Pundit: Release of political prisoners very likely


MEP Justas Paleckis, Vice-Chair of European Parliament's Delegation for Relations with Belarus was recently in Belarus with a four-day visit where he met with Belarusian officials and the opposition. Among other issues, Mr Paleckis touched on the situation with political prisoners in Belarus. Talking to reporters in Minsk, Italian Ambassador to Belarus Arnaldo Abeti said the whole world - not Europe only - was expecting the political prisoners in Belarus to be released. Euroradio has asked political commentator Yury Shevtsov to share his stance on these recent developments.

Euroradio: Can the statements by Paleckis and Abeti be treated as the first signs that political prisoners might be released soon?

Yury Shevtsov: Diplomats and politicians of a such a high level must have been properly informed, since they speak so. But one should never be 100% sure that such forecasts would come true. However, there is a huge probability that political prisoners will be released.

Euroradio: The Investigation Committee of Belarus recently closed the cases of independent journalist Andrzej Poczobut. Besides, criminal proceedings would not be opened against ARCHE magazine. Is Belarus trying to resume a dialogue with the European Union?

Yury Shevtsov: Definitely, there is some progress. One can also recall the recent visit by Belarusian vice FM Alena Kupchyna to France. These are all the links in the same chain towards closer ties with the West. We all know our country's modern history and moves to either direction could take place. Therefore, liberalization or improvements in relations with European Union could take place in the near future, but one should be cautious in expectations.
All these diplomatic moves are being made in the framework of preparations for the forthcoming EU Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius. This summit is described in Europe as an alternative to Eurasian integration. But this wording of the summit's goals is a source of tenstions in deplomatic relations between Russia and European Union. Besides, agreements on associations between three or even four member states of Eastern Partnership with the European Union are expected to be concluded. Therefore, this is a conflict point for the autumn, so any changes could take place in order to reduce disagreements between Belarus and European Union.

Euroradio: The Eastern Partnership summit will take place in November. Can political prisoners be released before November?

Yury Shevtsov: Theoretically, yes. Politicak prisoners are not a significant domestic problem. Rather, it is symbolic element for European diplomats. Political prisoners may be released, but I stress again that one should be cautious in forecasts, because there is a huge conflict potential within the Vilnius summit.