Minsk’s role in Russo-Ukrainian confrontation increases
On April 24th, President Lukashenko had an emergency telephone conversation with acting Ukrainian president Turchinov about the situation in Slovyansk. Later that day, Russia initiated a telephone conversation between foreign ministers of Russia and Belarus, in which the ministers raised important international issues. Amid escalating tension between the Kremlin and Kiev, and between Russia and the West, Minsk’s role in interpreting events in South-Eastern Ukraine is increasing. Despite closely coordinating their foreign policy with the Kremlin, the Belarusian authorities are interested in de-escalating the Russo-Ukrainian conflict. Belarus is attempting to find a balanced approach and not to spoil her relations with the new Ukrainian authorities.
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.