President sides with law enforcement in high-profile conflicts
Last week, TUT.BY journalist Pavel Dobrovolsky and two activists were detained and beaten by law enforcement officers at the courthouse before the ‘graffiti’ case hearing. Later, based on the testimony of MIA representatives, the journalist and activists were awarded large fines. In addition, the judge issued an unexpectedly soft decision against three graffiti artists who were also fined. Meanwhile, at the board meeting of the Interior Ministry, which discussed the results of 2015 and plans and tasks for 2016, President Lukashenka did not publicly comment on the incident with the journalist and only talked about the lack of serious complaints about the work of the police. Tough action against the journalist by the Belarusian militia was unlikely sanctioned by the senior Belarusian leadership. However, amid deteriorating economic situation, the president was prompted to demonstrate loyalty to the law enforcement bodies.
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.