Former Law Enforcement Officers Establish a Government in Exile
On May 14 in Vilnius, Belarusian emigrants and former intelligence officers, Vladimir Baradach and Anufriy Ramanovich, announced the establishment of the Transitional Government of Belarus in exile.
The initiative is currently at the stage of an “auction bid”. So far, Vladimir Baradach has only voiced the structure of the shadow government which would include a Committee, a Shadow Cabinet, an Advisory Board consisting of the leaders of political parties, a Council of Elders consisting of the most reputable Belarusians and other structural units. However, this proposal is unlikely to be widely supported by the Belarusian opposition due to the reputation of the former military and former law enforcement officers who now live abroad. A major obstacle to this would be the charges of collaboration with the KGB and the desire to split them [the opposition], as the opposition pointed out on May 14. Spokespersons for the major opposition movements (The United Civic Party, the “For Freedom” movement, Tell the Truth! and others) have clearly expressed their strong disagreement with the idea of a shadow government being set up.
Moreover, the initiative is unlikely to be supported by the Council of the Belarusian National Republic (BNR) operating in the USA, which claims to be the only legitimate body to represent Belarus’ interests abroad. The Council had previously gained support of the highly respected Belarusian cultural and political activists, which significantly hinders the creation of the coordinating units of the government, such as the Advisory Board, the Council of Elders and the Shadow Cabinet.
Finally, no objectives have been set apart from an abstract radical idea to topple Alexander Lukashenko. The initiative was supported by very few Belarusian emigrants (currently, only 4-5 people) who have cooperated with the Security Forces in the past. Therefore, there is little hope for broad support.
The future of the transitional government in exile depends entirely on whether it will gain support within the political opposition. Statements made by leaders of radical movements (the unregistered Belarusian Christian Democracy party, the \"European Belarus\" campaign) give grounds to assume that they are likely to support this initiative. Thus, on 17 May, Vital Rymasheusky, a presidential candidate in 2010, publicly supported this project. He also praised the leadership qualities of Alexander Sannikov, also a 2010 presidential candidate. On 15 May, Sannikov’s close ally, Dmitry Bondarenko said that in his estimation, about 80% of independent journalists cooperate with the KGB. In this case, the probable scenario would be support of the project by most members of the radical opposition under Sannikov’s leadership. After his release, he has not demonstrated any political activity in Belarus although he needs a long-term perspective and field for his activity after the parliamentary election in 2012.
If the project is successful, it might open up an opportunity for Sannikov. On the other hand, if Sannikov and his team support the project of the former law enforcement emigrants, it would give this initiative political weight. As a consequence, the split within the Belarusian opposition, both inside and outside of the country will enlarge. The division of the opposition into smaller, radical units (headquartered abroad) and more structural units (conducting civil and political campaigns within the country) will continue.
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.