Lukashenko offers to release political prisoners to resume a dialogue with the West
At a press conference for the Belarusian national and regional media on 17 June President Lukashenko declared his readiness to release political prisoners, provided the amnesty procedures were observed.
Belarusian President proposed to the West to bargain for “political prisoners in exchange for the resumption of relations”. First of all, Lukashenko is prepared to restore a dialogue with Poland by mentioning the leading role of Poland in the Eastern Europe.
Bearing in mind it is the second proposal of Lukashenko in the course of the past two weeks (reference to the meeting of judges on 3 June) the Belarusian leadership is doing its best to avoid economic reforms. The main recipients of these statements are member states of the IMF, its mission worked in Minsk on 1-13 June.
Given the lack of positive result of the IMF mission and that the conditions put forward for Belarus are not feasible and detrimental to the “created” welfare state and to the popularity of the President, the Belarusian authorities are trying to get away from implementing economic reforms and try to resolve the crisis with “small blood”: by releasing political prisoners. This option suits Minsk perfectly it has been tested in the summer of 2008, when a former Presidential candidate Alexander Kozulin and other political prisoners were released.
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.