The escalation of tension in international relations, on which Russia is betting today, will not happen without its closest neighbors. The primary blows of the Kremlin’s information machine are focused on Ukraine, but this does not mean that Belarus will be on the sidelines. Russia is suggesting the Belarusian regime to act through a stream of hatred.
The reason for this is simple: Russian propaganda today is based on developments of Soviet propaganda. In 1942, with their poem «Kill» and the article «Kill a German,» Konstantin Simonov and Ilya Ehrenburg expressed their official position regarding waging a total war against Germany. Note here this regards Germans, not Nazis. Seeking out differences among various manifestations of totalitarian propaganda is a thankless task, and we are interested in Soviet propaganda only as a basis for modern Russian propaganda.
Russian propaganda in 2014 offered the world many vivid examples, with perhaps the most striking of them the «crucified boy.» The engine for this invention was Galina Pyshnyak, the wife of a Ukrainian Berkut officer who later settled in the Russian wilderness. This sham played a mobilizing role for the residents of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, who believed the calls of militants, and for Russians who decided to join the ranks of the «Novorossiya militia.»
It is obvious that the initiators of this fake story have yet to be brought to justice, although the chances of justice in modern Russia are quite small.
Kremlin propagandists, with some tweaking of the plot, repeated their elaborations in April 2021, trumpeting to the whole world about a 5-year-old boy allegedly killed by a Ukrainian drone. In fact, the child died in the courtyard of his own home from the explosion of an unidentified device. The extensive broadcasting of this story accompanied Russia’s military preparations this spring, creating an appropriate informational background.
The direct participation of the country’s leaders has recently become a feature of Russian aggressive propaganda. For example, Vladimir Putin recently compared the situation in the Donbass to genocide. He has repeatedly stated that Russia will not allow «a repeat of Srebrenica» in eastern Ukraine. Remember here that Russia distributed about 600,000 passports on ORDLO territory and the subject of «protecting compatriots» is a key Russian policy issue. The boss of the Kremlin is openly conflating these two incidents, as the massacre in Srebrenica was arranged by Serbian paramilitary units against Muslim men and youths. The Kremlin, however, is using this modern symbol of genocide to discredit Ukraine.
At a recent extended meeting of the Russian Ministry of Defense, its head, Sergei Shoigu, said that in the Donbas «representatives of American PMCs are preparing a provocation using chemical weapons.» It must be said that the topic of the presence of foreign mercenaries in the Donbass runs through the Russian media like a red thread. And it is no wonder why, as how else could the series of defeats in 2014-2015 suffered by «militias,» armed to the teeth by Russia, be explained. It is noteworthy that the applied xenophobia in this case is voiced by the leader of the United Russia party, which is the ruling party in Russia. Another driving force on the list of the party in power, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, announced Russia’s readiness to «respond to Ukraine’s provocations.» It should be remembered that this is the same Lavrov who, in implementing the Kremlin’s foreign policy, acts according to the precepts of Joachim von Ribbentrop.
Lavrov’s subordinate, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, in a recent interview on the Crimea 24 television channel, said that NATO was transporting fighters and weapons to Ukraine. It is important to note that Russian civil servants pull statements from the arsenal of army propaganda. In the spring and autumn of 2021, it was seen how the desire to dehumanize Ukrainians is heard constantly in official statements by the Russian authorities. They essentially create an informational basis for unleashing a war, «suppressing Ukraine.» At the same time, Ukraine is depicted as a puppet of the West, completely subordinate to its interests. It is worth recalling that the Ukrainian constitution prohibits the deploying of foreign military bases on its territory and that the process of rapprochement with NATO is far from over.
Following the 2020 presidential elections, Alexander Lukashenko ended up as a subscriber to Russian propaganda, which is why he regularly makes aggressive statements against Ukraine. In parallel, Belarus continues to increase the volume of trade with Ukraine, receiving hundreds of millions of dollars to the budget. Is there a threat of starting the process of dehumanization of Ukrainians in Belarus as well? There is no definitive answer to this question since the subject of Grigoriy Azarenok’s five minutes of hatred can be quickly corrected. While Lukashenko continues to make general statements, his negative attitude towards revolutions in Ukraine is well known. He verbally castigates the opposition and Western neighbors but activating a litany of hatred against Ukraine by the leadership of Belarus will mean that war is not far off.
Yauhen MAGDA, Institute of World Politics.
This article was prepared by iSANS specially for Reform.by
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