Belarusian authorities bring in strict restrictions for supporters of union with Russia
The arrest of three Regnum authors, a Russian news agency, is a clear signal to the nomenclature to readjust their loyalty. The strategic alliance with Russia has been marked with a red line: the unconditional recognition of Belarus’ cultural and political self-determination and sovereignty. Belarusian power bodies remain the main instrument of domestic policy.
On December 8th-10th, the law enforcement conducted searches and detained three authors of Regnum, a Russian news agency, Yuri Pavlovets, Dmitry Alimkin and Sergei Shiptenko (who wrote for Regnum.ru under pseudonyms Nikolai Radov, Alla Bron and Artur Grigoriev) on charges envisaged by part 1 Article 130 of the Criminal Code - incitement of ethnic hatred and enmity. All state TV channels broadly covered the arrests and the reasons behind them.
Belarusian Information Minister Liliya Ananich explained to the media that the ministry launched a compliance assessment of Regnum publications for incitement of ethnic hatred in early November and that numerous components of a crime were discovered. The commission transferred its conclusions to the law enforcement. The Ministry also appealed to the Russian authorities with a request to explain how Regnum’s editorial policy corresponded with the Kremlin policy towards Belarus.
That said, the Belarusian state media emphasised that cases of Regnum and Eduard Palchis, who was recently found guilty under Article 130 of the Criminal Code, were regarded as related - as inciting enmity between the Russian and Belarusian peoples. Apparently, the authorities adhere to the following logic: the state should take harsh measures against anyone who interferes with a common information space with Russia on either side.
Most likely, the Belarusian authorities have long warned supporters of Slavic trinity, Western Russia and other pro-Russian movements denying Belarusian sovereignty, who occupied high positions in the government and voiced discontent with strengthening of the state sovereignty. For instance, the case of former MP and leader of the Belarusian Slavic Committee S. Kostyan, who directly referred to the previous state policy in this regard. Now the rules have changed and the authorities have undertaken a more decisive action.
It should also be noted that the Belarusian authorities often use preventive detentions to ensure the loyalty. The Belarusian authorities are likely to use ad hoc detentions, rather than, for example, closing down broadcasting or media outlets - similar to what they did with independent media. Belarusian power bodies remain the main instrument of domestic policy.
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.