Minsk carries out execution amid normalization of relations with European Union
According to the Amnesty International, Belarusian authorities have executed 22-year-old Belarusian Sergei Ivanov after a break since November 2014 (death sentences were handed down but not executed). Official Minsk took a pause in executions, which allowed avoiding additional tension in the process of normalisation with the EU. It is worth noting that in early 2016, the Belarusian authorities demonstrated willingness to engage in a dialogue with European institutions over the introduction of a moratorium or abolishing the death penalty, however with no real intent to change the existing practice. Apparently, the Belarusian authorities are satisfied with the level and the pace of normalisation of the Belarusian-European relations. Minsk is likely to attempt to expand the room for manoeuvre in relations with the European Union before the parliamentary elections in Belarus.
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.