Sentences to Nyaklyaeu and Rymasheusky
On 20 May two former Presidential candidates Nyaklyaeu and Rymasheusky were sentenced along with other members of their campaigns. Nyaklyaeu was sentenced to 2 years of imprisonment suspended for 2 years and 5 other defendants were given conditional sentences ranging from 1 to 2 years.
With these sentences the Belarusian authorities have actually declined earlier charges of “mass disorder” against U. Nyaklyaeu and his colleagues announced immediately after 19 December. Lenient sentences for the "Nyaklyaeu group" could be regarded as a sign of willingness to cooperate. The movement "Tell the Truth!" was initially presented by the Belarusian propaganda as the main revolutionary force, led by Polish and German think tanks.
Obviously, the EU, USA and Russia, who previously strongly negatively reacted to the harsh sentence to the ex-candidate A. Sannikov on 14 May, could not make positive assessment of such move. In anticipation of the EU sanctions following a meeting of the Council of Ministers of the EU on 23 May Belarus postponed the announcement of the verdict in a trial against the ex-candidates N. Statkevich and D. Uss scheduled for 20 May, allegedly in connection with the illness of a judge. Both were charged under Part 1 of Article 293 (organization of mass disorder), envisaging imprisonment for up to 15 years. It can be safely assumed that the sentences will depend on the decision of the EU Council.
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.