Belarus’ way of managing the pandemic awakened skeptical and critical reactions of the international community. The World Health Organization expressed its concern over the COVID-19 outbreak in Belarus and the lack of any quarantine measures. Belarus neighboring countries chose wisely to close their borders which meant that Belarus was faced with international isolation. Even Russia, the country with which Belarus has most close ties, blocked the frontier which made the Belarusian leadership revise its attitudes towards its neighbor. Thus, a rise of narratives that attack or show discontent have been witnessed. The group of “anti” narratives tackle both the opposition, Europe, and Russia.
Anti-opposition sentiments have been widely spread by the country’s leadership and local, obscure websites. The European fake debunking platform EU vs Disinfo indicated that the main narratives that attack opposition revolve around the idea that the democratic opposition is using the coronavirus pandemic to undermine the authority of the current government especially in the wake of presidential elections that will take place on the 9th of August 2020. The most popular messages state that the opposition seeks to prevent presidential elections and organize a coup. Additionally, the pro-government media promotes the message the opposition is disrupting the work of the Ministry of Health and obstructs the implementation of necessary measures to fight the pandemic.
Local pro-government websites, such as Podneprovie Info present a harsh approach on the opposition. In an article, the author affirms: If the apocalypse begins, it will definitely begin with the Belarusian opposition. They played information games with America, Europe and Russia so much that they lost their dignity.
Kiril Vinogradov: The opposition is spreading the coronavirus
Source: Podneprovie Info
Anti-opposition messages are intertwined with anti-Soros and anti-US narratives. Thus the Belarusian opposition which claims to be democratic is funded by Soros who recently manufactured a biological weapon – a test tube with the coronavirus infection. Moreover, it is rumored that during Mike Pompeo’s visit to Minsk in February, he met with the so called civil society and brought to activists the coronavirus test tube.
comprise mainly anti-NATO messages which are also directed at the country’s neighboring countries that are part of the alliance. The EU vs Disinfo platform revealed the fake that the coronavirus outbreak is a NATO operation which is implemented on Belarus’s borders through military exercises. Due to the NATO military exercises “Spring storm” in Estonia, around 30% of Estonian soldiers became infected. Local websites such as Grodno Daily publishes opinion pieces about the role of the opposition and NATO in spreading the virus. The Belarusian opposition is said to have close ties to NATO and even work for the alliance. Fake narratives revolve around the idea that the opposition is supporting NATO exercises at the border in order to spread the viral infection with which they have already infected the Baltic countries.
Valeriy Koncevoi: What are the advantages of corona?
Source: Grodno Daily
As a disproof, the EU vs Disinfo explained that Defender Europe 2020 was about military exercises and these were not directed against any particular country.
Additionally, the president of Belarus, Aleksandr Lukashenko stated in his address to the nation on the 4th of August 2020 that Belarus is the only calm, and stable link in the center of Eurasia while Liberal models at the West failed to deal with Crisis.
Perhaps the cherry on the cake can be considered the increase of anti-Russian messages, especially from the state actors. In a report from the EU vs Disinfo, it is stated that since Belarus decided to celebrate the Victory Day unlike Russia, Minsk and Moscow have been involved in a harsh exchange on Russian coverage of Belarus’ way of managing the outbreak.
Thus, the Minister of Interior explained in an interview that even though Belarus has received humanitarian aid from Russia, it was not enough:
We are grateful for this aid, but 10 thousand tests are enough for 2.5 days only, whereas we spend about 4 thousand tests every day across the country.
It is also said that Russian tests are unreliable, as they give a probability of about 60% of detecting coronavirus – So we don’t need these tests now.
The president of Belarus, Aleksander Lukashenko, have mentioned frequently in his speeches and interviews that Russia needn’t to involve and criticize Belarus on how it tackles the pandemic. He added that Belarus-targeted manipulation and disinformation from Russia state channel – Pervyi Kanal – is related to Belarus celebrating the Victory Day on the 9th of May amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
„Before criticizing us, the should rather look at the Americans, China, and the West. They (Russian politicians and televisions) chose Belarus as a target for propaganda and critique, since other countries are too powerful for Russia to deal with.” – Aleksander Lukashenko
Aleksander Lukashenko on coronavirus and the parade on the Victory Day
These narratives are directed at the population of Belarus that is annoyed and unsatisfied with the government and Lukashenko. Thus, they are aimed at proving that the Belarusian way of dealing with the outbreak is the right way. The narratives are also targeted at the international audience – Russia and the West – as part of a “ping-pong of statements” from the both sides on critiques of the government.