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Attack on the reputation of President Lukashenko

April 22, 2016 18:15

Russo-Belarusian relations remain turbulent. Both parties are interested in mutual concessions and use different tools to put pressure on each other.

On July 25th Russian Olympic Committee Head Alexander Zhukov outraged in his Tweeter the denial of accreditation for the XXX Olympic Games in London for President Lukashenko. Later this information was confirmed by the British Embassy in Minsk.

The obvious implication of the ‘outrage’ by the Russian Olympic Committee Chairman was to draw attention to the EU visa sanctions against Belarusian leadership. Rapid reaction from the British Foreign Office and silence of the Belarusian government implies that it could be a planned action in order to exert pressure on Minsk.

In turn, the Belarusian authorities were not interested in attracting additional attention to the status of President Lukashenko as persona non-grata. Earlier, the Belarusian President attempted to accredit for the Olympic Games however was denied via informal channels. Therefore, on July 12th, during the opening of the ‘Slavic Bazar’ music festival in Vitebsk Lukashenko regretfully called the Olympic Games a politicized event.

Therefore, it is likely that the Twitter intercession by Mr. Zhukov meant to put additional pressure on the Belarusian authorities, which hold complicated negotiations with Russia on a number of issues, the main and the most controversial of which is the privatization of Belarusian enterprises.

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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.