Authorities send signal to Belarusian society that repressive policies remain unchanged
Professor Ostrovsky, the only professor teaching in Belarusian, a well-known intellectual and critic of the current state policy, has been sacked from Grodno Medical University.
Regardless of political prisoner Bialiatski’s release as a gesture within the defrosting process of Belarus-EU relations, the Belarusian authorities do not appear eager to relax the domestic political climate. Quite the opposite, they are sending a signal to Belarusian society that the level of repressions against opposition activists will persist. This case is not unique – during the past six month, there were a few other cases of persecution for political reasons, a trend that is traditionally linked to political campaigns. Regardless of how Belarus-EU relations develop, including the release of other political prisoners, pressure on opposition activists during the presidential campaign will increase.
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.