Authorities did not fall for information provocation
On February 4th, Russia’s Media Group RBC Ukrainian Branch Office, referring to a source in the Belarusian Presidential Administration, reported that Belarus-born Russian businessman Dmitry Mazepin could be appointed Deputy Prime Minister of Belarus in charge of the Belarusian-Russian relations.
Misinformation about Russian businessman Mazepin plans to become Belarus’ Vice Premier imply, that talks about conditions for a new Russian loan for Belarus are ongoing. The disinformation meant to disrupt the talks, but the Belarusian authorities showed restraint and did not fall for the provocation.
This news does not correspond to the reality. The news piece was published on “RBC-Ukraine” website and was removed within a few hours, a disclaimer by Mazepin’s company URALCHIM followed. Presidential Administration refused to comment the news. Notably, the provocation - intentionally or not – coincided with the personnel shifts in the President Lukashenko’s press service: on February 5th PA former spokesman Legki was departing for his new job in the Belarus’ Embassy in Russia.
Nevertheless, the nature of the misinformation implies that Russo-Belarusian negotiations about circa USD 3 billion loan are ongoing. According to RBC journalists, Belarus needs a concessional loan to pay for Russian energy. This could be true, in December 2012 Lukashenko publicly said that he appealed to the Russian leadership for a USD 2 billion loan.
The information provocation indicates that certain elite group in Russia (and possibly in Belarus) is not interested in additional lending to Belarus on the discussed terms and requests their revision. In particular, reports about alleged granting of Belarusian citizenship to Mazepin and his appointment as Deputy Prime Minister for Belarusian-Russian relations look absurd and exaggerate Russia’s abilities to influence the situation in Belarus.
Belarus’ restrained public reaction to this news demonstrates that Belarus intends to continue negotiations with Russian partners. If so, in the near future the political conflict with the EU and the U.S. will remain frozen, unless Minsk receives tangible guarantees of commensurate support from the IMF.
It is also possible that the misinformation about the exaggerated ‘Russian threat’ meant to push foreign counterparts to speed up negotiation processes and to name their price.
During searches of social and "green" activists and anarchists, law enforcement has seized computers, mobile phones and publications. The authorities have also exerted additional pressure on supporters of unauthorized street protests and independent lawyers, who represented defendants in the White Legion case. The security services have stepped up the persecution of opponents before the street protests announced by the opposition. Apparently, the Belarusian authorities aspire that participants in street protests would reduce in number and that the low interest of the population to socio-political agenda before the local election campaign would retain.