Belarus. According to
Countryaah, Belarus's relationship with the Russian
Federation was complicated during the year. In the military
area, cooperation was strengthened, but in the business
world there was severe conflict.
At the beginning of the year, both countries agreed to
deploy anti-robot weapons in Belarus in 2014. In addition, a
Russian air base will be built in the country, and it is
planned to be completed in 2015. The Russian Federation and
Belarus also carried out extensive military maneuvers
together during the year.
In the business world, there was a battle over the
Belarusian state company Belaruskali's cooperation with
Russian Uralkali. The companies together controlled 40% of
the world exports of potassium carbonate (pot ash), but
after several years of contradictions, Uralkali withdrew
from the collaboration in July. The Minsk regime in August
allowed Belarusian police to arrest Uralkali's CEO Vladislav
Baumgertner, who was visiting Minsk. Baumgertner was charged
with abuse of power and his colleagues in Uralkali for
corruption that damaged the Belarusian economy.
Belaruskali withdrew more hard currency from outside than
any other company and was one of the largest taxpayers in
the country. When Russian-Belarusian cartel cooperation
fell, the price of pot ash fell sharply, and Belaruskali was
forced to close production in four of its mines.
The Russian Federation fought back against the arrest of
Baumgertner. In addition to diplomatic protests, the Kremlin
decided to stop imports of pigs and pork from Belarus and
cut down on oil imports.
Belarus stepped up the fight by issuing an arrest warrant
for Uralkali's main owner, the influential Russian oligarch
and billionaire Sulejman Kerimov, with ties to President
The Russian Federation demanded that Baumgertner be
released, but in order to release him, President Aljaksandr
Lukashenka demanded that the oligarch Kerimov sell his
shares in Uralkali. Kerimov agreed, and in November,
Baumgertner was handed over to the Russian Federation, where
he was indicted for misuse of office but denied a crime.
The repression of the political opposition in Belarus
continued throughout the year, and citizens' opportunities
for information on the outside were limited. In May, a
special permit was introduced for satellite receivers at
apartment buildings to restrict access to the
regime-critical channels that usually broadcast on foreign
In July, former presidential candidate Andrej Sannikau
was sentenced to prison for a year and a half. Andrej
Hajdukou was charged with attempting to contact an unnamed
foreign intelligence service.
Several people were punished when they documented abuses
in society. Among them was a worker in Minsk who was
arrested for his video films in a workplace and in a
residential area. A doctor in Vitsebsk, who gave public
criticism of the deficiencies in the care of the city's
psychiatric clinic, was sentenced to forced care at the
institution where he worked.
In August, the Council of Europe announced that
imprisoned Belarusian human rights activist Aljaksandr
("Ales") Bjaljatski was awarded the Council's newly
established Václav Havel Prize for Human Rights. The sum of
€ 60,000 was handed over to the award winner's wife, as he
himself was jailed since 2011, sentenced to four and a half
years, formally for tax evasion.
In February, a border guard was sentenced to two years in
prison for failing to report the border violation in 2012
when a Swedish advertising agency let a small private plane
fly into Belarus and drop hundreds of teddy bears with
messages on human rights.
The Nallebjörn campaign had led to a prolonged diplomatic
conflict between Belarus and Sweden, but at the beginning of
the year Belarus declared that it wanted to improve
relations with Sweden. In May, Sweden was allowed to
re-place a chief diplomat at the Swedish embassy in Minsk, a
chargé d'affaires. After Belarusian prosecutors handed the
case with the tallying action to the Swedish judicial
system, the Swedish prosecutor said in November that the
investigation would be closed in the absence of evidence.