Belarusian political circles’ reaction to the ‘potash case’
Some political organizations and politicians have made statements about the criminal case against the Uralkali and BPC leaders.
Some opposition groups and politicians have used the Russo-Belarusian ‘potash conflict’ as an excuse to address their target audiences. All statements were made ad hoc and did not exploit the potential of political coalitions. Pro-government political and social organizations were silent, implying that the ruling group was not ready to ‘politicize’ the conflict.
On August 27th, Vice-President of Belarus’ Liberal Democratic Party Oleg Gaydukevich said that Belarus’ actions were not political by nature and that the Investigation Committee of Belarus was responding adequately to the situation. This statement was addressed to representatives of Belarus’ security services, to which Oleg Gaydukevich belonged until autumn 2012 (he headed the Frunze District Police Department in Minsk). We also note that the President of the Liberal Democrat Party, Colonel Sergei Gaydukevich, and father of Oleg Gaydukevich, comes from a military background. The party’s support of the authorities’ actions regarding the ‘potash case’ was therefore fairly predictable.
On August 30th, “For Freedom” Movement issued a statement addressing its primary target audience, the so-called “discontented majority”. In the statement, “For Freedom” argues that the potash conflict and the arrest of a Russian citizen is a natural outcome of Russia’s long-term support of illegal political governance and economic management practices in Belarus, and its non-transparent approach to business management. The Movement called upon pro-active citizens to take part in the “National Referendum” project which aims to democratize governance in Belarus.
United Civil Party Chairman Anatoly Lebedko said that the conflict was an ‘image’ matter for the Kremlin and would continue to escalate until parties finally reconciled.
Pro-government parties and public associations refrained from commenting. Except some negative statements by MPs, the conflict was overlooked by Belarusian pro-governmental politicians and organizations. This implies that the ruling group is not ready to regard the ‘potash case’ as a full-scale ‘conflict’. However the authorities are using state propaganda mechanisms (public electronic media and loyal experts) to win sympathy in Belarusian and Russian societies.
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.