Oct 7, 2021
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Don’t we leave ours? This does not work in the history of the Belarusian edition of Komsomolskaya Pravda

In the photo: President Vladimir Putin with the editor-in-chief of the Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper Vladimir Sungorkin.

In the photo: President Vladimir Putin with the editor-in-chief of the Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper Vladimir Sungorkin. (Photo: Look Press)

On October 5, Komsomolskaya Pravda announced the closure of its representative office in Minsk – the BelKP-Press company, which is the publisher of Komsomolskaya Pravda in Belarus. The publishing holding made a decision about this after “analyzing the events of the last year and especially the last week.”

On September 29, the Belarusian authorities blocked the website of Komsomolskaya Pravda in Belarus after publishing a material with the recollections of a classmate of the killers of a KGB officer. Two days later, a journalist of the Belarusian edition of Komsomolskaya Pravda was detained Gennady Mozheiko, he is accused of inciting racial, ethnic or religious hatred, as well as of insulting a government official.

The decision of “Komsomolskaya Pravda” to close the representative office in Belarus after the arrest of its journalist Gennady Mozheiko was the only correct one, the press secretary of the President of Russia is sure Dmitry Peskov

“Apparently, the only correct decision was made by the publication – to close this unit in Belarus,” Peskov said. At the same time, he expressed regret that the Russian publication had stopped working in a neighboring country:

“One can express regret in connection with the fact that our very authoritative and popular publication, and a very respected one, has stopped working in Belarus.”

The Kremlin, according to Peskov, is convinced that all legal rights of journalists must be respected, but the press secretary declined to comment on the attitude of the Belarusian authorities with the national media.

He also stressed that Russia does not intend to interfere in the situation around Mozheiko, since he is a citizen of Belarus and Moscow has no legal grounds to protect him.

“We in no way have the right to interfere in his relations with the Belarusian authorities. <…> De jure, we cannot somehow protect his interests, ”Peskov said.

He also said that he could not confirm that Mozheiko was detained in Minsk. According to him, Russia does not have information about where and by whom the journalist was detained, as well as whether Russia prevented Mozheiko from leaving for a third country. At the same time, Moscow hopes that the actions against Mozheiko are not related to his journalistic activities.

Peskov noted that Moscow is in constant dialogue with Belarus on this issue. “We will continue this dialogue and, of course, bring our position forward,” the Kremlin spokesman added.

Judging by Peskov’s reaction, Russia decided to wash its hands? However, with the same gesture, she unties the hands of the Belarusian authorities for a further attack on the media. By the way, not only in Belarus – several years ago the KP editorial office in Tajikistan was closed at the initiative of the newspaper’s Tajik partners (however, no one doubts that it was a direct order from the Tajik authorities) after the publication of material allegedly “offending the nation.” Moscow did not lift a finger then.

– The Russian side received tangible reputational losses among Belarusian citizens due to the active support of the one who lost external legitimacy Alexander Lukashenko, – considers Evgeny Valyaev, political analyst of the Foundation for the Development of Civil Society Institutions “People’s Diplomacy”… – Many Belarusians assessed such support as interference in the internal affairs of the state, because there is every reason to believe that without Moscow’s support Lukashenka might not have retained power. Dmitry Peskov’s words that Moscow is not able to interfere in the affairs of Minsk sound hypocritical, because during the active phase of the Belarusian protests last year, the National Guard and the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Belarus agreed on cooperation in the field of public order and security.

Moscow not only can, but is obliged to maintain the maximum degree of rationality in the domestic policy of Belarus, since the actions of Lukashenka and his entourage after active opposition speeches are characterized by an inadequately high level of violence and aggression towards dissidents.

An active process of dehumanizing the opposition is taking place in the official Belarusian media – propagandists compare dissidents with people who have no right to speak out and live in freedom. For the entire world community, such inappropriate actions of the Belarusian authorities will cast a shadow on the Russian side as the only active ally of official Minsk. Moscow should distance itself as much as possible from the crimes of the Lukashenka regime against the Belarusian civil society.

In the European Parliament, the topic of the International Criminal Court is again becoming relevant for Alexander Lukashenko. MEPs show absolute unity on this topic, accusing the Belarusian authorities of violating the Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation, the Montreal Convention on International Air Carriage, and the UN Convention against Torture. Open pressure on the journalistic community and the closure of all independent media outlets will also not remain outside the attention of the European Union. This means strengthening the sanctions regime for Minsk, and all the losses from this will fall on the Russian budget.

“SP”: – Is the closure of KP for Moscow not a reputational loss?

– The closure of Komsomolskaya Pravda in Belarus is not an aggression against the pro-Western opposition, but an attack against pro-Russian Belarusian citizens. For Minsk, it makes no difference at all what views a person holds if he allows himself to criticize the actions of Lukashenka and his entourage.

This is not the first time pro-Russian activists have come under pressure in Belarus. But if earlier this happened against the background of the situationally improving relations between Minsk and Western countries, now the aggression against pro-Russian activists is not justified at all.

During the election campaign in Belarus, there was a loud detention of allegedly fighters from the Wagner PMC. Then in the sanatorium “Belorusochka” in the Minsk region, 33 citizens of the Russian Federation were detained. Belarusian official speakers used that story to accuse Moscow of interfering in the internal affairs of Minsk. Lukashenka then gave extremely impartial and unfriendly comments.

There was a certain period when Lukashenka did not allow himself to criticize the Russian side, but now, when Moscow is pushing him towards reforms, aggression is beginning to manifest itself again. It can be concluded that the Belarusian president wants with all his might to delay the transit of power and the constitutional changes demanded by Moscow.

– Of course, the arrest of Mozheiko is connected precisely with journalistic activities, – no doubt Gevorg Mirzayan, Associate Professor of the Department of Political Science of the Financial University under the Government of the Russian Federation. – Let me remind you that the persecution of him is due to the fact that he published an exclusive (interview with a classmate of the oppositionist killer Andrew Seltsera) under a stupid heading. Not propagandistic (where the necessary meaning is instilled in a neutral language), but precisely propagandistic, demonstratively pro-opposition. For the regime in Belarus, which is carrying out repressions against journalists, such a headline is a challenge, as well as a reason for the closure of the “Komsomolskaya Pravda”, which they do not like.

“SP”: – How to understand Peskov’s statement in general? Moscow washed its hands? Did Old Man untie it? Should we wait for a further attack by the Belarusian authorities on the media?

– On the one hand, Moscow did not have many opportunities. Mozheiko is a citizen of Belarus, and agreements on mutual assistance have been concluded between the KGB and the FSB. The Lubyanka was obliged to betray him, and Peskov cannot defend him. However, “KP in Belarus” is still “KP”. Which the Russian government should protect – like other Russian media, which the Old Man is pressing. For example, the same Sputnik, whose employees worked in an atmosphere of fear until 2020 and continue to work in the same atmosphere now – despite the fact that Old Man was supposed to reward Russian journalists for saving his regime in 2020. And since Moscow is not doing anything, the pressure on the Russian media will continue.

“SP”: – The Kremlin decided not to interfere as Mozheiko is a citizen of Belarus, and this is an internal matter. Well, OK. And when the West puts pressure on its citizens working, for example, in the Republic of Tatarstan, is that another thing, should you understand?

– Yes, that’s different. Conflict with the West is possible and necessary. But with Lukashenka – it’s more expensive for himself. Simply because Old Man immediately translates the conflict into a public plane, with demonstrative resentments and scandals. To some extent, we ourselves spoiled him with our indulgence and constant concessions. So we suffer.

“SP”: “According to Peskov, Russia is in contact with the Belarusian side on this issue and will continue this dialogue and communicate its position.” What will this be? Can Moscow still start to put pressure on Minsk? In what case?

– Most likely, this is just an official reply. It was necessary to somehow close the gestalt. Judging by the fact that Peskov approved the closure of KP in Belarus, Moscow is satisfied with such a capitulation of Russian journalism. In vain. Lukashenka was given another finger and was assured that he could bite off his hand.

“SP”: – And in your opinion, was the decision of Komsomolskaya Pravda to close the representative office in Belarus after Mozheiko’s detention correct? They were driven into a corner, their hands were broken, and they made it clear that they would not be allowed to work in Belarus. If the Kremlin has washed its hands, what should journalists do? Is it generally safe to work in Belarus?

– The decision of “KP” is really forced. It is impossible to work safely in Belarus. The problem is that no one gives any clearly defined red lines. Unambiguous rules that must not be violated and under which you can work in peace. Decisions there are made by one person – and these decisions are often emotional. Therefore, it is not clear what will piss him off, and what will pass by.

“SP”: – “KP” was one of the most successful, massive and influential publications in the post-Soviet space. Apparently, this Old Man is afraid. By the way, this is not the first case of the closure of KP in the former Soviet republics. Before that, “KP” was closed in Tajikistan, which is also an allied country to us. Will Russia continue to turn a blind eye to how our allies expose our media, which could become instruments of our “soft power”?

– Moscow generally behaves very modestly in the post-Soviet space. A Tajik businessman is squeezing out the business of Russian oligarchs – we are silent. The daughter of the Uzbek president is squeezing out our company – we are silent. The Armenian Prime Minister with his pack is engaged in open Russophobia – we are silent.

Right now, a department of “soft power” is being created in the depths of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. But “soft power” is effective only when the state, in addition to it, is ready to demonstrate hard power.

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