Authorities did not fall for information provocation
On February 4th, Russia’s Media Group RBC Ukrainian Branch Office, referring to a source in the Belarusian Presidential Administration, reported that Belarus-born Russian businessman Dmitry Mazepin could be appointed Deputy Prime Minister of Belarus in charge of the Belarusian-Russian relations.
Misinformation about Russian businessman Mazepin plans to become Belarus’ Vice Premier imply, that talks about conditions for a new Russian loan for Belarus are ongoing. The disinformation meant to disrupt the talks, but the Belarusian authorities showed restraint and did not fall for the provocation.
This news does not correspond to the reality. The news piece was published on “RBC-Ukraine” website and was removed within a few hours, a disclaimer by Mazepin’s company URALCHIM followed. Presidential Administration refused to comment the news. Notably, the provocation - intentionally or not – coincided with the personnel shifts in the President Lukashenko’s press service: on February 5th PA former spokesman Legki was departing for his new job in the Belarus’ Embassy in Russia.
Nevertheless, the nature of the misinformation implies that Russo-Belarusian negotiations about circa USD 3 billion loan are ongoing. According to RBC journalists, Belarus needs a concessional loan to pay for Russian energy. This could be true, in December 2012 Lukashenko publicly said that he appealed to the Russian leadership for a USD 2 billion loan.
The information provocation indicates that certain elite group in Russia (and possibly in Belarus) is not interested in additional lending to Belarus on the discussed terms and requests their revision. In particular, reports about alleged granting of Belarusian citizenship to Mazepin and his appointment as Deputy Prime Minister for Belarusian-Russian relations look absurd and exaggerate Russia’s abilities to influence the situation in Belarus.
Belarus’ restrained public reaction to this news demonstrates that Belarus intends to continue negotiations with Russian partners. If so, in the near future the political conflict with the EU and the U.S. will remain frozen, unless Minsk receives tangible guarantees of commensurate support from the IMF.
It is also possible that the misinformation about the exaggerated ‘Russian threat’ meant to push foreign counterparts to speed up negotiation processes and to name their price.
The Belarusian authorities regard the Catholic conference as yet another international event to promote Minsk as a global negotiating platform. Minsk’s proposal to organise a meeting between the Roman-Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church is rather an image-making undertaking than a serious intention. However, the authorities could somewhat extend the opportunities for the Roman-Catholic Church in Belarus due to developing contacts with the Catholic world.
Minsk is attempting to lay out a mosaic from various international religious, political and sportive events to shape a positive image of Belarus for promoting the Helsinki 2.0 idea.
Belarus’ invitation to the head of the Holy See for a meeting with the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church should be regarded as a continuation of her foreign policy efforts in shaping Minsk’s peacekeeping image and enhancing Belarus’ international weight. The Belarusian authorities are aware that their initiative is unlikely to find supporters among the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow. In Russia, isolationist sentiments prevail.
In addition, for domestic audiences, the authorities make up for the lack of tangible economic growth with demonstrations of growth in Minsk’s authority at international level through providing a platform for religious, sportive and other dialogues.