Belarusian authorities soften charges against Regnum authors and patriots in White Legion case
New charges of illegal entrepreneurship have been brought against two arrested authors of Regnum Russian News Agency, Yuri Pavlovets and Sergei Shiptenko. Apparently, the authorities could requalify the criminal case against two Russian authors thereby softening the punishment (minimal penalty is a fine). Previous charges for inciting racial, ethnic or religious hatred or discord envisage 5 to 12 years in prison. Hence, the law enforcement has attached economic component to the persecution against Regnum authors. Regarding defendants in the White Legion case, the law enforcement has dropped charges for preparations for mass riots and supported charges for creating an illegal armed group. Charges in the White Legion case also envisage a milder punishment – at best, restricted freedom. Altogether, under the pressure of the international community and civil society, the Belarusian authorities have apparently softened charges against defendants in both cases, enabling convictions without incarceration.
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.