Minsk is torn between repressions and attempts to revive a dialogue with the West
On May 2 an office of Radio Racja, a Belarusian and Polish radio, was searched and equipment was confiscated. On May 3, it was reported that a room that had previously been confirmed for the Belarusian NGO Assembly congress on May 5-6 was denied.
The escalation of oppressive measures against Belarusian journalists and NGO representatives continues following the brutal arrests of Chernobyl Way participants on April 26 in Minsk. Most likely Minsk has considered the decision by the EU Council of Foreign Ministers taken on April 23 not to expand sanctions against Belarus to be insufficient. Moreover, Belarus’ government responded negatively to the fact that Switzerland joined the sanctions on April 30.
Minsk has additional motivation to keep its tough domestic policy at a time when a political conflict between Brussels and Kiev concerning Yulia Tymoshenko is escalating, when 12 European presidents have boycotted the Yalta summit of Central and East European leaders on 11-12 May, and when a possible boycott of Ukrainian matches within the European Football Championship may occur. Thus the Belarusian regime is showing solidarity with Kiev from afar, which has resulted in the mutual lifting of restrictions in the meat and beer trade.
At the same time, the Belarusian authorities continue to make attempts to revive a dialogue with Western Europe in the roundabout way suggested by the EU – with the intermediary of The Vatican.
On May 7-10 Archbishop Cyril Vasil, Secretary of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, Vatican, will come to Minsk. This visit seems to be part of a plan launched personally by President Lukashenko in April.
During searches of social and "green" activists and anarchists, law enforcement has seized computers, mobile phones and publications. The authorities have also exerted additional pressure on supporters of unauthorized street protests and independent lawyers, who represented defendants in the White Legion case. The security services have stepped up the persecution of opponents before the street protests announced by the opposition. Apparently, the Belarusian authorities aspire that participants in street protests would reduce in number and that the low interest of the population to socio-political agenda before the local election campaign would retain.