Russian pop stars have teamed up with their fellow artists from Belarus to record a patriotic music video in support of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, who has faced unprecedented protests since his disputed re-election last month.
The music video, titled “Artists for Peace – Don’t Give Away Your Loved One,” was uploaded to Belarusian singer Aurora’s YouTube channel Thursday. The song title references Lukashenko’s Aug. 4 campaign address in which he referred to Belarus as a “loved one you don’t give away.”
“Simply know that you don’t give away your loved one,” Russian household names Filipp Kirkorov, Nikolai Baskov, Anita Tsoi, Alexander Buinov and others sing in the music video.
“Belarusians, we are a force,” the Russian and Belarusian singers continue amid a mixture of studio shots and aerial footage of wheat fields, marshes and Belarusian Orthodox Church domes.
The video was uploaded with comments disabled, as well as likes and dislikes invisible to viewers.
Kirkorov’s spokesperson later told the Open Media news website that “the artist didn’t perform any songs in Lukashenko’s support.”
Buinov’s representative said he had agreed to record the song in order to collaborate with Kirkorov and Baskov and was unaware that the chorus contained Lukashenko’s quote.
Opinion polls show a plurality of support among Russians for Lukashenko and his heavy-handed actions in the wake of mass demonstrations against his 26-year rule.
A number of high-profile opposition figures in Belarus, including Nobel Literature Prize winner Svetlana Alexievich, have called out “the Russian intelligentsia” for its perceived silence toward the authorities’ violent crackdown.
A handful of Russian artists had refused to perform at state-sponsored concerts on the eve of Belarus’ Aug. 9 vote following social media pleas from Belarusians to avoid implicitly backing Lukashenko.
On Friday, Russian YouTube star Yury Dud released an interview with the founder of Belarus’ Nexta Telegram channel, one of the leading sources of news and protest coordination for the Belarusian opposition. Dud has previously publicly criticized the Belarusian authorities’ crackdown on protesters.
‘Don’t Give In to Lies,’ Belarus Opposition Leader Tells Russians
Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya urged Russians on Wednesday to resist what she called state media efforts to smear her country’s post-election protests as anti-Russian.
Tikhanovskaya, 37, made the comments a day after President Alexander Lukashenko’s interview with Russian state media, where he warned that “if Belarus collapses today, Russia will be next.” Moscow has been quick to back Lukashenko after last month’s disputed presidential election while Western governments rejected its results as rigged.
“Russian propaganda is trying to distort the events in Belarus,” Tikhanovskaya said in the video address. “I urge you to avoid falling under the influence of these lies.”
Coverage of Belarus’ protests on Russian state television has shifted between sympathizing with demonstrators amid the authorities’ violent crackdown and discrediting the protests as an anti-Russian campaign run by the West to encroach on Russian borders.
“Let’s not allow propaganda to poison relations between friendly nations and politicians’ rash decisions to hurt the interests of both Belarus and Russia,” Tikhanovskaya said.
Dozens of employees at Belarusian state media outlets went on strike to protest the election results and what they call biased coverage of the protests. Lukashenko has said he invited journalists from the Kremlin-funded RT broadcaster to replace some of them.
A number of foreign journalists covering the post-election protests in Belarus have been stripped of accreditation.
Tikhanovskaya, who fled to Lithuania after the election, thanked independent Russian journalists and bloggers for “helping reduce the effect of Russian and Belarusian propaganda.”
Lukashenko initially accused Russia of interference ahead of the Aug. 9 presidential election, but later switched his stance to blame Belarus’ European neighbors of alleged meddling.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said late last month that he has formed a Russian “law enforcement reserve” ready to support Lukashenko in case “extremists in Belarus cross a line.”
Meanwhile, a Russian state survey published Wednesday said that more Russian respondents believe their country’s relations with Belarus were deteriorating compared to last year (32% in August 2020 compared with 22% in January 2019).