Putin denies waging information war against Lukashenka

“For some reason, our counterparts think that scathing media reports are initiated by someone, but this is not true,” hr said. “If anyone believes that they are unfair...

There is no information war between Russia and Belarus, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin told reporters on Saturday following his meeting with Viktor Yanukovych in the Ukrainian president’s Crimean residence, as quoted by BelaPAN.

Moreover, the Russian premier insisted that he was not aware of Russian television channels’ scandalous attacks on Alyaksandr Lukashenka.

He suggested that media criticism should not be viewed as an information war. “For some reason, our counterparts think that scathing media reports are initiated by someone, but this is not true,” Mr. Putin said. “If anyone believes that they are unfair, he should respond in the same information area. This will be the best way of reacting to such reports. I think it would right for the people whom this concerns… to present their arguments to the authors of the reports that they deem unfair or too scathing. I even don’t understand what is all about. I don’t see any signs of a war, including an information one.”

Mr. Putin also denied that it was difficult for Moscow to come to an agreement with the Belarusian authorities. “We’ve come to an agreement on all issues,” he said. “When it is about money and energy supply volumes, everyone wants to get something from Russia for nothing. And when this doesn`t happen, a feeling of irritation arises.”

“At the same time I can say to you that we should take into consideration the legitimate interests of our partners,” Mr. Putin said. “I believe we manage to do so.… We don’t ask for anything beyond the scope of the contract. The only thing we ask for is to abide by the agreements that we have signed. We don’t want anything else. However, they tell us: ‘May we pay less [for natural gas] this year and pay twice as much next year.’ We give our consent, but the following year they tell us: ‘Let everything be as it was in the year before last.’ Nonetheless, even in this case, we try to find some consensus, reach an agreement on something, and facilitate the transition [of Belarus] to market conditions. The dispute that took place between the Belarusian and Russian energy officials was very bitter but eventually ended in an agreement. This indicates that both parties still have a very broad margin of goodwill, and I would not make a scandal of that dispute. Everyone wants to buy at the lowest possible price and sell at the highest price. This is a usual practice.”

The Russian prime minister is widely believed to be behind the recent information campaign against Mr. Lukashenka.

On July 4, Russia’s major government-controlled channel NTV broadcast a 30-minute documentary titled, “Kryostny Batska” (The God-Batska), which implicated the Belarusian leader in the disappearances of his opponents and told about the mysterious death of opposition leader Henadz Karpenka, the private life of Mr. Lukashenka, who is widely dubbed “Batska” (Father), his natural son Kolya, and Russia’s generous support of Mr. Lukashenka’s regime, which was said to have totaled billions of dollars. The film featured an interview with former presidential candidate Alyaksandr Kazulin and Mr. Lukashenka’s statement that led to his labeling as a professed admirer of Adolf Hitler.

The documentary, which was censored from the NTV version broadcast in Belarus but could be watched on the Internet, caused a stir among Belarusian government officials.

On July 16, NTV broadcast a sequel, which focused on Mr. Lukashenka`s lavish holiday in the Austrian Alps in March 2002, which was paid for by a local casino owner, and the Belarusian leader`s friendly ties with ousted Kyrgyz leader Kurmanbek Bakiyev.