New faces in Belarusian protest movement evolve from criminal prosecution
The Moscow district court in Minsk started hearings of Vladimir Kondrus case, a new defendant in a high-profile case of the mass disorder after the 2010 elections. His unprecedented non-conformist behaviour during the investigation and in the courtroom surprised even former political prisoners from the opposition and drew increased public attention. He may become a role model for other prisoners. It is noteworthy that the authorities have switched from prosecuting opposition leaders to prosecuting active citizens not connected with the titular opposition, such as blogger Eduard Palchys and participant in the postelection street protests in 2010, Vladimir Kondrus. Due to the criminal prosecution, previously unknown activists have become public figures with a potential to become protest movement leaders.
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.