Lukashenko orders Russian media to be kicked out of Belarus

RIA Novosti / Iliya Pitalev
Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko has ordered the shut down of a number of foreign media outlets, including those of Russian orgin, for stirring up “hysteria” over the currency crisis in the country.

­On Monday, Belarus' National Bank devalued the national currency against the dollar by 36 percent, which led to price hikes, panic among the population, empty shelves in supermarkets and long queues at currency exchanges as people were desperately attempting to protect their savings.  

President Lukashenko put the blame for the panic on the media. Speaking on Friday at a government session on economy issues, he stated that the “Russian media whipped up the “hysteria”.

“I have observed the activity of the foreign media operating here that has become dominant in the country thanks to the president's administration, and those working abroad," Lukashenko said, cites Interfax.

They are followed "by our domestic media" he stated, though he refused to call them by name in order to “not boost their ratings”. He called on the government “to do everything necessary to make sure those media outlets are no longer present on our territory”.

According to Lukashenko, the reason behind the move is “not that we want them to keep their mouths shut”. He noted that he had been closely watching the media and it was they “who triggered the hype”.

Citing “the most frenzied” Russian media, Lukashenko said that he was accused of fleeing the country. “They mean my trip to Kazakhstan which was planned a year in advance,” he added. The media also criticized Prime Minister Mikhail Myasnikovich and the head of the National Bank of Belarus Pyotr Prokopovich, “for sitting like mice under a broom”.

First reaction to the news has already followed from Moscow which was surprised by Lukashenko's decision. The Russian lower house has warned the Belarusian leader against any rash steps.

The closure of foreign media outlets “will not be a panacea for the economic crisis,” believes Leonid Slutsky, first deputy chairperson of the Duma's International Affairs Committee. It would be highly unfortunate to make any anti-democratic moves now “when Minsk is in need of international aid,” he told Itar-Tass.

Thanks to Lukashenko's course, Belarus is in fact the only rouge-state on the European continent. And the economic crisis the country is facing is also the result of the president's “unreasonable foreign and internal policies,” Slutsky added.

The head of the Russian Presidential Council on Human Rights, Mikhail Fedotov was “shocked by Lukashenko's statement”, writes  the“Belarusian Partisan” citing Interfax. The official noted that as the world information space is developing, “we are becoming more open towards each other” and any attempt to create a closed territory is unpromising, to say the least.

The chairman of the Russian Public Chamber's committee for media issues Pavel Gusev said the news did not come as a surprise. Several Russian media outlets have already been banned from entering Belarus. The journalist believes that Lukashenko's decision is yet another sign of his “political unreliability”. Gusev noted that the Belarusian leader can be neither trusted nor dealt with.