Online Event: Has Belarus Reached a Point of No Return?
Are Alexander Lukashenko’s accusations against Poland substantiated, and is he not following the methods previously tested by Russian propaganda?
“They wanted to arrange a revolution in our country, not even a revolution, but a rebellion, but they got it themselves,” commented Alexander Lukashenko on the protest actions that took place in Poland at the end of October..
He also accused neighboring countries of funding the leaders of the strike movement in Belarus: “We know that … they are still paid from Poland and Lithuania. You know, money is already flowing through open, closed channels, we cannot track everything, ”Lukashenka said at a meeting in Minsk.
The anti-Polish rhetoric of Alexander Lukashenko has escalated after the start of mass protests in many cities of Belarus due to suspicions of falsifying the results of the presidential elections. Then, according to him, NATO tanks allegedly “clanged tracks at our gates”, and in Grodno after the presidential elections “hung out Polish flags. Well, if they were removed today, it doesn’t mean that something is not wandering around in someone’s head. You can see the behavior of some clergymen of our churches – both Catholic and Orthodox, ”Lukashenka said. The head of the Belarusian Catholics, Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, who was denied a return to his homeland, to Belarus, he accused of having ties with Warsaw and stressed: “No one will be allowed to travel to Poland and receive advice on how to destroy our country.”.
“Propaganda needs to find an external enemy to justify the use of force against its population.”
Analyst at the Polish Institute of International Relations Maciej Zanevich (Maciej Zaniewicz) recalled that accusations against Poland, similar to those now voiced by Alexander Lukashenko, had previously appeared in speeches of representatives of the Russian Foreign Ministry and were published in Russian newspapers. “Lukashenka hasn’t come up with anything new here. And if we look at what is happening in Belarus now, there is now a replacement of local journalists who took part in strikes with those who came from Russia..
In my opinion, this is a very dangerous phenomenon for Belarus and for its independence. Because if we look at what is really happening, and not how the propagandists represent it, then we will see that the country that violates the sovereignty and interferes in the internal affairs of Belarus is the Russian Federation, ”Zanevich said in an interview with the correspondent of the Russian service “Voice of America”.
The reason for the increased polonophobia, according to the expert, is that Lukashenka has turned the protection of his own interests into a matter of state importance. “We see that since August this year people take to the streets (of Belarusian cities) every week. These are very strong actions of resistance, and propaganda needs to find an external enemy in order to justify the use of force against its population..
It sounds like this: “We do not beat the Belarusians, we protect them from the crowd, which either does not understand what it is doing and is accidentally drawn into the protest, or is financed by an external enemy.” And now we see that the attempts of the Belarusian authorities to shift the responsibility for the problems it has created apply not only to Poland, but also to Lithuania and even to Ukraine. Despite the fact that Lukashenka has repeatedly repeated: “We are fraternal peoples”. Which, by the way, is typical for the supporters of the so-called “Russian World”. But now he closes the borders, including from the “brotherly people” “, – said Maciej Zanevich.
He also reminded that Ukraine was the first country to invite Belarusian IT specialists. For some time now, Poland has also shown interest in ai-tishniks from a neighboring country. Moreover, recently they have been leaving Belarus not only in search of better earnings, but also fleeing political persecution, since many employees of Belarusian IT enterprises supported the anti-Lukashenka protests. “Although, of course, this is not so easy to do now, because the borders are being closed due to the coronavirus. But I personally know several examples of successful adaptation of Belarusian IT specialists in Poland. She speaks fluent English, and this is an international language for IT corporations, ”concludes Maciej Zanevich.
“Poland wants to be surrounded by friendly neighbors”
Deputy Director of the Center for Polish-Russian Dialogue and Accord Lukasz Adamski (Łukasz Adamski) in a conversation with the correspondent of the Russian service of the Voice of America noted that, despite the numerous differences of the Polish authorities and the opposition on many issues, in the event of events in Belarus, there is agreement here. “In Poland, we support the Belarusian civil society and the protest movement, and the publications of our media reflect the public mood. We can say that the exception is made up of rather marginal right-wing groups, who believe that Lukashenka is the guarantor of Russia’s non-interference in Belarus’ affairs. But among the elites, intellectuals, politicians, experts, journalists, almost 100% support the protests in Belarus, I repeat – regardless of political orientation, that is, right and left, liberals and conservatives, ”said Lukasz Adamski.
Commenting on the increased Belarusian emigration to Poland, including employees of companies working in the field of information technology, the expert noted that this is an undoubted challenge for his country..
“We need to give a political assessment of this phenomenon. In addition, there is a desire to help these people, but the possibilities for such solidarity are very limited. What we were able to do was support the independent media, in particular, we have the Belsat TV channel broadcasting in the Belarusian language. There is also a program to support students who have been subjected to political repression. This scholarship program is named after Kalinouski, which is very symbolic, since he is a hero for both Poles and Belarusians in the fight against Tsarist Russia..
There is also support for non-governmental organizations. Thus, in August, when the protests in Belarus were just beginning, the Polish Prime Minister, speaking at the Seimas, announced that 50 million zlotys would be allocated annually, that is, 11 million euros for victims of repression, independent journalists, students, civil society organizations and assistance to those who leave for Poland.
And finally, our prime minister promised to ease the visa regime for Belarusians who want to work in Poland. This will help both those people who have lost their livelihoods and the Polish economy, which is in need of labor, ”Lukasz Adamski said..
As for the accusations against Poland from both Lukashenka and the Kremlin, the interlocutor of the Voice of America laughed and said that he regularly heard such reproaches over the past 10-15 years, and this rhetoric, as a rule, escalates after another “Victories” of Alexander Lukashenko in the elections and the protest actions that followed. “Of course, Poland, like any other country, wants to be surrounded by friendly neighbors. Of course, there is an international principle of non-interference in the affairs of other countries, and both Lukashenka and the Russian authorities are very fond of talking about this. But there are other norms of international law, for example, those that say that the people are the sovereign of law. But what to do in a situation when Alexander Lukashenko, announced the winner of the elections in Belarus, falsified the results and does not have the support of the population? We want the Belarusians to have a free choice, and so that there should not be massive repressions there, ”concludes the deputy director of the Center for Polish-Russian Dialogue and Accord..
“The authorities themselves are pushing Belarusians to other forms of action”
During the March Against Terror, held in Belarus last Sunday, journalists of the Belsat TV channel Dmitry Soltan, Artem Bogoslavsky and Dmitry Kravchuk were detained. They were charged with “organizing and preparing actions that grossly violate public order”.
The correspondent of the Russian service “Voice of America” applied for a comment to the deputy director of the company “Belsat TV” Alexey Dzikavitsky (Alyaksey Dzikavitsky). “The detention of our journalists is part of a large“ hapun ”(Belarusian“ mass arrests ”), because we know that the Belarusian authorities have announced that as many as 231 people will be held under this article. One of our journalists, namely cameraman Dmitry Soltan, was imprisoned for 13 days, in addition, he was severely beaten with his own camera. I think this is a way to scare the journalists even more, and not only ours. But Belsat is in a special situation here. The fact is that we have been working for almost 13 years without accreditation, and we have come a long way of persecution by the Belarusian authorities – at first we were simply fined, and in recent years we have paid more than 120 thousand euros in fines for our colleagues. And in the summer of this year, they began to detain and throw them behind bars for participating in “unauthorized protests.” Despite the fact that most of our people were in vests with the inscription “Press”, they were told that it was difficult to distinguish them from the participants in the crowd, ”said Alexey Dzikavitskiy.
For three months, Belsat journalists have spent almost three hundred days in total, but now the authorities have decided to scare them even more – under the article on “organizing and preparing actions that grossly violate public order” they could face up to three years in prison. According to the deputy director of Belsat, such harsh actions prove that this is an act of despair on the part of the authorities, but they hope that other editorial offices, fearing for their employees, will stop sending them to cover the protest marches. “In general, there is someone who sits with us all the time. For example, two of our colleagues have been arrested for 24 hours now – Pavel Dobrovolsky in Minsk and Viktor Yaroshuk in Pinsk, “Dzikavitsky added..
Commenting on the departure of young Belarusian specialists for fear of reprisals, he noted that this would not lead to a decrease in protest moods in Belarus. “This is not a new situation when the Lukashenka regime is pushing out, throwing out, driving out its citizens from the country..
But now the situation in Belarus has radically changed – now it is not a group of oppositionists who are protesting, as it was since the beginning of the 2000s, but different layers of citizens. These are pensioners, students, doctors, workers, miners and many others. You cannot expel all these people from the country, and I think that the brutal actions of the security forces will only further enrage people. After all, they are practically deprived of their legal right to protest, and the authorities themselves are pushing Belarusians to other forms of action, ”says Aleksey Dzikavitsky, Deputy Director of Belsat TV..