Belarusian leader wants guarantees of non-interference from Kremlin ahead of presidential elections

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April 22, 2016 19:06

During his short vacation in Sochi, President Lukashenko held an informal meeting with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. There were no official reports about the meeting’s agenda, however, the presidents could discuss cooperation within the Eurasian Economic Union and bilateral relations in the light of recession in Russia, which also affected Belarus. Most likely, the Belarusian leader attempted to reassure his Russian counterpart of his commitment to the Eurasian integration amid developments in Belarus’ western policy and requested guarantees of the Kremlin’s non-interference in the presidential campaign in Belarus, as well as requested financial support from the Russian for the Belarusian economy to remedy the crippling recession.

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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.