Belarusian opposition street actions start gathering more participants
Last week, Minsk hosted a traditional event dedicated to the Freedom Day, which was sanctioned by the city authorities. According to different estimates, the demonstration was attended by between one and two thousand people, including many young people. The law enforcement has neither interfered with the demonstration, nor detained participants, despite the fact that the opposition leaders had violated the permitted format and organized an unauthorized meeting. In addition to conventional for this day rhetoric in support for Belarus’ independence, some participants and organizers attempted to introduce political and social slogans. The absence of repressions after the 2015 presidential campaign and mild reactions by security forces to street activity, have made unsanctioned opposition activities more attractive for the people. If the law enforcement does not resume tough repressive measures to curb protest activity, traditional authorised opposition rallies are likely to gather more participants.
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.