Case of Amriev: Minsk has discredited itself in eyes of international community
The Belarusian authorities are attempting to demonstrate to the Kremlin their reliability as a partner in sensitive issues. Conventionally, the Belarusian authorities prioritise practical solutions to compliance with formalities in emerging matters. However, what seems quite reasonable in Minsk, may negatively affect the country’s reputation in the outer world.
Last week, Belarus extradited Murad Amriev, a Russian citizen and the world champion in the Mixed Martial Arts, to the Russian authorities. Previously, the Belarusian authorities had extradited the driver of a Russian opposition politician Denis Voronenkov, who was recently assassinated in Kyiv, to the Russian secret services. Such extraditions form a common practice in Belarus.
Pragmatism bordering unscrupulousness creates difficulties in positioning Belarus as an independent player. By violating her international obligations and domestic extradition procedures in the interests of the Russian secret services, Belarus has damaged her reputation in the eyes of international community. In addition, the lack of official commentaries about the detention and extradition of Russian citizens could create an impression that the Belarusian authorities have no control over their power bodies. Indirectly, such a behaviour works in favour of conspiracy theories about the Kremlin’s unlimited influence in Belarus, especially amid the Russian authorities’ refusal to extradite Belarusian national Yuri Baranchik, accused of fomenting ethnic hatred for writing for Russian chauvinistic information resources, to Belarus. Such a difference in approaches emphasizes the unequal nature of the Russo-Belarusian relations to the international community.
Minsk will not complicate relations with Moscow over Russian domestic issues, which have no direct effect on Belarus’ interests. Hardly being a rule of law state, Belarus in such situations is guided by practical considerations, rather than legal procedures. This undermines Belarus’ image as a state which complies with its commitments. Yet evet worse, the Belarusian authorities create an impression as being dependent, untrustworthy and capable of placing the wishes of Moscow or even the Russian regional authorities ahead of the domestic legislation.
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.