Minks protests may crush Russia-Belarus relations

Dmitry Mazepin, the chairman of the board of directors and the main shareholder of Uralkhim chemical factory, addressed President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko on behalf of the Russian-Belarusian business council and urged him to start negotiations with his opponents.

"On behalf of Russian and Belarusian business, we appeal to President Alexander Lukashenko with a request to acknowledge the obvious facts of tensions in society and, without wasting time, sit down at the table of peaceful negotiations that should lead to a way out of political instability. This opportunity may soon become the only one, therefore it should not be missed," the message released from the council said.

Mazepin also called on the Belarusian authorities to stop the senseless bloodshed and end violence against civilians. The Russian leadership should not remain aloof from the settlement of the conflict in Belarus, "so that the Union State of fraternal peoples is not destroyed in the midst of the irreconcilable senseless struggle."

The protesters do not have an obvious leader, therefore, in the current situation, the authorities have no one to conduct a dialogue with. According to Mazepin, the Russian-Belarusian Business Council is ready to act as a possible platform for a peaceful dialogue.

Earlier, Belarusian IT entrepreneurs and investors published an open letter to the authorities, demanding violence against protesters should end and new, but fair presidential elections be held. The crisis has already struck the IT sector in Belarus and undermined investor confidence. If no improvements are seen in the near future, many IT companies will have to leave Belarus.

The Russian-Belarusian Business Council was established in 2012 by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry. It includes representatives of a number of Russian companies and banks (including Rostec, Sberbank, VTB, Lukoil). Mazepin has been its chairman since 2018.

On Thursday evening, chairwoman of the Council of the Republic, Natalya Kochanova, said that President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko ordered to look into the facts of detentions of participants in unauthorized actions.

"The President instructed to sort out all the facts of detentions that have occurred in recent days, and already today more than a thousand people have been released under the obligation not to participate in unauthorized activities," said Kochanova, adding that "we don't need a fight, we don't need a war either."

The Minister of Internal Affairs of Belarus Yuri Karaev stated that he takes responsibility and brings his apologies to victims of the protests. Presidents of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia also called on Lukashenko to renounce violence and offered mediation in resolving the conflict, threatening to impose sanctions otherwise. The authors of the appeal call on the Belarusian authorities to release all detained protesters, not to conduct new arrests and to immediately start a dialogue with representatives of the opposition. For this purpose, the leaders of the four countries consider it necessary to create a "round table" format of discussion on national reconciliation with the participation of representatives of the authorities and civil society.