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Lukashenka's Grand Ecumenical Ambitions

Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka continues his campaign of wooing the West.

In an interview with Reuters on May 5, Lukashenka said he "could give suitably qualified opposition figures government jobs and make other political reforms demanded by Europe if this does not hurt the economy."

He even praised opposition leader Alyaksandr Milinkevic, saying he was "pragmatic and well-considered" in his policies.

(Despite the softening stance, he still can't help referring to himself in the third person, which is never a good sign.)

Lukashenka's big PR success came last week when he met with the pope.

But writing in the "European Voice" on May 5, Vitali Silitski argues that Lukashenka meeting the pope was about much more than PR, and more than compensating for his likely no-show at this week's Prague Eastern Partnership conference.

Silitski makes the case that, on the domestic front, it was about disarming Belarusian Catholics, but that Lukashenka is also "pursuing an opportunity to be the man to arrange a meeting between the pope and the Russian patriarch, and thereby to mend the 1,000-year-old schism between Eastern and Western Christianity."

That really would be quite the PR coup.

Read the piece here.

-- Luke Alnutt

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Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at

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