Parliamentary campaign coincided with increased repressions
The Belarusian authorities demonstrate to the West that they do not want any interference with the election campaign. Increased repressions against Belarusian journalists working for European media meant to counteract the EU threats to extend sanctions against Belarusian officials and businessmen.
On June 18th, President Lukashenko set the date for elections to the National Assembly. On June 21-22, two journalists working for Belarusian foreign media were arrested: Mr. Poczobut and Mr. Sverdlov.
Announcement of the Parliamentary elections date in Belarus had no impact on the domestic political situation. Pressure on opposition activists and civil society is not released. In fact, the amount of pressure on independent media journalists has increased sharply.
In particular, during last week two journalists, working for foreign media were arrested in Belarus: Andrzey Poczobut and Pavel Sverdlov. As well, security officials have organized a demonstrative surveillance of the European Radio for Belarus offices. Criminal proceeding initiated against Poczobut envisage up to 5 years of imprisonment.
Most likely, with these actions against journalists the Belarusian authorities attempted to respond to a statement by Director for Russia, Eastern Partnership, Central Asia, Regional Co-operation and OSCE, European External Action Service Mr. Wiegand that the EU could expand sanctions against Belarus. On June 18th this information was published in the EUObserver. Prompt and rigid reaction of Minsk indicates that country’s senior management has no double thoughts about resuming a dialogue on the EU conditions.
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.