Repressions against political activists and the media in Belarus have resumed
Gleb Vajkul, a participant in the student march, has been expelled from the Belarusian State University on formal charges of failing one of the subjects. In addition, the Belarusian Association of Journalists has confirmed that a new wave of persecution of independent journalists working for foreign media without accreditation has started. That said, the student march had exclusively non-political demands. And pressure on independent media journalists was only registered in one region – Gomel region. Nevertheless, together with the increase in protest activity authorities may extend their repressions to the most active leaders of other protest groups, such as entrepreneurs. The harassment of independent media journalists may also be expanded to other regions if people’s discontent with the socio-economic policies continues to grow and takes active forms.
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.