Sentences for anarchists
On 27 May a court sentenced 5 youth activists from the anarchist movement to prison terms ranging from 2 to 8 years. In particular, the defendants were accused of buring the building of the Russian Embassy in Minsk in 2010, as well as staging a series of demonstrations in the capital city in 2009.
Actions of the authorities follow their own logic. Sentences for the Belarusian Anarchists were tougher than those handed down to the post-elections protestors because they were not part of the formal opposition.
Thereby the rest of the informal Belarusian youth structures, who theoretically could become politically active (for instance, the “White Legion”, the “White Will” or a community of football fans) received an unambiguous signal on the ban on such activities. The mass detention of participants in the annual cycling event in Minsk, “Critical Mass”, which is usually held with the support of the Road Police of the City Executive Committee, also confirms this trend.
However, one should not assume that the authorities designed a plan of suppression of civil and political activity in the country. It is more likely that the authorities react quasi-instinctively to the actions of citizens, and that harsh actions by the law enforcement and judicial system imply weakness rather than strength of the state.
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.