Authorities crumb privatization deals in petrochemical industry
In early July, "Belneftekhim" Head Igor Zhilin was released from office. Until now, official explanation was not provided. In addition, the Belarusian law enforcement agencies do not comment the information, published in some independent media about the alleged arrest of Zhilin.
For example, according to BelaPAN, the General Prosecutor’s Office instituted criminal proceedings under Article 424 of the Criminal Code (abuse of power or of a position of authority). A Russian citizen, Igor Zhilin in 2009 – amid dairy and "gas wars" between Moscow and Minsk and before the abolition of oil preferences – was appointed as ‘Grodno Nitrogen’ Head. In 2011 – amid a dispute over duty-free Russian oil – he was appointed as "Belneftekhim" Head. Experts have interpreted his most recent appointment as a preparation stage for privatisation of Belarus’ petrochemical industry by large Russian business. Today the Belarusian leadership is lacking sufficient resources to continue delaying privatisation in favour of Russian business. However, they might use some old means (eg Baumgertner case) to initiate tension in Russo-Belarusian relations, and put in jail top managers representing Russian oligarchs, interested in Belarusian assets.
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.