Belarusian President did not succeed in gaining total control over elite leisure activities
On April 19, President Lukashenko held a meeting on hunting and fishing development, and demanded to improve control at the Belarusian Hunters and Fishermen Society.
Presidential efforts to control forest network in Belarus imply that Belarusian leader is concerned about the opportunities such facilities provide for informal communication inside elite. Hunting and fishing is a little advertised, but important part of life in the Belarusian elite.
For instance, a controversial investigation into illegal hunting in one of forests in the Gomel region in 2009 revealed that then-Defense Minister Yuri Zhadobin, as well as high ranking officials from the KGB and Interior Ministry could be involved in it. Today President Lukashenko is not so much concerned about the illegal hunting.
More importantly, he sends the elite a signal about their leisure and informal contacts being controlled at the highest level.
That is why in 2010 President Lukashenko personally supervised the reform of the Belarusian Hunters and Fishermen Society and in 2012 tried to initiate the creation of a special body to exercise state management in hunting and fishing (during a meeting on 19 April).
However, President’s initiative caused elite’s reaction. Deputy Prime Minister Rumas, who chaired the working group on this issue, reported that the establishment of a single supervisory authority was impractical, and the President was forced to agree.
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.