After the events of August 2020, the Belarusian authorities have been trying to separate Belarusians from non-state media. Telegram feeds, and websites of publications that do not acquiesce to state propaganda are declared extremist. And the millstones of repressions grind up those who have a different point of view on events in Belarus and the world.
Does the information blockade affect the attitude of Belarusians to the Russian-Ukrainian war?
"The blow to the non-state media has been enormous. Although many of them managed to maintain an audience, building it up in such conditions isn't easy. It is difficult to reach an audience that is not traditional for these media," Ryhor Astapenia, director of the Belarusian initiative Chatham House, tells Euroradio. "If the Belarusian non-state mass media had more opportunities in Belarus, I think the attitude of the Belarusians to this war would have been slightly different.
We can imagine that eliminating the Belarusian non-state mass media was also a part of the preparation for this war. In Russia, we can see that the government perceives the media as one of the biggest threats. Basically, it showed this in the first days of the war, when it began destroying non-state mass media".
Destruction of the mass media, sanctions, the threat of war - how does all this affect the moral and psychological state of the Belarusians?
"We are in a tough socio-political situation when the society itself is in a state of near panic. People are well aware that there will be huge socio-economic consequences, price hikes, etc. There is a danger that Belarus will be dragged into a military conflict, exacerbating our affairs.
We see that the sovereignty of Belarus is under enormous threat. The current political system is evolving into an absolutely proxy system in relation to Russia. We are hardly able to make many decisions independently. This affects the mass migration from Belarus and, in principle, the feeling of the apocalypse.
I think that the mood is very complicated. The mood in society is getting worse and worse. And how long can the Belarusian society exist in a very protracted authoritarian regime?" Ryhor Astapenia wonders.