Minsk hopes not to complicate relations with EU
Last week, four Young Front activists among those detained in the "militants' case" were released from the KGB detention centre, but the number of those accused of "training and preparing for participation in mass riots" increased up to 10 people. The Belarusian authorities are testing Western capitals’ reaction to tougher attitude to their domestic opponents and grope for the red line in the Belarusian-European relations. In all likelihood, the restrained response of the EU and the US to the repressive actions of the Belarusian security forces was in line with Minsk’s expectations, as it seeks to expand the room for manoeuvre without deteriorating relations with Western capitals in the case the protest movement in the country builds up. The authorities are likely to stretch investigation in the "militant’s' case" and keep about a dozen detainees. The authorities are likely to avoid a large-scale criminal prosecution of activists and the appearance of new political prisoners, especially in the case of a clear signal from Brussels and Washington.
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.