Presidents get personal in row over Belarus

by Tom Washington

Presidential passions are running high as Belarusian state TV hits back at a Kremlin videoblog blasting Alexander Lukashenko.

Dmitry Medvedev was derided as a "boyan", internet slang for someone who repeats an old joke well past its sell-by date.

Parodying a pro-Kremlin political polemic show Odnako (However), presenter Alexei Mikhailchenko put the boot in on Minsk's behalf.


While Moscow hints that Belarus has economic problems, the show joked that a videoblog was all Medvedev could afford and dubbed it a cheap follow-up to the notorious Krestny Batka (Godfather) film which NTV produced criticising Lukashenko's record on human rights.

Slating Medvedev's presentation and citing Viktor Tsoi song Peremen (Change) Mikhailchenko said that even "a wise eye and skillful hand gestures," didn't help the Russian president come across well.

Rubbishing Medvedev's claim that he had taken a whole day off to produce the blog in order to "open people's eyes," Mikhailchenko pointed out what he said were discrepancies, "You see that it happens at night, when traffic on the internet is less. It's obvious that there's no longer any money for the next The Godfather," quipping that "all the money has gone on aid to Belarus".

Not so generous

The show cited Medvedev saying, "We have always helped the people of Belarus. In fact, since the collapse of the Soviet Union, ie for almost 20 years, the volume of this support, whatever they say, is huge. Only this year due to favorable oil supplies our assistance to Belarus amounted to almost $ 2 billion Comparable subsidies have been allocated in the supply of Russian gas to Belarus. We do all this because we are convinced that our people are inextricably linked."

"Help is a nice word," said Mikhailchenko. "And this is a deal only in its most cynical understanding; trade - money - trade. Cheaper energy for cheaper Belarusian products for Russia."

Political grandstanding

"There is a high level of popularity for Russia in Belarus," director of Petersburg Politics Mikhail Vinogradov told He said that programmes like this were likely to crop up in the election campaign to mobilise people against a 'Russian threat'.

"Although on the one hand Lukashenko may lose some of his potential supporters if he plays the anti-Russian card, it is nonetheless logical to paint the Russian leadership rather than the people as the enemy, and hope to attract the sympathy of those who do not like Medvedev."

Television remains a very powerful and largely state-controlled medium in both Russia and Belarus.


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