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Czeczko wasn't first: how did state Belarusian propaganda use foreigners before?
Emil Czeczko, an ex-military man from Poland became a "gift of fate" for Belarusian state propaganda / collage by Ulad Rubanau
In 2021, Belarusian state propaganda received two unheard-of "gifts of fortune. The first was American Evan Newman, who stormed the Capitol in January 2021. After the U.S. authorities found the man, he left his homeland and lived in Ukraine. When the SBU became interested in the "refugee" in August 2021, he illegally crossed the Ukrainian-Belarusian border to get political asylum in Belarus. And lo and behold -- four months after the incident with the American, Polish soldier Emil Czeczko defected from Poland to Belarus.
In Belarus, the local propagandists immediately made use of the defectors, musing about the "anti-human policy" of the West. Newman was portrayed as "an ordinary American who was looking for justice," while Czeczko turned out to be someone who refused "to carry out the criminal orders of his leadership."
Fate does not often shower propagandists with "gifts" like Evan and Emil. But the state-run mass media have also previously published stories about a "happy state" involving natives of other countries. An example was a 50-minute video about foreigners who were well settled in Belarus, which came out just before the elections of 2020. There were no high-profile cases like Newman and Czeczko, but the TV reporters did their best, using the tried-and-true mantra about keeping the streets of Belarus clean and living a peaceful life. Some of the "grateful foreigners" involved in the film are not "just people", but media personalities, who are also favored by the Belarusian regime.
Businessman against privatization
"The strategy of economic development in Belarus turned out to be very correct and wise. I have participated in a few privatizations in several European countries, and I would not like it to happen in Belarus. That's what Vibor Mulic, chairman of the board of directors of the construction company Dana Holdings, which belongs to Serbs Karic, Lukashenka's close associates, said in a state media propaganda article about privatization. And no, he is not a communist, but a businessman.
"We have the richest country in the world and the poorest people," is how Majid Al Qaisi, honorary consul and ardent supporter of Alyaksandr Lukashenka, says of Iraq in the same report. "Belarus is the calmest country, the law is one hundred percent," he says.
Majid is now suspected of illegally transferring migrants from Eastern countries through Belarus. The average salary in Iraq in 2021 is 455 dollars, in Belarus, according to official data, it fluctuates at 500-580 dollars. The mentioned "100% of law" in Belarus sounds strange with no criminal cases filed so far against the law enforcement officers, whose actions resulted in injuries and deaths of Belarusians during the events of 2020.
A lover of the strong arm
The next character of the state media promo is the now-deceased Slovenian Tomas Chater, former head coach of the Belarusian women's handball team. He did not hide his admiration for Lukashenka either. "Here [in Tomas's home country - Euroradio], the parliament decides everything. There are 20 or 30 people. They disagree, one wants it this way, the other wants it that way. I like the fact that here [in Belarus -Euroradio] there is one person and he commands."
Refugee from Donbas
The blonde girl in the photo was portrayed by state propaganda as a Ukrainian girl Aliona, who fled to Belarus from the war in Donbas in 2014. In her opinion, Belarus is breaking away from the "post-Soviet" ideology and heading toward Europe.
"Why Belarus? Probably because of your political leader. Everyone knows that he knows how to negotiate," she means the Minsk agreements on Donbas. "At least they don't fire "Topols" and "Grads".
If the girl knew that in 2021 Lukashenka would want to deploy several divisions of Russian "Iskander" operational-tactical missile systems on the border with Ukraine, would her opinion of the "negotiator" change?
Japanese man from the 2000s
Another colorful character from the video is the Japanese language teacher Akira Furusawa, who moved to Belarus in 2000. He said that the country seemed gloomy to him then. But then he really liked the Kamarouski market in Minsk, the "sincere smiles of people" and the fact that cars stop before the crossings. In an interview with Onliner, the Japanese said he did not understand why people were not happy. He saw people in the country "go to nice restaurants and drive expensive cars."
We have not listed all of the people featured by the Belarusian state TV propaganda video. Propagandists continue to use "happy mothers," "grateful doctors," and "successful farmers" from abroad in their reports.
But in the past the soothing rhetoric of the pro-government media was built on stories about clean Belarusian cities and a peaceful life. In 2021 propagandists no longer hesitated to tell about "an ordinary American whose stores were burned down by representatives of the BLM movement, who sought justice, asked inconvenient questions, but lost virtually everything and was persecuted by the US government" and that "Polish servicemen were drugged with alcohol and forced to shoot refugees".