About a decade ago, after a temporary falling out with Vladimir Putin, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko tried to pivot his country to the West. In this endeavor, he had help from a British PR firm called “Bell Pottinger” that once employed some of the most influential spin-doctors in the world. The campaign was a complete failure: the consultants left empty-handed and Lukashenko became an international pariah once again. In August 2020, after workers at state television and radio broadcasters in Belarus started walking off the job in protest as the police brutally dispersed opposition demonstrations, a handful of independent journalists and activists reported that whole brigades of “strikebreakers” from Russia arrived to replace these employees.
Meduza investigative editor Alexey Kovalev researched both of these stories, discovering that the oligarch Boris Berezovsky bankrolled Lukashenko’s attempt to win over the West, and that Russian journalists now in Minsk aren’t so much replacing Belarusian journalists as they are reshaping the local media’s approach to propaganda.
Meduza also spoke to Alex Kokcharov, a country risk analyst who focuses on Belarus, Russia, Ukraine, Eurasia, and the Caucasus, to learn more about younger Belarusians’ media diets.
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