Belarus is only complying with international norms in managing the refugee crisis on its borders with the EU, according to the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov. In an interview with the state television station Russia 24, Lavrov has also resumed false narratives about Ukraine, which is allegedly violating the Minsk Agreements and is becoming increasingly neo-Nazi and Russophobic.
NEWS: “I see no wrong doing in terms of international law with regard to Belarus' obligations. I have information (just like other interested people) about how this story has developed. According to our data, there are people who wouldn’t stay in the Republic and want to get to the EU. To call upon president Aleksandr Lukashenko and his law enforcement structures to stop this process is not in line with the principles of international law, humanitarian law in particular.
There is something mysterious about the Bairaktar drones. Ukraine's chief of staff says the weapons have been used, and the defense minister says they have not. [….] Their logic is simple: They do not want to observe the Minsk Agreement, and they actually shouldn’t, because it destroys Ukraine.
[….] To accuse us of attacking the territorial integrity of Ukraine is immoral and incorrect. It is actually ruined by those who are trying to create a super unitarian state, with no minority languages, Russian in particular, with no education in Russian and other languages. It is a neo-Nazi concept of organizing society. [….] We did not annex Crimea, we reacted to the call of the Crimean people, who were being physically threatened. [….] This has been recently confirmed by the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky. He said: “If you feel Russian, go to Russia”.
NARRATIVES: 1. Belarus only allows illegal refugees to enter the EU in accordance with the rules of international law. 2. By using a Turkish drone in Donbass, Ukraine has shown that it will not comply with the truce. 3. Ukraine is a neo-Nazi and Russophobic state.
LOCAL CONTEXT / ETHOS: The head of Russian diplomacy, Sergei Lavrov, resumed in the interview with the television station Russia 24 a series of anti-Western narratives, referring primarily to the geopolitical reality of Ukraine and Belarus, which Moscow sees as states within its area of influence, which must join the Eurasian project.
As for Belarus, it is worth noting that after the 2020 protests and the rigging of the presidential election, Alexander Lukashenko has been getting as close as possible to Moscow, and has recently been accused by a number of EU states of being used by Russia to generate a new migration crisis. The leaders in Minsk and Moscow have met several times to discuss the creation of a new union of states, to the Kremlin’s liking.
Regarding Ukraine, Moscow is massively disseminating all sorts of narratives about the “coup d'etat” of 2014, about Russophobia, the “false state”, the “Western colony” in the context of the conflict in Donbass, which resulted in more than 13 thousand victims and the illegal annexation of the Crimean peninsula, condemned by the international community.
In this interview, Sergei Lavrov did more than repeat the classic narratives of the Russian state press about Ukraine, Belarus and the West. He dressed them in a special diplomatic robe, in order to hybridize reality.
PURPOSE: The purpose of these narratives is to exonerate Russia in the context of the Donbass conflict and the illegal annexation of Crimea, but also to show that Belarus' actions are absolutely correct in the face of a new migration crisis in the EU.
WHY THE NARRATIVES ARE FALSE: Sergei Lavrov's statements about Belarus are a real manipulation of public opinion. The Russian Foreign Minister claims that Belarusian customs officers must contribute to Syrian refugees reaching the EU, because this is what the international law provides. In reality, the authorities are obliged not to allow citizens to cross the border illegally if they cannot demonstrate how they entered the territory of the state and what the purpose of their heading for other countries is. According to social media footage, not only that Belarusian customs officers do nothing to stop illegal migration to the EU, they have actually helped migrants get in, including into Lithuania. Veridica.ro analyzes in an editorial how the refugee crisis on the border between Belarus and its neighbors is based on new tactics from Russia's hybrid arsenal by cynically using an ally.
Another false narrative used by the Russian foreign minister is related to Ukraine's violation of the Minsk truce by using a Turkish drone. In fact, according to the additional ceasefire agreements of 27 July 2020, which are part of the Minsk peace process, if one of the parties opens fire and endangers the lives of civilians or military, and the peacekeeping coordination mechanism has had no result, the other party has the right to defend itself, including with its own drones. It should be noted that on October 26, 2021, Kiev’s General Staff stated that two Ukrainian soldiers had been wounded, one of whom subsequently died. Army officials said the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission in Donbass “called for an immediate ceasefire” and a note was sent through diplomatic channels. The opponent did not react, so the use of the drone was an action in line with the Minsk Peace Agreements. Veridica.ro analyzed this fake news in a recent article.
Regarding Russophobia and neo-Nazism in Ukraine, Sergei Lavrov misquoted the President of Ukraine who allegedly threatened the Russian-speaking population, telling the Russians to “go to Russia urgently”. In reality, Zelenski said : “If you love Russia and feel that, although you’ve lived all your life in Ukraine, you are in Russia, I think that for the future of your children and grandchildren you have to look for a place in Russia. That would be the right choice. Or, without Ukraine on this territory there will be no civilization”. In other words, Zelensky did not refer to the Russians, but to those who feel like citizens of Russia and do not see themselves as part of Ukraine. Lavrov criticizes Ukraine for being a super-unitary state, but this status is included in the 1996 Constitution. To exonerate Russia over the Donbass aggression and the annexation of Crimea, Lavrov speaks of neo-Nazism and Russophobia, stressing that Moscow had to react to the Crimeans’ call and “save” them. After 2014, Ukraine has introduced a series of legislative changes to protect itself from the negative influence of the Russian information space, blocking Russian television stations and social networks. Most of these actions have been described by Moscow as Nazi or Russophobic.
GRAIN OF TRUTH: Indeed, some laws have affected the right of national minorities in Ukraine to study in their mother tongue. The 2017 Education Law and other laws restricted the right to education in the mother tongue in secondary education for all national minorities, including the Romanian one, a fact used by the Russian press to illustrate narratives about Ukraine's anti-Russian policy.