Belarusian authorities use financial prosecution to de-motivate activists to participate in protest activity
Public Initiative "A Step towards the Law" started a petition requesting to stop the practice of imposing significant fines for participating in unsanctioned rallies. In fact, fines, according to activists totalling some USD 150,000, have become a heavy burden on civil and political activists. For instance, the authorities seized the car from ‘Malady Front’ leader Zmitser Dashkevich for unpaid fines totalling circa USD 5 000, they are threatening to take away the only apartment from activist Olga Nikolaichik, and the dacha of Nina Baginski. In response to the announced by the opposition several protest actions in support for those affected by the ‘decree on social parasitism’, the authorities have stepped up financial pressure on opposition activists. ‘A Step towards the Law’ initiative is unlikely to find an understanding with the authorities, because demonstrative confiscations and threats of penalties help to reduce the mobilization capacity of the opposition in organising protest actions.
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.