Lukashenka intervened in situation around NPP incident to relieve tension in Belarusian society
The president personally intervened in the situation around the incident at the Belarusian nuclear power plant construction site, in order to repair reputational damage caused by Belarusian bureaucrats. The Belarusian leadership is attempting to preserve Minsk’s image as one of the crucial players in regional security vis-a-vis Western capitals. The Belarusian authorities are likely to make every effort to prevent the growth in distrust in public institutions by the Belarusian population and to ensure better transparency in the Belarusian NPP construction.
President Lukashenka has proposed to the outgoing Lithuanian Ambassador to think together about how to operate the Belarusian NPP.
The Belarusian authorities’ attempt to shift responsibility for the incident at the NPP construction site on to Russia has only exacerbated fears about nuclear safety in Belarus. Nuclear safety is one of the most sensitive topics in Belarusian society, which has not yet fully recovered from the Chernobyl aftermath. Actions of the Belarusian authorities have prompted the population to recall the behaviour of the Soviet government, which concealed information about the catastrophe in Chernobyl.
Lukashenka’s statement about him knowing about the incident immediately after it happened at the NPP construction site is aiming to enhance public confidence in the Belarusian NPP construction. In addition, because initially the information about the incident at the most protected construction site was concealed, the Belarusian government was worried about the fall in confidence in Belarusian public institutions.
The Belarusian Foreign Ministry has made considerable efforts in order persuade Western capitals that Minsk plays one of the key roles in regional security. Apparently, the Belarusian authorities have realised how risky it was to shift responsibility for the incident at the NPP construction site onto the Russian partner.
The president has assumed full responsibility for the NPP construction and for the incident and said he would personally supervise the NPP construction. In addition, hoping to compensate for reputational damage from a two-week silence about the incident, President Lukashenka offered a more open cooperation with the Lithuanian partners.
The Belarusian authorities are aware of Lithuania’s influence in shaping the views of European capitals about the NPP construction in Belarus and are ready for closer cooperation with Vilnius.
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.