Minsk hopes for approval of Lukashenko’s visit to Vatican
At a press conference in Minsk, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin said that President Lukashenko’s visit to Vatican was possible and underscored that the Holy See was prepared for the visit. While in Minsk, the Holy See Cardinal met with President Lukashenko, Foreign Minister Makey, and Head of the Belarusian Orthodox Church Metropolitan Pavel. The Belarusian authorities repeat their actions from the ‘thaw’ in Belarus-EU relations in 2008-2010, however the new cycle of normalisation with Brussels might start with a visit to the Vatican without fulfilling the basic EU requirement – release of remaining political prisoners before completing the 2015 presidential campaign. The Belarusian authorities are interested in developing relations with the EU after the 2015 presidential campaign; they will attempt therefore to preserve a moderate level of repression against the opposition.
President Lukashenka has met with the head of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov, who visited Minsk and the Minsk Automobile Plant. Minsk has always sought to have independent links with Russian regional elites, partially, to compensate for the Kremlin's diminishing interest in Belarus. In recent years, Belarus’ contacts with the Russian regions have been extremely intense. However, with some leaders of Russian regions, primarily heads of large republics, communication was more difficult to build. As many analysts in Minsk suggested, Minsk could regard contacts between President Lukashenka and the head of Chechnya as an additional communication channel for relieving tension in relations with the Kremlin. However, most likely, a trusting relationship with Kadyrov is a value for Minsk as such, provided Kadyrov’s broad business and political interests, and a high degree of autonomy for the Chechen leader from the Kremlin.