The Belarusian government’s contract with British public-relations executive Lord Timothy Bell has expired and, apparently, has not been extended, EUobserver reported on August 18.
"We had a 12 month contract from last August and it has expired,"Mr. Bell, chairman of the Bell Pottinger Group, told the Brussels-based online newspaper.
He did not give additional details.
When reached by BelaPAN earlier this week, Mr. Bell flatly refused to comment on his relations with the country`s authorities.
The press offices of the Belarusian Council of Ministers and the Presidential Administration told BelaPAN that they were not aware of the contract. Natallya Pyatkevich, deputy head of the Presidential Administration, said that she would not comment.
Pyotr Lyohki, spokesman for Alyaksandr Lukashenka, said that he also could not give any details. "I myself learnt about the contract from the media," he said.
Speculation in Belarus’ media circles is that Mr. Lukashenka decided that he can do a better job himself without relying on advice from Western experts.
Mr. Bell, in a previous interview with EUobserver, described Belarus as a country that "has a perfectly nice atmosphere about it." He said that Belarusian authorities are "very hospitable, very pleasant to be with."
Mr. Bell’s PR firm struck the contract at the beginning of last August to "give advice to implement a program to improve the image of Belarus as a country."
The PR expert earlier told BelaPAN that his firm would launch a program aimed at improving the international image of Belarus, which would consist of an information campaign and a marketing campaign.
When asked whether he would focus on the image of Mr. Lukashenka, he replied in the negative but noted that the "president is inevitably part of the country and its image."