Belarusian authorities are shaping agenda in relations with opposition
In a commentary to the radio ‘Svaboda’, Pavel Yakubovich, the editor-in-chief of SB Belarus Today state-run newspaper, promised to facilitate the lifting of the ban on the Zenon Pozdnyak book about Kurapaty as extremist and told about the progress with the memorial in Kurapaty. Apparently, the president is not against increased contacts with his opponents, which, of course, does not indicate the beginning of political reform. The Belarusian leadership is concerned about the growth in the street protest activity and has started developing own national narrative, different from the Russian one. That said, the authorities’ greater openness to sensitive cultural problems could backlash on the opposition and civil society organisations.
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.