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Lukashenko attempts to overcome international isolation via media

April 22, 2016 18:24

On January 15, President Lukashenko held a press conference for Belarusian and international mass media. The press conference lasted for almost 5 hours, was attended by over 350 journalists representing 285 media.

The main reason for the frequent meetings of Alexander Lukashenko with journalists in the last six months is the Belarusian President’s international isolation. Ad hoc interviews and press conferences partially fill in the vacuum in the absence of real international political activity.

The large number of international journalists taking part in the January press conference, emphasize the trend, which started in early 2011: during his 4th term, President Lukashenko is increasingly focusing on the Eurasian integration, and makes most of his foreign visits to Moscow. As a result, the authorities are trying to compensate for the “Kremlin misbalance” using information policy tools.

President Lukashenko’s public activity has increased since autumn 2012, for example, in October, he gave an interview to MIR TV and Radio Channel (CIS), the Independent and BBC (UK), he also called a traditional press conference for journalists from Russian regional media. In November and December he was interviewed by Reuters (UK) and met with members of the CIS media Editors Club. All these events took place in Minsk.

Content-wise the press conference on January 15 was of a routine and populist nature as usual. The President indicated there will be no major changes in the foreign policy of Belarus. In particular, he made it clear he was not going to release political prisoners without them asking for pardon. Thus, it is anticipated that in the near future the political conflict between Belarus and the EU and the U.S. will remain frozen.

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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.