June 7, Jarl Hjalmarson Foundation hosted a conference in Riga on the developments in Russia and its relations with the Baltic states. Mikhail Kasyanov, former Prime Minister of Russia, and Andris Piebalgs, party leader of the Latvian centre-right party “Vienotība,” participated in the discussions.

On May 16, 2017, the Belarusian opposition movement Havary Pravdu (Tell the Truth) was registered after seven years of unsuccessful attempts to gain official status. It was the seventh attempt to obtain the registration and Tatsyana Karatkevich (Co-Chairwoman) was not sure they would succeed this time. Karatkevich said that when the official handed over the registration papers he also warned the leaders (Andrey Dzmitryeu and herself) not to violate Belarusian laws.

Gunnar Hökmark and Maia Sandu during the seminar.

During the Moderate party’s annual regional congress, Sverigemötet, in Karlstad, the Jarl Hjalmarson Foundation arranged a seminar on the political developments in Eastern Europe and how authoritarian regimes in our neighbouring countries could be prevailed.

The Moldovan Presidential Candidate Maia Sandu, party leader for the centre-right party Action and Solidarity Party in Moldova, was invited to give her views on the recent developments in the region. During the last year’s presidential elections, Sandu claimed 47.89 % of the popular votes in the second round-off. Sandu was the Minister for Education in Moldova 2012-2015 and worked before then as an advisor to the World Bank.

Gunnar Hökmark, Member of the European Parliament for the Moderate Party, gave his views on how decision makers in Sweden and Europe could support democracy and reforms among EU’s eastern neighbours. Hökmark has lifelong experiences promoting freedom and democracy in the Eastern neighbourhood.

The seminar in its entirety is available on YouTube here.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Belarusian President stated that Lithuania and Poland could have been training fighters who were behind provocations in his country.

“The other camps were located in Ukraine (and), it seems to me, in Lithuania or Poland – I won’t insist on this, but somewhere there. The money was coming here via Poland and Lithuania”

Andrey Yegorov, the head of the Belarusian-based European Transformation Center says that by making such statements, Lukashenka is warning protesters not to participate on the protest planned for Saturday 25th (which could bring thousands of people) and also as a justification for possible repressions including use of force. He also says that the administration is preparing for the day by fueling hysteria in the media about alleged fighters.

According to Yegorov, the protests along with these words by the President are a sign for the Western world to revise its policies of resuming the relations with Belarus.

The Belarusian Viasna Human Rights Centre and FIDH (the International Federation for Human Rights) believe that the new repression against peaceful protesters confirms the absence of political change in Belarus. More than 150 opposition activists, journalists, human rights defenders and average citizens have been detained since the protests began. On March 10, Vitali Rymasheuski (BCD), Anatol Liabedzka (UCP) and Yuri Hubarevich (MFF), were arrested and sentenced to 15 days administrative arrest. Pavel Seviarynets (BCD) was arrested on March 12 and sentenced also to 15 days administrative arrest. The same day Valiantsina Ihnatsenka, Chairperson of UCP in Orsa, was threatened with arrest and forced to stay home. The Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ) reported the arrest of 18 journalists and bloggers on March 12.

This way the authorities wanted to prevent them to participate in the planned and authorized protest of March 15.

On the day of the rally, March 15, people were detained arbitrarily on their way to the demonstration or on their way back home on the streets or in the public transport. The detentions were carried out by men dressed as civilians and people were taken to police stations in unmarked vehicles. Two independent websites operating from abroad were blocked during the mass protest. The protests gathered thousands of citizens in Minsk and other cities.

Arrests have continued after March 15. On March 19 authorities detained Viktar Marchyk from BPF together with 2 other organizers of planned rallies for that same day, Mikalay Charnavus, a local BPF activist, and Ryhor Hryk, an independent trade union leader.

And in addition to the citizens protesting against the Decree nr. 3, others have been detained for their actions impeding the beginning of the construction of a business center in Kuropaty.

As a response, Lukashenko says today that “Western funds under the direction of Western security services” are trying to “inflame the situation in Belarus”.

March 15-17, the Jarl Hjalmarson Foundation hosted a round-table conference in Visby on developments in EU’s Eastern Neighbourhood. The discussions focused on the shifting geopolitical landscape, current trends in the Eastern Partnership countries and Russia. Ukraine’s Vice PM Ivanna Klympush, Estonian Defence Minister Margus Tsahkna, Moderate Party Leader Anna Kinberg Batra and Carl Bildt, former Swedish PM and Foreign Minister, took part in the conference.

On March 9, Lukashenko announced that he will suspend the application of the Decree number 3 for one year. Those who paid the fee last year can request a refund. The Belarusian president spoke of the protestors in unexpectedly accommodating terms and promised to take officials to task for unfairly labeling anyone a parasite.

By suspending the unemployment tax he has found a way to both halt protests without capitulating to mass protest.

Part of the reason for backtracking is the ineffectiveness of the decree itself. Belarusian analysts doubt that the fee will even offset the cost of collecting it.

Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) has established a security zone with border controls along the country’s border with Belarus. Recently Belarus announced the five-day visa-free regime for some 80 countries (including USA and EU member countries) that will take effect on February 9. According to Moscow, the decision was taken “to create necessary conditions for the protection of the state border of the Russian Federation”. The establishment of a border zone came as a surprise because the two countries have formed a “union state” since January 2000 and there have been no border controls between them. Officials in Moscow have said Minsk’s resolution to abolish visas presents a security threat to Russia.

Olof Ehrenkrona on Russia

December 15th, 2016   In the Media | Russia

Olof Ehrenkrona, advisor to the Jarl Hjalmarson Foundation, discussed Russia in Finish public service TV with Beatrix von Storch, Member of the European Parliament (Alternative für Deutschland) and László Andor, former Hungarian EU-commissioner.

Watch the discussion here

On November 17 EU member states moved a step closer to giving Ukraine visa-free access after EU ambassadors gave the European Council a mandate to work with the European Parliament on a procedural mechanism.  (more…)