Belarusian authorities respond to unauthorized protest activity of opposition with financial persecution
Participants of the unauthorized opposition action at the KGB building in Minsk to commemorate victims of political repressions were punished with heavy fines. Apparently, the authorities have changed their approach to dealing with unauthorized protest activity of the opposition in the capital and regions. The security services no longer apply harsh repressive measures or detain members of the opposition for organizing unauthorized rallies, they only file administrative protocols against the organizers and most active participants. Later, courts issue heavy fines (the largest possible) on those charges. For instance, last month, in Minsk alone opposition leaders and activists paid over BYR 83 million (USD 4 700) to the state budget in fines. The authorities are attempting to drain the opposition financially in order to reduce their protest activity.
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.