Sunday, September 6, 2020

Putin Can’t Count on Russians to Back a Move in Belarus as They Did in Ukraine, Shelin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 4 – Russians are divided on whom to support in Belarus, with those who watch television generally rooting for Alyaksandr Lukashenka while those who rely on the Internet usually supporting the Belarusians in the street; but even among the former there are divisions and Putin can’t rely on their support for another Anschluss, Sergey Shelin says.

            Polls show that only a third of Russians are focused on what is going on in Belarus, the Rosbalt commentator says.  More than 60 percent of those who rely on television say the majority of Belarusians back Lukashenka while 52 percent of those who use the Internet believe the majority backs those protesting against him (

            The former group contains a sizeable percentage of people who think Lukashenka is acting correctly and should be supported by the latter is dominated by those who think exactly the opposite, a division that means Russian society today regarding Belarus is in a very different state than it was regarding Ukraine six years ago.

            According to Shelin, however, because things have dragged on without an obvious resolution, the television group has grown in strength in the last week while the Internet one has weakened.   And thus “the correlation of forces has shifted in favor of the conservatives,” the commentator continues.

            But even this shift has as yet proved “insufficient to create in Russia a preservationist majority on ‘the Belarusian question.’”  Russian government propaganda “is not all-powerful.” A large share of Russians doesn’t accept it even if they don’t have a clearly formed opinion opposed to that of the Kremlin.

            That is shown by the results of another poll. Twenty-nine percent say Russia should support Lukashenka, three percent say that it should back the protesters, but 45 percent, nearly half, say that Moscow should not interfere.

            And that last figure shows that even among “the people of television,” the conservatives on whom Putin counts, just about as many Russians are opposed to getting involved as in favor of doing so.  That’s hardly the basis for near universal backing of a Moscow move or for new support for Putin if he chooses to.

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