Belarusian authorities weaken optimistic expectations of opposition about "hot autumn" with repression
After serving a five-day administrative arrest, opposition politician Mikola Statkevich has left the detention centre in Akrestsin Street. The authorities have combined financial harassment and arrests of opposition activists before announced street protests against the West-2017 Russo-Belarusian military drill, which should start on September 8th, 2017. The Belarusian leadership has used cautious repression with a gradual pressure build-up against the leaders of protest movement, so as not to cause a sharp reaction from Western capitals and not to make a U-turn in Belarusian-European relations. So far, many of the previously convicted activists have not been brought to justice, however, law enforcement is likely to detain them if they attempt to participate in protest activities.
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.