By having arrested political analyst Yuri Pavlovets - allegedly for incitement of ethnic hatred but in fact for his pro-Russian views - the Belarusian authorities have crossed the line that separated them from the Russophobe Ukrainian regime, Russian and Ukrainian experts believe. In an interview to EADaily, they said that this arrest must draw the attention of the Russian society to the problem of Russophobia in Belarus. They also believe that the Kremlin must interfere and defend Pavlovets.
“I think this is a real scandal. Unfortunately, it is not the first such case in Belarus. The Belarusian regime has begun to oppress those who dare to criticize it. And some of its methods are similar to those once used by the Nazis. The arrest of Pavlovets, a journalist writing for Russian media, has shown that Lukashenko’s regime is beginning to use nationalistic methods against its opponents. The Belarusian authorities are acting very much like their counterparts in Kiev do and are turning into a pro-Fascist anti-Russian regime,” says Belarusian political scientist and economist Dmitry Bolkunets.
Deputy Director of the Center for Ukrainian and Belarusian Studies of Moscow State University Bogdan Bezpalko is sure that the arrest of Pavlovets has nothing to do with incitement of ethnic hatred.
“One of the motives might be his articles about oppression of business in Belarus. This may have been an attempt to isolate Pavlovets or a warning for the others. Perhaps, Pavlovets will be asked to move to Russia or to some other country,” Bezpalko says.
According to political analyst Andrey Suzdaltsev, by this act, the Belarusian authorities have proved their adherence to the methods of the Kiev regime.
“In fact, they have crossed the line. The Belarusian nationalists are happy. Now the ruling regime and the opposition in Belarus have a common anti-Russian ground. It is regrettable to see that Belarus is going the Ukrainian way,” Suzdaltsev says.
Political analyst Kirill Averyanov-Minsky has called this an act of repression.
“By this act, the Minsk regime has tried to scare all supporters of the Russian World in Belarus. In Pavlovets’ articles there was no ethnic hatred or extremism. I think his arrest is meant to stop the mouth of all supports of the Russian World in Belarus. Here, I would like to remind you the words of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who said once that Russia will protect Russians everywhere in the world. And this is exactly the case when Russia must defend a Russian in need,” Averyanov-Minsky says.
“This arrest will be a wake-up call for many Russians, who will see what kind of a state is taking shape in Belarus. In fact, that country is following Ukraine’s footsteps. I hope that the Belarusian mass media will stop being silent about growing Russophobia in their country. They keep reporting such cases in the Baltics and Ukraine but are silent about Belarus and their silence has resulted in such an act,” Averyanov-Minsky says.
According to Head of the Our House International Center for Civil Initiatives (Belarus) Olga Karach, the Belarusian regime had only one motive for arresting Pavlovets – to use him in its haggle with Russia.
“There was a similar case with Belarusian journalist Andrzej Poczobut, whom the Belarusian authorities tried to use during their conflict with Poland. Lukashenko is highly experienced in trading in political prisoners. To me, Pavlovets, just like Poczobut, is a political prisoner as I think this is a political case. And I don’t think that this is the last such arrest. I think Lukashenko will try to have more ‘arguments’ in its dispute with the Kremlin,” Karach says.
According to political analyst Jean Chubukov, the Minsk regime has lost the sense of the time and the space its country is living in and is acting very irrationally.
“This arrest looks quite logical in the context of the growing inter-elite conflict in Minsk. Since 2010, the wave of anti-Russian repressions has been rising. Pro-Russian Belarusians are being fired from public offices, universities and news agencies. I know a man who has been even deported from the country. After the start of the civil war in Ukraine, the Belarusian authorities began suppressing NGOs, military patriotic clubs and even clergymen. Quite recently, they detained a priest on an alleged charge of keeping cartridges in his house. I would not be surprised if they found spice in the house of the president of the power-lifting federation,” Chubukov says.
According to him, the arrest of Pavlovets strangely coincided with the release of Eduard Palchis, a Belarusian nationalist, who was arrested for urging the Belarusians to kill Russians and to overthrow the ruling regime. “Earlier, the Belarusian Interior Ministry refused to institute a criminal case against the Youth Front, a radical nationalist group, who has been raising funds for gangs killing civilians in Donbass,” Chubukov says.
“Despite the growing number of attempts to transfer arms from Ukraine to Belarus, the Belarusian authorities refuse to deploy Russian air forces in their territory. Instead, they keep selling fuel and truck to the Ukrainians and for the Poles, they have made visa-free the regions where one quarter of people are Poles. Even more, during his last meeting with a high-ranking Polish official, Lukashenko mentioned some ‘common history’. Perhaps, he meant the times when Belarus was occupied by the Poles. In the meantime, the Brest Executive Committee has appeared with a recommendation not to use St. George Ribbons. And quite recently, radical nationalist Nikolay Statkevich said that he had formed a committee that would draft recommendations on how to rebuff possible aggression from the Russian side. But instead of reacting to these cases, the Belarusian police have preferred to arrest a pro-Russian columnist,” Chubukov says.
To him, this case is obvious – this is a political order and a kind of an ultimatum by one of the elite groups.
“One proof is the hesitation of the Investigative Committee’s spokesman, who can neither confirm nor refute the arrest. Obviously, the Committee is aware of the political consequences of this case and is unwilling to answer for this anarchy. The Belarusian authorities are mostly silent as they realize that they have done a stupid thing and will have to answer for it. But they could not disobey as they do not want to lose their jobs. I remember a similar situation in Kiev in 2014, when the Ukrainian law enforcers were waiting for an order and there was no order. Our law enforcers have been waiting for an order for two years already and there is no order and will probably not be,” Chubukov says.
As EADaily reported earlier, assistant professor of the Belarusian State University of Informatics and Radioelectronics Yuri Pavlovets was arrested in Minsk on Dec 6. According to Belarusian mass media, he is facing the charge of incitement of ethnic hatred. Pavlovets has been writing for a number of Russian periodicals, including EADaily.