Solidarity with Ukraine reduces opposition’s influence on population
On March 25th, the opposition celebrated yet another anniversary of the Belarusian People’s Republic, which was also marked by the solidarity with Ukraine and condemnation of Russian aggression.
The authorities have demonstrated loyalty to the organisers and the demonstration participants and have not exacerbated the situation. In addition, the demonstration has attracted slightly more participants than the organisers have anticipated – mainly due to those inspired by the events in Ukraine. Meanwhile, focus on Ukraine significantly reduces the Belarusian opposition’s opportunities to convey their messages to the population, the majority of which condemns the unrests in Ukraine after the Maidan.
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.