Authorities bolster repressions against opposition ahead of presidential elections
The court has extended the prison tern to Nikolay Dedok, a political prisoner who was to be released in a few days, for a year. Currently, among political prisoners remaining behind bars is former presidential candidate Nikolai Statkevich and anarchists who are the most radical opponents of the government. The authorities fear of social tension growth during the 2015 presidential campaign, which is why they demonstrate their readiness to clampdown any protest activity by the opposition. Amid the ‘thaw’ in Belarusian-European relations, the authorities demonstrate with their actions that they do not intend to fulfil the main requirement for normalisation of relations with the EU, i.e. to release political prisoners.
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.