President Lukashenko has pardoned 11 political prisoners
The Belarusian authorities continue fulfilling the major requirements of the EU and the U.S., namely the unconditional release of all political prisoners, in order to resume cooperation and hope for concessions on their part.
On 14 September President Lukashenko signed a Decree to pardon 11 convicted for participation in the events of 19 December 2010 in Minsk. The EU and the USA recognized all of them as political prisoners.
The Belarusian authorities continue fulfilling the major requirements of the EU and the U.S., namely the unconditional release of all political prisoners, in order to resume cooperation and hope for concessions from Brussels and Washington. The Belarusian authorities have been repeatedly told that the position of the Western countries concerning the release of political prisoners was principled and non-negotiable.
Belarus hopes that implemented economic and political measures will have a positive effect on the IMF decisions, the most important international organization for Belarus today. Therefore the pardon and release of 11 prisoners coincided with the additional trading session at the BCSE, which determined a market value of the Belarusian ruble.
However, all these measures are de facto half-measures. Western countries unequivocally and repeatedly stated that in order to resume a dialogue, Belarus must release all political prisoners. The IMF also emphatically talked about the elimination of the multiplicity of exchange rates. Regardless of the additional trading session, the multiplicity of exchange rates retains. Moreover, the Belarusian authorities continue increasing public spending to offset inflation, which is also at odds with the IMF recommendations.
On 5-17 October the IMF plans another mission to Belarus. To the day, there are 19 other political prisoners behind the bars following the events of 19 December, including 3 ex-presidential candidates.
Even if Alexander Lukashenko meets the requirement to release all political prisoners, a new obstacle in the dialogue may be their political rehabilitation. This additional condition has been voiced by the Polish Ambassador to Belarus Szerepka on 7 September. Otherwise they will not be able to take part in the upcoming parliamentary elections.
It is highly likely that Lukashenko will not agree with this precondition or will oppose it as in his view that will threaten the political stability in the country.
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.