Kremlin started information campaign to sow seeds of strife between Minsk and Kiev
The Kremlin has stepped up the information and political-economic pressure on the Belarusian authorities. So far, the Belarusian authorities have not thought about replacing aggressive Russian content in the Belarusian media with domestic products. The Kremlin is attempting to create difficulties for Minsk and Kyiv (and Western capitals), and devalue Belarus’ foothold as an international negotiation platform.
The Russian First Channel aired ‘Time will tell’ last week, a talk show, which discussed the influence of history on relations between Belarus and Ukraine on the one side and Russia on the other.
The Kremlin has stepped up pressure on Minsk in the information space, international and trade relations. After freezing the oil and gas dispute, Moscow started insisting that Belarus gave in some of her sovereignty and agreed to a common visa space.
The information pressure could imply that the Kremlin is against strengthening international position of Minsk. Meanwhile, the Belarusian authorities are attempting to revive the negotiating platform over Ukraine and step up their status of a peacekeeper. Ukrainian media were alarmed by the news in the Russian and Belarusian media about the Russian Defence Ministry plans to increase cargo transportation through Belarus by 2017. Analysts pointed to this fact as a possible strengthening of the Russian military presence in Belarus. In addition, the Russian Defence Ministry’s media are attempting to build tension between Minsk and Kiev by talking about possible provocations against the Belarusian authorities from Ukraine.
Perhaps, the Russian media have stepped up criticism of the Belarusian authorities in response to the press tour for the Russian regional media organised by Belarus. Minsk used the press tour to influence public opinion in Russia and ensure a positive attitude towards the Belarusian government. Such an initiative could have been zealously interpreted in the Kremlin amid lingering tension over oil and gas in the Belarusian-Russian relations. By drawing parallels between Belarus and events in Ukraine, Russian propagandists aim to neutralize rosy perceptions of Belarus by inhabitants of the Russian province.
Nevertheless, in the case of a full-scale information war, Minsk could start censoring media content from Russia and switch on Internet filters.
President Lukashenka has met with the head of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov, who visited Minsk and the Minsk Automobile Plant. Minsk has always sought to have independent links with Russian regional elites, partially, to compensate for the Kremlin's diminishing interest in Belarus. In recent years, Belarus’ contacts with the Russian regions have been extremely intense. However, with some leaders of Russian regions, primarily heads of large republics, communication was more difficult to build. As many analysts in Minsk suggested, Minsk could regard contacts between President Lukashenka and the head of Chechnya as an additional communication channel for relieving tension in relations with the Kremlin. However, most likely, a trusting relationship with Kadyrov is a value for Minsk as such, provided Kadyrov’s broad business and political interests, and a high degree of autonomy for the Chechen leader from the Kremlin.