Belarusian authorities have not clamped down opposition rallies with political demands
Street protests against the West-2017 military exercise, an unauthorized rally and a march "For Peaceful Belarus", organized by the Statkevich-led Belarusian National Committee, have been held in Minsk centre, as well as the authorised rally in the Kiev square in Minsk organised by the Belarusian Popular Front. The rallies have put forward political demands untied from the socio-economic agenda, which mobilized only a limited number of activists and hardly had any impact on broad population. Power officials have not interfered with the rallies in Minsk and even released Statkevich from the detention centre before the rally. The authorities aim to prevent the growing confrontation in the information space due to the Russo-Belarusian military exercise West-2017 and avoid unnecessary discussions about the ideological split in society.
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.