Journalists at the Belarusian State Channels started a strike 17 August. Alyaksandr Lukashenka reacted with almost immediately firing everybody and requesting Russia to send “shtreykbrekhers“, strike-breakers, to Belarus. 21 August, the official Belarusian news wire quotes Lukashenka:
I asked the Russians – “send us 2 – 3 teams of journalists, just in case”.
EUvsDisinfo gets in contact with one of the striking journalists, currently in hiding and requesting to be quoted anonymously:
We were a large number of staff of the largest TV-channel in Belarus who simply couldn’t continue working like this, and we went on strike. It didn’t take long before we were replaced with Russian staff. Some of those who weren’t on strike were forced out later. It is very hard to say how many Russian staffers there are now; the presid—, well, Lukashenka, says “two – three teams”, but in reality there are much more. There are not only camera teams, but also technical personnel, managers…
One can easily see that foreigners are working on the state TV. For instance – our country is called “Belarus”. This is the name used also in Russian language here in our country. But now you see the word “Belorussiya”, which is only used in Russia, never in Belarus.
In an interview for RT.com Alyaksandr Lukashenka expresses his gratitude to the Moscow strike-breakers.
You understand how important you are for us in these troubled times; how your technical personnel worked, your journalists, reporters, your bosses. That was very valuable.
The striking journalist confirms RT’s role in propping up the Lukashenko system:
Earlier, RT was a rather rare sight in Belarus; now they are everywhere. They get all the best positions at press-conferences and they are never touched by the Police. They certainly have a privileged position and you see their cars everywhere.
RT:s editor-in-chief, Margarita Simonyan, was one of the Russian journalists, invited for an interview with Alyaksandr Lukashenka. She has earlier suggested to send “polite men” to Belarus to ensure order in the country, hinting on the Russian soldiers, deployed to Crimea before the illegal annexation in 2014, and seems content with allowing RT journalists act as “polite men”.
Lukashenka has employed not only foreign strike-breakers, the RT-staffed Belarusian state TV showed recently a participant in a pro-Lukashenka demo in Minsk expressing passionately his support for Alyaksandr Lukashenka:
Those people [the opposition] is manipulated by the western news services. They are for everything good and against everything bad. But its only hot air, nonsense. If you look deeper into what’s going on at their meetings, and ask what they really want, they say – “we don’t know, we came here because we are for love and peace. Lukashenko has given us freedom, more freedom than anywhere in the world. And they want more freedom? They don’t even know what they are talking about.
A nice soundbite for a story on how Belarusians demonstrate against foreign interference. Only issue – the participant is a Russian citizen. A foreigner interfering in internal Belarusian affairs. Belarusian opposition web channel Reform.by has identified the man as Anton Tarasov, a young politician, and video blogger, member of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation.
Russian reporters pretending to be Belarusian, interview Russians politicians, pretending to be Belarusians citizens protesting against foreign interference in Belarus… RT’s tag-line is “Question More”. In Belarus RT is making sure no questions at all are asked.
Belarusian journalists and activists, common citizens are intimidated, threatened arrested, forced into exile. Lukashenka’s powerful repressive machinery is effective and violent, and RT.com has made itself a part of the repression.
Edits: Style changes in the text