The Belarus protests are happening with full force, and it is interesting to look into how exactly information between protesters is being transmitted.
One of the main channels is Nexta Live, a Telegram channel, operated by Roman Protasevich and Stepan Putil (or as he presents himself in social media as Svetlov), both of whom live in Warsaw, Poland, but somehow coordinate the Belarusian opposition.
The Telegram channel is growing exponentially. On August 10th it had approximately 980,000 subscribers, as of midday on August 12th, it sits at 1.4 million.
The violence appears to be escalating during the protests, and no clear leadership appears to be present, at least not physically.
The main platform for communication amongst President Alexander Lukashenko’s opponents is the Telegram messenger. Opposition public channels announce the action plans of the protesters. It also gives advice on what to do at a particular moment of riots, where to run, where to gather.
In addition, the channels perform a propaganda function – they constantly talk about the atrocities of the authorities, illustrating this with vivid videos and photos. And last night it was they who threw in information about the appearance of “Russian special forces” on the streets of Minsk.
On top of this, apart from the two main figures, every other post is entirely anonymous.
That is, they are not conducted on behalf of specific people or political forces. This is a significant difference from the Maidan in Ukraine, during which specific journalists, bloggers, public figures, politicians presented themselves and spoke on their own behalf and pursued their own interests. In this situation, a largely anonymous group is pursuing somewhat unclear interests.
As mentioned above, the main supplier of news from the streets of Minsk and other cities of Belarus is the Nexta Live channel.
It has a sister channel – called only “Nexta” with approximately 500,000 subscribers. Both sites mainly forward messages to each other. But the basic one is the channel with the Live prefix in the name. The most popular propaganda videos with alleged scenes from the protests appear there.
And most importantly, it is there that plans for a protest are published – at what time and where to gather for a rally, when to start a strike, and so on.
Round the clock, and especially during nighttime opposition rallies, this public is updated at a rate of several messages per minute. Most of which are exclusive videos and photos directly from the hotbeds of protests.
In addition to the video, the channel is constantly coordinating the actions of the protesters. They are informed of the movements of the riot police, and sympathizers are told how to shelter the protesters.
Another function of the channel are is its constant calls for citizens to go out and encouraging attacks on police officers.
On the very first day of the protests, Nexta was marked with a joyful message “People are beating the riot police”, in which law enforcement officers are, as it were, not people.
The vocabulary in relation to the police incites the maximum hatred – “fascists”, “bastards”, “Lukashist scum”, “bandits in black”, “punishers”. At the same time, the authors of the messages simultaneously call on law enforcement officers “to be with the people”, and participants in the actions – to burn the police and riot policemen.
The leaders, as mentioned above are Roman Protasevich, who can be seen below, and Stepan Putila.
Roman, thanks to the success of the Telegram channel, has become the hero of numerous interviews in recent days. In them, he says that content for publications is supplied by caring Belarusians, and in conditions of complete blackout they somehow find the Internet through VPN services.
The other co-founder of the Nexta channel is another oppositional Belarusian journalist, Stepan Putila. A YouTube channel with the same name and logo, created back in 2015, is registered to him.
Putila worked for the Polish-Belarusian channel Belsat (, which is based in Warsaw and is funded by the Polish Foreign Ministry.
“Formally, the creation of the TV channel was the result of an agreement signed in 2007 between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Poland and Polish TV. The agreement provides for long-term cooperation and financing of the Belsat TV channel,” the channel’s website says.
This, in itself, is more than enough to show that the protesters aren’t led by “the hand of the Kremlin” or by supposed mercenaries from the mythical Wagner PMC, as Lukashenko attempted to present it, initially.
At the same time, Lukashenko probably understood who was actually behind the organization of the protest actions, but they deliberately untwisted the “Russian trail”, apparently trying to enlist the support of the West and avoid its sanctions after the elections.
His plan evidently failed.
The US and the EU have already condemned what is happening in Belarus and are discussing the introduction of sanctions. This is further worsened by the fact that Russian President Vladimir Putin had the “audacity” of congratulating Lukashenko on his election victory.
Now, Lukashenko turned 180 degrees and began proclaiming that the protests are being organized by Poland, the Czech Republic and the UK.
These fluctuations in the narrative in Belarus caused confusion amongst those who voted for Lukashenko and who are oriented towards Russia, since Russian media covered the protests, and how Russian journalists were being detained.
Against this background, the pro-Western propaganda channels in Belarus, such as Nexta are gaining popularity and momentum and appear to be the only media platforms that have any traction as of now.
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