMoscow Alexander Lukashenka in his speech supported the idea of giving the Russian ruble the status of the single currency of the union in the future. Meanwhile, on November 4, 2011, speaking to Belarusian audience, he talked negatively about the possible introduction of a single currency withRussiaandKazakhstan. It should be noted that the presentations focused on the internal audience are more likely to show the real position of the head of state, rather than one for the foreign audience.
On November 25,2011 inMoscow, during a meeting of the Supreme State Council of Belarus andRussiaa comprehensive agreement on the “gas issue” was reached. It can be divided into two parts:
-Saleof 50% shares of «Beltransgaz» to Russian «Gazprom» (inter-governmental agreement on the terms of sale of shares and future activities of «Beltransgaz»);
— An agreement on the formation of prices (tariffs) for natural gas supplies toBelarusand its transportation through pipelines located inBelarus.
At first it should be noted that the total amount paid for 100% shares of «Beltransgaz» is $ 300 million lower, than its estimated value: the minimum value of «Beltransgaz», according to Netherlandian bank ABN Amro is about $ 5.3 billion (see of “UNIAN-Energy” bulletin № 18, 2006). Thus, according to the Belarusian law, the actions of officials who have contributed or gave consent to sale of shares of «Beltransgaz», can be classified as the material damage to the country in a large scale. So, in case of change of the political regime inBelarusthe new authorities are not obliged to follow the agreement for the sale of the company, and the «Beltransgaz» should become state property without any refund to “Gazprom”.
The situation is aggravated by the fact that for the first time the legitimacy of Belarusian authorities is questioned not only outside the country, but also inside it. In fact, sale of «Beltransgaz» to «Gazprom» is a bomb under the Belarusian-Russian relations. Hypothetically, preservation of «Gazprom’s» control over the Belarusian gas transportation system is possible only if one of the following conditions is met:
— Recognition of the legitimacy of the transaction by Belarusian authorities, whose legitimacy won’t be doubtful, i.e. coming of a pro-Russian organization to power inBelarus;
— Extra payment of $ 300 million by “Gazprom” (the sum should be adjusted for inflation rate for the period from the date of evaluation to November 25, 2011);
— Remaining of the existing regime inBelarusfor long term.
In general, it should be noted that, in spite of alarmist sentiments in the country, the sale of «Beltransgaz» doesn’t pose any thread toBelarus. «Gazprom» becomes the owner of «Beltransgaz», but it will exercise its right it according to the Belarusian laws. And taking into consideration the fact that «Beltransgaz» is a monopoly, the Belarusian side has the scheme of antimonopoly regulation. In addition, any dispute related to the unfair use of «Beltransgaz» will have serious consequences for the reputation of the «Gazprom» and would definitely involve preventive measures by the states (primarily European ones), where “Gazprom” operates.
It’s also necessary to note that the discounted price for Russian gas allowsBelarusto save at least $ 2.64 billion only in 2012 (based on the difference in the cost of gas in the 4th quarter of this year and in 2012). However, it would be wrong to consider the Russian concession on gas prices as subsidies to the Belarusian regime.
Firstly, it should be noted, that the issue of sale of “Beltransgaz” is being discussed since the spring of 2010. But the conditions, required by Belarusian side, haven’t changed: the cost of shares of $ 2.5 billion and the reduction of the price of gas supplied toBelarus. But at those time the Belarusian proposals were rejected and the cost of shares was called too high. The situation changed dramatically after Sergei Sidorsky was replaced by as Mikhail Myasnikovich at the position of the Prime – Minister. Then almost all the conditions of Belarusian side have been met despite the fact that in the current year Belarusian authorities are in more vulnerable position, than in 2010. Taking into consideration, that 2013 and 2014 are the years, when the peak of payments on foreign obligations takes place, the conditions of import of energy resources are critical to maintain stability of the regime. But there are no guarantees, that the conditions of gas supply in 2013 or 2014 will be as favorable as in 2012. Thus, it is still unknown, who exactly has been supported byMoscow’s concession on gas agreements.
Secondly, «Gazprom» receives an important asset in terms of ensuring uninterrupted supply of gas to European consumers.
But the point is, that the agreements haven’t yet been published. Even in the parts of the agreements, that are known to us, there are some evaluative standards, which in future may be reasons for dispute: for example, the extra charge for gas “can not be below the level to compensate for expenses and investments of “Beltransgaz”, including the economically reasonable rate of return”. Potentially, such lack of concreteness in the issues of profit and investment creates the preconditions for unlimited growth of extra charge for gas.
At the same time an agreement to grantBelarusa loan in the amount of $ 10 billion for the construction of nuclear power plants was signed. Its details are also not known. The most interesting thing is the loan amount: we have already pointed out that since the beginning of construction of nuclear power plant, the project cost has increased from $ 3.5 billion to 6 billion, and eventually the amount of the loan is $ 10 billion. Such a rise in the cost of the project without increasing the power of the object of construction can be explained either by the fact that credit includes the development of the necessary infrastructure or the fact, that the corruption of several billion dollars. In the report for March 2011 we have already drawn the attention to the fact, that the key point of the “nuclear program” according to Russian (and, possibly, some Belarusian) officials is not the technical side or the safety standards, but the cost.
Agreements, signed on November 25, 2011, were associated with agreements on military-political cooperation. It should be recalled thatRussiahas a rich experience of multi-billion economic agreements associated with the military ones (for example «gas in exchange forSevastopol»), which, however, did not prevent the conflicts between the parties. In this case the Russian side, in spite of the enormous material expenses, didn’t manage to achieve political dominance. One of the reasons not allowing to implement effective integration schemes is the complete lack of values that could be used as the basis for integration: CIS countries today are mostly authoritarian-oligarchic. And the elites of these countries are interested in preserving their dominance and protect it against all possible threats including the external ones. Integration, meaning the transfer of power, is one of those threats.
Speaking about the agreements, signed on November 25, 2011, it’s necessary to admit that the fact that the parties haven’t yet published the text of the agreements doesn’t indicate that the agreement will eventually be executed as expected, especially because they have been signed during the election period.
Thus, in spite of the officials’ optimism, the potential for conflict betweenMinskandMoscowremains the same due to the fact that its basic reason is still the same. The weakening of Belarusian regime due to questionable legitimacy as well as its international isolation allowsRussiato increase pressure on the Belarusian regime and even to try to replace it.
The internal situation: the opposition and protest movement. In November, it became obvious that the hopes of weakening of the regime should be abandoned at least for the next 6-8 months. Due to the fact that the situation in Belarus is characterised by unpredictable and inconsistent behavior of all actors (both internal and external), it is impossible to give a forecast for the long term.
Thus, 08.11.2011 Lukashenko signed the so-called “anti-revolutionary” package of bills. Calling a spade a spade, according to it any protests against the authorities and any organized opposition activities are banned. This behavior shows a lack of confidence of the government in the ability to control the situation and effectively face the possible external intervention.
At the same time, On November 24, 2011 the head of Human Rights Center «Spring» A. Belyatsky was sentenced to imprisonment.
Processes of consolidation of the political opposition around the two leading agencies: the campaign “Tell the truth!” and “Movement For Freedom” (Hereinafter referred to as MFF).
There is some evidence, that the “old” Belarusian opposition reached a compromise on the boycott of the upcoming National Assembly elections in case the authorities don’t improve the political climate in the country. The list of demands of the opposition includes:
— Changing the electoral law and practice;
— Registration of political, social and human rights organizations;
— Removing obstacles in the work of independent media;
— Release of persons included in the list of political prisoners inBelarus.
At the moment there is no evidence, that the regime is going to make any concessions.
However, the boycott of the elections by political organizations is not equal to a boycott by the politics. Due to the low level of organizational discipline we can not exclude that part of the ambitious opposition activists will take part in the elections as independent candidates. Moreover, the boycott theory threatens to split the opposition political organizations in case a significant part of their members do not agree with the decision of their leaders. It should be taken into account that in Belarus, where the majority of opposition political organizations have no more than 500 active associates, even a dozen of dissidents may already be a problem for organization leaders, which was clearly illustrated by the Belarusian Social Democratic Party.
The idea of creating a political party based on the organization is discussed in the MFF. The possible title of a new party is “The People’s Party” (similar to the European People’s Party, in cooperation with which the MFF is going to work, and on financial aid from which MFF counts). The initiators of the creation of a new party count on creating one united organization on the basis of the BPF, associations “Young Democrats” and “Young Belarus”, a number of non-profit organizations and the “Union for modernization” of A. Mikhalevich. The original party leader is planned to be Alexander Milinkevich, who can later be replaced by his deputy, Yuri Gubarevich. Rotation of the party leaders is planned to be carried out under the advice of foreign Affiliates. In fact, the establishment of the People’s Party will be a simulation of the formation of new opposition, because it is created on the existing structures by just gathering together existing activists.
It is necessary to admit, that the vice-chairman of MFF Mr. Gubarevich is an ambitious opposition politician aspiring to the status of leader on a national scale and is closely related to Mr. Mikhalevich. Meanwhile, the implementation of the ambitions of Mr. Gubarevich can be interrupted by a dubious reputation among the opposition activists: he is described as arrogant and swaggering person unable to work in a team. It is well-known fact among the Belarusian opposition, that Mr. Gubarevich on principle tries not to buy even food produced inBelarus, considering it beneath his dignity to consume anything produced inBelarus.
It should be noted that the BPF is now a just a “virtual power”. Much of the party depends on the material support of MFF. In this regard, among the party members is growing dissatisfaction about the current leaders, who actually turned the party into an appendage of the MFF.
At the same time part of opposition is being consolidated under the “Tell the truth!” movement. Now the organization controls about half of the regional UCP organizations, the Social Democratic Party, young activists of Belarusian Christian Democratic Party and some leaders of the BCD (including V. Rymasheuski).
It should be understood, that there is no consolidation according to ideological principles in both potential blocs. Neither MFF nor “Tell the truth!” have any clear ideological platform. Stability of both potential blocs will depend only on the ability of organizations’ leaders to ensure sustainable financing of all coalition partners or at least to fulfil the requirements of their managers. De facto, at the moment there are currently two “power centers” in the opposition: MFF and “Tell the truth!”. However, the growing influence of these organizations is visible against the background of weakening of other representatives of Belarusian opposition.
Speaking about finance, it should to be noted that the West has gradually tightened control over the expenditure of material resources provided to support opposition political structures: the situation with waste of finance by opposition can’t be ignored. In this regard, the European Commission decided to give main priority to the development of NGOs and increase financial support to them 4 times.
We have previously written about opportunities for participation of Belarusian opposition activists in the Russian election campaign. Originally it was planned thatBelaruswould be involved in the campaign of the party «Pravoye delo». However, after the resignation of Mr. Prokhorov from the post of head of the party the plans have been changed: according to our information at the moment a group of activists of the United Civil Party and “Tell the truth!” are in Russia, where they participate in the election campaign of the party of government – “United Russia”. This fact is a big embarrassment for Belarusian authorities: participation in the election campaign of the ruling party ofRussiaallows Belarusian opposition get good connections with pro-Kremlin Russian politicians.
Both the opposition blocs are promoting their own campaigns. For MFF it is a “People’s Program”, and for a block of “Tell the truth!” it is a campaign, initiated by BCD in 2010 called “Council of People’s Deputies”. The own campaigns of “Tell the truth!” currently are not actively promoted. According to our information it is connected with the lack of material resources.
“People’s Program”, despite claims to be serious project, actually turned into not very popular Internet forum. The campaign “Council of People’s Deputies” by BCD was initiated in 2010 as part of a project to consolidate opposition activists, especially in regions, around the presidential candidate of the BCD. In addition, the campaign aimed to attract additional financial support for the BCD as well as to put the MFF and its leader Alexander Milinkevich into political isolation, because the “Council of People’s Deputies” actively involved the units of “Belarusian independent bloc” (BIB) established in 2009, which had the only purpose of nomination Mr. Milinkevich a candidate on presidential elections in 2010. It should be noted that BCD had initiated the collapse of the «BIB» and launched its own campaign at the same time.
A comparative analysis of both campaigns gives grounds to assert that the “ Council of People’s Deputies” have better prospects because it aims to:
— Strengthening of regional organizations of the opposition;
— Holding local social campaigns (for example a campaign “for water quality”), which must involve socially active citizens in Belarusian opposition.
The only positive result of “People’s Program” may be getting significant financial support of the campaign.
In November an idea of holding the Congress of Belarusian nationalists was suggested. The aims of the organizers of the congress are very vague: it is planned to sign certain declarations in defense of national independence.
On November 29, 2011 at a meeting with representatives of the Belarusian opposition a European Commissioner Mr. Fyulle said that there was a certain analogue of “Marshall Plan” forBelarus. However, this is still known only from the words of Belarusian opposition leaders, the plan itself will be announced by the end of December 2011.
Economic situation. Events of November clearly demonstrated that the political elite (Alexander Lukashenka and local officials) is oriented for maximum conservation of the current structure of the economy and are ready to carry out significant reforms only in the last resort. The main sources of conservation of the economic structure are considered to be energy and other resources from Russia. At the same time the economic elite is ready for the reforms, which objectively meets their interests. As a result, for the first time in many years there has been some confrontation between the Administration and the Government on strategic issues of economic development. So, taking into consideration the importance of external factors (the need for external financing, especially in 2013-2015) we can say that any conservation of economic processes is counterproductive. Even in the medium term it will result in the need for the same transformations and reforms, but in much more bad conditions.
November was marked by quite fierce discussions among representatives of various government bodies on policy plans for 2012. The original plan of the Government, assuming sufficiently tight monetary and fiscal policies aimed at curbing inflation and growth in international reserves, has been criticized by Lukashenka and his Administration.
First of all, the criticism was caused by the low plans for of GDP and real incomes growth. As a result, in early December, the documents regulating economic policy for next year (budget, the main directions of monetary policy, etc.) were not adopted, and would be adopted in mid-December. At the moment, only pre-values of main parameters, announced by Vice-Premier Sergey Rumas at a meeting with the deputies, are known: GDP growth is expected to be about 5-5.5%, real incomes growth — 3-3.5%, trade surplus — USD 1,3-1,5 billion. It is also planned that economic growth will be based on internal non-emission sources, which will provide the growth of extra cost of products and reduction of consumption of materials. The intention to strengthen administrative controls over prices at the expense of greatly expanding the list of socially important goods, the prices for which are regulated by the state, was also announced.
The agreement with Russia on gas, signed inMoscowon November 25, 2011, should simplify the achieving of economic growth without the accumulation of imbalances in the financial sector.
Simultaneously with the agreements on gas an agreement onRussia’s grantingBelarusa loan of up to USD 10 billion to build nuclear power plants of was signed. The loan can be used for 10 years and is payable for 15 years. The loan rate is also quite low (5% per annum in the first 5 years, and later — the LIBOR rate).
Within the framework of the government’s plans to increase the “safety cushion”, an agreement on the granting of loan of USD 1 billion (for a period of 1 year under government guarantee and pledge of 51% shares of “Naftan”) to “Belaruskali” by «Savings Bank» and the Eurasian Development Bank was signed in November.
At the same time in the end of November the Council of the EurAsEC Anti-Crisis Fund decided to grant toBelarusthe next tranche of credit of USD 440 million. But the transfer will occur only after the transfer of non-core assets of the National Bank and the increase of interest rates on instruments of liquidity provision by the National Bank.
In fact, in November the anticipated receipt of large sums of the foreign currency into the country was achieved, which was also to ensure the sustainable functioning of the currency market the following year. At the same time the prospects of obtaining the planned financing in the future will be completely dependent on the stiffness of the economic policy of the government and privatization processes. Uncertainty of plans for 2012 had already led to the fact, that the IMF mission that was expected in mid-December had been postponed until the appearance of concrete plans of Belarusian government. In fact, refusal to send the mission inMinskis a signal from the IMF, showing its relation to the new economic plans of the authorities. In principle, the IMF loan hasn’t critical importance for Belarusian economy next year, but the loan is essential for maintaining stability in the country in the period of 2013-2015 due to the significant increase in payments for external debt servicing and the need for debt refinance.
In the light of fears about getting Belarusian economy in the next spiral of monetary financing of economic growth next year, the government continued to toughen economic policy in October and November. In November the refinancing rate was raised by 5 percentage points to 40% and, what is more important, the rate for operations of the National Bank (actually the rate of provision of resources to commercial banks) was raised by 15 points up to 65%. And on November 4, 2011 National Bank closed the access to permanent available instruments for supporting liquidity (overnight credits and overnight swap transactions) for banks. The ruble liquidity is available only for «Belarusbank» and «Belagroprombank» in the framework of bilateral instruments of liquidity support for 1 day. As a result, by the end of November the rate of ruble liquidity in the interbank market have exceeded 66%.
On November 1, for the first time since April, both real (8%) and nominal (0.7%) reduction in the size of the ruble money supply was recorded. The size of the nominal monetary base decreased even more significantly (3.6%). The budget surplus rose again and in January-October 2011 amounted to Br 7,7 trillion (3.6% of GDP). Tightening of monetary and fiscal policy led to the reduction of the rate of GDP growth, which in fell to 7% in January-October. In the third quarter of 2011 the economic growth was 1.7% versus the same period last year. Despite the monetary contraction, the inflation is still growing. However, if the economic policy is led in the same way, in the coming months we can expect a fairly rapid decay of inflationary processes.
At the moment the privatization process is quite slow. Out of the auctions for the sale of 21 companies, only 4 were sold for a total amount just over Br 18 billion. The auction for the sale of 51% government stake in mobile operator “MTS” with a starting price of USD 1 billion, that was originally planned for December 1st, had been moved to December 23 without any explanations (presumably due to lack of bids from potential buyers). At the same time the government’s program of rapid privatization of loss-making enterprises in 2012, which was to bring the ratio of public and private property in the GDP to 50/50 (at the moment it is 75% to 25%) had been criticized and rejected by Lukashenka. At the same time it was decided to solve the problem of poor management through increased management control.
The situation in the field of national security and defense. Of course, the main event in November in the field of national security is Lukashenka’s initiative about creating territorial forces.
Belarusian law enforcement agencies are fully experiencing the negative effects of the financial crisis and lack of finance: outflow of personnel from law enforcement agencies of the country is increasing. There is a lack of technical and support staff (specialists in electronics, system administrators, drivers). But most worrying is the resignation from security forces the people, who are already entitled to retire on superannuation (20 years of service), but have not yet reached retirement age (45 years), which are the best-trained personnel. And small addition to the wages for military and law enforcement agencies staff can’t improve the situation.
It is also necessary to underline the aggravation of moral and psychological atmosphere in the security agencies ofBelarus: often, the leaders tell their subordinates, that if they are not satisfied with the wages, then they can leave the service, because the situation isn’t likely to improve.
Businesses and organizations of the State Military-Industrial Committee (hereinafter referred to as SMIC) presented more than 20 samples of products at the exhibition of innovation and investment projects, which took place in the framework of Belarusian Innovation Week. The projects of Belarusian gunsmiths in the area of communication and control, tactical unmanned aerial vehicle «Grif-1», navigation and automation systems as well as robotics were exhibited there. Currently seven innovative projects of SMIC are included in the State program of innovation development ofBelarusfor 2011-2015. Implementation of innovative projects of SMIC involves the creation of two new companies and four new plants as well as upgrading an existing factory by 2015.
On November 22 at the base of theMilitaryAcademythe operative meeting of the leaders of the Armed Forces under the direction of the Minister of Defence of Belarus Lieutenant-General Yuri Zhadobin was held. The event was attended by the heads of military command service, commanders and chiefs of headquarters of military formations and units, and the heads of military schools. During the meeting the training of the Belarusian Army in 2011 was analysed and the targets for 2012 were set.
Speaking about the activities of the Armed Forces in 2011, the Minister of Defence said that thousands of events on the operational and combat training, including 30 different military exercises with practice, were held.
Next year the most attention will be paid to practical training troops with modern methods of warfare and strengthening human resource capacity of the army. At the same time much will be done in order to conduct a competent and systematic ideological work as well as to maintain high morale and teaching the citizens patriotism. However, this will have no real result: the set of slogans and far from reality arguments, which is being presented as an ideology of Belarus hasn’t been accepted by the society in the past and there are no reasons to believe that they will be perceived right in the future. The ability of both military and civilian ideological apparatus to perform its duties is quite questionable. It is enough to tell, that the official paper of the Ministry of Defence called “Belarusian Military Newspaper” is a paper close to the Brezhnev era. If it were not for compulsory subscription of soldiers and officers, this media would have no audience at all. The magazine “Army” is much better, more modern and informative.
In the future, the major task of the Ministry of Defense and the General Staff as well as of the other military bodies will be organizing training of officers responsible for territorial defense forces, that were established almost 10 years ago and proclaimed one of the priorities in ensuring military security of the state in November 2011.
Signing of Belarusian-Russian agreements on November 25, 2011 gave some experts a reason for speaking about reconciliation of officialMinskandMoscow. Meanwhile, this assertion is based only on assumptions. But the facts speak about the opposite.
For example, at the moment an officially unregistered pro-fascist organization “RUMOL” exists inMinskwith financial support from the Russian Embassy. Currently, at the expense of Russian diplomatic mission “RUMOL” prepares the concert of Russian extremist band “Russian banner”, which is de facto prohibited inRussia.
In addition, from reliable sources we got to know that one of the leaders of the pro-Russian web portal “Empire” Mr. Baranchik after his last visit toRussiasaid that the financial support of his activities by the Russian authorities will be increased. In his words, inMoscowhe met senior functionaries of the State Duma, which told him that in the near futureRussiawill take steps to remove Alexander Lukashenka from the power; and after that Mr. Baranchik will be appointed at some high position in the government. Despite the well-known inferiority complex of Mr. Baranchik, it is unlikely that the above is a figment of his imagination. He told that to people, having direct contact with the functionaries inMoscow, that’s why the lies about the increase of funding and the Kremlin’s plans to the dethrone Lukashenka would immediately be disavowed. It is unclear whether the plans announced by Mr. Baranchik are the opinion of the only ruling group inRussia, which he keep contact with, or if it is the position of a wider circle of the Russian ruling class.