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How Russian media make propaganda about anti-integration protests in Minsk

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A street protest against integration with Russia / Euroradio

Nura N. Berg, an allusion to the Nurnberg trial of the Nazi criminals after World War II, is the nickname of a Russian news agency RIA Novosti’s writer who once a week publishes an opinion piece, “exposing” Ukraine’s “bloody junta.” Her (or his) texts flash the catchy headlines like “Kyiv ahead of Normandy summit: prepare wood fuel for Maidan”, “How Ukraine’s main Russophobe returns to power” or “Zelensky’s cunning plan: what Ukraine’s premier did when visiting the Nazis.”

Active on Twitter, Telegram and Facebook, s/he writes about “Ukrainian hit squads” and Ukraine’s news agenda through the prism of 'Great Russia' chauvinism. But something changed on 15 December. The latest article by Nura N. Berg is titled “Ukrainians expelled by Hong Kong, Belarus is next.” In other words, anti-Belarusian propaganda is a fresh addition to the routine anti-Ukrainian narrative.

Let's take a look at how the author turns reality outside out attributing the actions by ideologically charged adversaries to the proponents of Belarus’ independence.
 

The Belarusian language is portrayed as marginal

The last several paragraphs in the article are dedicated to Belarus and Belarusian activists protesting against integration with Russia. Nura N. Berg is pushing the following message: they are “truly the younger brothers of Ukrainian radicals. They eagerly and copy all the Ukrainian techniques.”

The key moment in the “situation”, which is “being destabilized according to a well-tried procedure,” is “the struggle for the native Belarusian language, which today looks exotic,” the author claims. “Activists make a fuss in public complaining that they do not understand Russian and demanding cashiers and shop attendants to serve in Belarusian.”.

In Russia, this is a well-maintained and wide-spread propaganda cliché, even when the real situation in Belarus is quite the opposite. Remember the incident with the former main ideologue of Belarus Vladimir Zametalin? The retired ex-top official in the Lukashenka administration got into media spotlight a couple of years ago when shopping in a Minsk supermarket; he demanded that a cashier who had asked him in Belarusian spoke Russian to him. “I hate to speak your f***** language. Read the Constitution and reply in Russian to me!” he shouted to the lady at the checkout. 

‘Ukrainian hit squad activists’ moderate Belarusian social media public groups

Nura N. Berg insists the Ukrainians are the main protest force in Belarus! “The vanguard units of Ukrainian spin doctors, expensively trained at the cost of American and other taxpayers, have long since been coaching Europe seekers in Belarus.” This is the message the Russians are being fed. But how come these street riot professionals equipped with state-of-the-art technologies have failed to mobilize thousands and thousands of protesters in Minsk?

“Just read Belarusian public groups and it becomes clear how big the role of Ukrainian activists is when it comes to moderating discussions about the future of the country, how vigorously they create a discourse, how harshly they attack their opponents in groups destroying the morale of their critics,” Nura N. Berg continues. “Many of them participated in reprisals in Donbas. Now they are the soldiers on the ideological front, coaching Belarusian brothers-in-arms.”

Unfortunately, the author does not specify those public groups. They are non-existent in the Belarusian segment of Telegram. But when it comes to Facebook, leave alone VKontakte and Odnoklassniki, the bots from Olgino have long since had the edge. At times, they even carry out coordinated actions. In late 2018, about a dozen of seemingly disconnected regional public groups on VKontakte – the likes of Tvoy Minsk, BrestCITY, NEtipichny Vitebsk) almost simultaneously rolled out a standard poll, asking readers if they wanted to become part of Russia. Besides, there is a network of Kremlin-backed websites in Belarus, which mix neutral local news with toxic anti-Belarusian narratives and anti-Western agenda.

 

'Maidan slogans' in Minsk. Really?

Madam N. sees Maidan’s malicious shadow in everything – even the slogans used during protests in Minsk and Kyiv. 

“The main messages of Belarusian nationalists are copy-pasted from the Maidan slogans: "No to capitulation", "No to Customs Union”, "Bring Our Language Back!", "Belarus is Europe". In the framework of the fight for independence, they instigate hatred against law-enforcement officers by de-humanizing them with the help of their coaches. And finally, the jumping and infamous chants are the same.”

Now the author has everything upside down. The Belarus to Europe slogan has been around in Minsk since the mid-2000s long before the Revolution of Dignity in Ukraine. Nobody is using the No to Customs Union slogan in Minsk now, because we have problems with the Union State not the Customs Union at the moment. This paragraph from Nura N. Berg’s article is a vivid example of scaring the Russians and telling them that Belarus is “like Ukraine” by simply attributing the features of Ukrainian protests to the protests in Belarus, although it has nothing to do with reality, because Belarusians are creative in their way.

 

As for the “infamous chants”, the RIA Novosti’s author is not aware that they, or to be more exact, it (only one) is recognized by law in Belarus as extremist. Belarusians are law-abiding people, so they do not do extremist chants! Finally, how can one de-humanize anonymous plainclothes agents who capture street protesters on video? And who exactly de-humanizes them? Can Nura N. Berg answer these questions?

 

As for the “infamous chants”, the RIA Novosti’s author is not aware that they, or to be more exact, it (only one) is recognized by law in Belarus as extremist. Belarusians are law-abiding people, so they do not do extremist chants! Finally, how can one de-humanize anonymous plainclothes agents who capture street protesters on video? And who exactly de-humanizes them? Can Nura N. Berg answer these questions?