Sannikov tries to maintain political autonomy
Andrei Sannikov’s team seeks to preserve political autonomy and to establish an independent political emigration center. This process is complicated by still unclear Sannikov’s public policy objectives and by the lack of support from the rest of the Belarusian opposition forces, who have already recognized the Rada of the Belarusian People’s Republic as a focal point for political forces in immigration.
On November 13th, in an interview with the Belarusian service of “Radio Liberty”, the former Presidential candidate Andrei Sannikov said that his representative was not allowed in negotiations concerning elaboration of the so-called “Vilnius Memorandum” of the Belarusian opposition. He also described the document as unprofessional and threatening the Belarus’ independence.
According to Sannikov, a representative of “European Belarus” civil campaign, which he heads, was not invited to discuss the ‘Vilnius memorandum’, a document signed by 12 opposition forces on November 3rd in Vilnius. A number of actors also signed the memorandum post factum. Mr. Sannikov expressed a number of comments about the document and in the end he refused to sign it. Later, BNR Chairwoman Iwonka Survilla said, that an invitation to the meeting had been sent to Sannikov’s group, along with a draft Memorandum for discussion.
Most likely, the conflict between the “European Belarus” and the BNR is deeper and not related to organizational issues of the meeting in Vilnius or professionalism of the Memorandum authors. Since the signed Memorandum recognizes the NBR’s exceptional legitimacy as a Belarusian authorities’ body until the fall of the Lukashenko regime, it would be logical to explain Sannikov’s refusal to sign it by that his group has plans to create an alternative government in exile.
In the meanwhile, “European Belarus” has not yet proposed any positive programme for political action and limits itself to criticism of their colleagues in the opposition. At the same time, the majority of the “European Belarus” activists have already left Belarus, in particular, Mr. Bondarenko (Sannikov’s trustee) and Mr. Atroshchankau (Sannikov’s former press secretary). The “European Belarus’” best-known project is a socio-political website “Charter 97”.
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.