Belarus information security risks linked with Eurasian integration
On June 18th, “The Integration” International Fund published poll results about trust levels to opposition politicians in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. In three countries 2,700 people were questioned aged between 18 and 65, statistical error not more than 3%.
Belarusian authorities have not yet publicly reacted to the interference by a foreign sociological service with the Belarus’ political agenda. Potentially the authorities will enhance control over public polls in Belarus by enacting stricter laws.
The poll organized by the ‘Integration’ fund threatens the established by the Belarusian ruling group information monopoly. First, the fund operates in several countries (Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Georgia and Belarus), which enables it to carry out large-scale information and research projects. Second, the fund pursues formally a flawless goal - to promote integration among post-Soviet states.
However, the poll’s content contradicts its form and may be considered by the Belarusian authorities as information diversion. Formally, the poll aimed at studying the mistrust level towards opposition politicians in three countries. However the poll failed to study the trust levels towards the authorities, which de facto could be regarded as hidden advertisement of the opposition and as an attempt to put pressure on the countries’ leaders.
In particular, pollsters argue that in Belarus former presidential candidate Nyaklyayeu enjoys the greatest trust (16%), he is followed by Milinkevich (12%), Lyabedzka (11%), Sannikov (9%) and Shushkevich (8%). Simultaneously, Neklyaev enjoys the lowest mistrust - 32%. Other listed opposition politicians have mistrust levels higher than 45%. The poll’s results demonstrate higher trust levels than domestic electoral support poll results held by IISEPS.
So far the Belarusian authorities have not responded to this information. A year ago, Belarus drafted changes to the Administrative offences’ Code, which envisaged penalties for sociological services operating in Belarus without a license. The amendments have not been adopted, but following an order, Belarusian MPs may well resume considering these amendments and prevent foreign polling services from operating in Belarus.
Such a response would be the most logical for the Belarusian authorities, since Belarus is unable to organize similar polls in Russia (mainly due to financial restraints).
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.