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Belarus frightens Russia reminding of its Soviet past

MINSK, October 21st RIA Novosti - All Russians who come to the Belarussian capital are amazed by the flood of propaganda, which on all the three state-owned TV channels praises the country's uniqueness, the genuineness of its president's policy and the selectness of its people.

"I love you, Belarus!" - patriotic ads pour from the screen as frequently as commercials from Russian television.

There is almost no "bad" news in the state-owned Belarussian mass media, but abundant information about how well Belarussians live, about the country's great achievements in agriculture, sports, industry and culture, as well as opinions of fascinated foreigners about what they have seen here.

Defending its right for brainwashing, Belarus is carrying an "information war" with the disobedient Russian television, which broadcasts "libel" about protests against Lukashenko's policy: employees of the Rossiya channel have been deprived of accreditation, while the First Channel can broadcast in Belarus in an abridged format: now it is a national channel that uses the same frequencies.

"We in Russia had an illusion that Belarus was ready to unite with us. But I see that national identification has appeared here. There will be no quick integration," says Russian political expert Alexander Tsypko about what he saw in Minsk.

The pace of Russian-Belarussian integration may slow down, diplomatically announced State Duma deputy Sergei Baburin upon return to Moscow. Another prominent Russian political expert said, "The referendum [to abolish the clause in the Constitution that prohibits the same person to be president for more than two 5-year terms] has buried the idea of the Union State. Belarus is building a nationalist state."

Lukashenko has skillfully used political pressure from the West and Russia to consolidate his nation.

"It seems that their mass voting [at the referendum] was a reaction to the outside pressure. All that had areverse effect," said Vladimir Rushailo, CIS Executive Secretary, who headed the CIS observers' mission.

90 percent of Belarussian voters came to the polling stations and over 70 percent of them voted for Lukashenko to be able to run for presidency for life.

Lukashenko came to the referendum with an impressive report: a 10-percent GDP growth, so far unattainable for Russia, rise in salaries, lack of unemployment and one of the lowest crime rates in the former Soviet republics. The obedient TV channels reported these achievements in full and from different angles to voters.

The Belarussian leader is no less successful in his chess play with Russia. Even with the "Belarussian economic miracle" being fully dependent on the Russian market, where half of its exports goes, Lukashenko has managed to avoid privatizing of his best enterprises under Moscow's scenario for several years.

"Russia cannot afford to squander allies, even if they are not quite pleasant and convenient like Lukashenko. As to attempts of pressure, when Gazprom cut off gas supplies to Belarus, they inflicted damage on Gazprom itself, as it had to suspend gas exports to the West," comments Valery Dashkevich, analyst of the Belarussian Independent Institute of Social, Economic and Political Analysis.

The economic and political models of Russia and Belarus are drifting wider and wider apart: Minsk preserves state control over industry and the system of Soviet-era social benefits and guarantees, while Russia is giving up the last remnants of the Soviet past.

Russia's official position is that the free and democratic choice of Belarussian people should be welcomed. But the mood, in which Russian politicians returned from the referendum, shows that the neighbor's experience is unlikely to be in demand in Russia.

"Victimization of Belarussian people has now become unlimited, as well as victimization of Russia, from which Lukashenko pumps resources under the motto of the integration, of which he is the worst enemy," reads a statement of Russian liberals released in Moscow on Wednesday.

Source: RIA Novosti


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