23 January 2018, Tuesday, 12:57

Belarusians between Putin and Lukashenka

The role of independent media is growing in this situation.

Editor-in-chief of charter97.org Natallia Radzina said it to ru.DELFI.lt commenting on the blocking of the website by Rostelecom.

– You charter97.org is blocked in Russia. What are the reasons, in your opinion?

– Russia's backbone telecommunications service provider Rostelecom blocked access to our website on August 7. Visitors of charter97.org began to inform us about the blocked access to the website in Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus. Our inquiry showed that Russia's backbone telecommunications service provider Rostelecom put our site on the blacklist. Charter97.org disappeared for all customers of ISPs that get access to the Internet via Rostelecom.

Instead of our website, visitors see the page with the notice that the website was included in the unified register of the domain names, website references and network addresses that allow identifying websites containing information circulation of which is forbidden in the Russian Federation.

Rostelecom earlier put some of charter97.org articles about holding rallies in Russia to support the Siberian People's Republic on the blacklist, but the site was not blocked completely. The domain charter97.org is not on the register of Roskomnadzor. However, Rostelecom went further and completely blocked access to our site.

It's interesting that clients of Belarusian ISPs Delovaya Set, Life, Velcom and others faced the blocking. According to the information we have, these ISPs get access to the Internet via the National Traffic Exchange Centre (NTEC) that recently received the right to connect to the international gateway. The NTEC gets access to the Internet via Rostelecom, so the Russian operator automatically blocked access to the website for many Belarusian users.

Our site has been on Belarusian blacklists since spring 2011. The access to the site is blocked in government agencies, educational and cultural institutions, but the blocked access for other users will be a serious blow to the remains of freedom of speech in Belarus.

Many in the EU say that “liberalisation” has begun in Belarus again, but we see the contrary in practice. We need solidarity and support of international organisations, such as the OSCE, the Council of Europe, Reporters without Borders, the Committee to Protect Journalists.

– How would you describe the Belarusian media scene amid war in Ukraine?

– There's heavy propaganda in all official media – television, radio, newspapers and websites. Lukashenka's propaganda actively supports Putin's one today. It is the same lie that deceives people. Belarus broadcasts Russian TV channels, so the Belarusians have found themselves between Scylla and Charybdis. We can see a sort of a paradox. Most Belarusians despise Lukashenka, if not hate him. Putin for them is a lesser evil today. Seeing no opportunities to get rid of Lukashenka peacefully, by means of elections, they are ready to support even devil only to get rid of him.

The role of independent media is growing in this situation. They should explain that we now need to struggle both against Lukashenka and Putin.

– What do you think about the situation of Belarus in connection with Russia's action against Ukraine, Western sanctions and Russia's responsive sanctions?

– Lukashenka can make a fortune from this situation. Belarus is a transit country. Europeans, Russians and Ukrainians are ready to use it to transport their goods in both directions to bypass sanctions. I am sure grey schemes and smuggling will flourish. Lukashenka, oligarchs and corrupted officials will earn on it. Of course, we must block it.

We are observing a geopolitical earthquake. The situation can change quickly. But the regional stability is impossible without a free democratic Belarus.