Reporting Reality | National Review

Reporting Reality | National Review

Russian strongman Vladimir Putin shakes hands with his Belarusian counterpart, Alexander Lukashenko, in St. Petersburg, July 13, 2021. (Sputnik / Alexei Nikolskyi / Kremlin via Reuters)

One of the journalists I most admire is Hanna Liubakova, from Belarus. She works in exile. Independent journalism is essentially impossible in Belarus itself — a hideous dictatorship. Liubakova is rigorous, discerning, resourceful — and very brave. I have done a Q&A podcast with her, here.

She studied art history. Then came the great protests in Belarus in 2010. She saw journalists at work, documenting the protests and the government’s brutality. For their work, they were arrested, beaten up, imprisoned. That’s what I need to do, thought young Hanna Liubakova. That’s how I must help my country: by finding out the truth and reporting it to people.

She has worked for a variety of outfits, in several languages. She was once a Václav Havel fellow at Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (a jewel in the American crown). Russia’s onslaught in Ukraine, she has covered meticulously. Her Twitter account is here.

One of the topics we discuss in our podcast is identity. After 30 years of independence, Liubakova says, Belarusians feel very Belarusian, as Ukrainians feel very Ukrainian. Among the older people, there may be some who think fondly of the Soviet empire or Russian empire. But people at large identify with their nation.

The bravery of Belarusians has been astounding. Thousands have been arrested for protesting the dictatorship — the regime led by Alexander Lukashenko, who has been in power since 1994. In prison, the protesters face torture, rape, starvation. Murder. Unlike the Kremlin, the Belarusian regime still calls its secret police the “KGB.” These agents excel in sadism.

Lukashenko is an ally of Vladimir Putin. Nearly 1,000 Belarusians have been arrested for protesting the war on Ukraine. To be arrested in Belarus, you don’t have to take to the street, holding a sign or shouting a slogan. You can make a critical comment on Facebook or other social media.

Very interesting in recent weeks have been Belarusian railway workers — who have committed acts of sabotage, severing the connection between their country and Ukraine, so as to prevent the supply of Russian forces. Ukrainian railway workers have thanked their Belarusian counterparts. And the Belarusians, if caught, face terrible consequences.

Hanna Liubakova has her eye on the war crimes in Ukraine, as on other aspects of the conflict. She knows about the targeting of women and their children, for example, as they try to flee. This is “denazification”? she asks. She also mentions that, in addition to killing ethnically Russian people in Ukraine, Putin’s forces have destroyed Russian cultural treasures. Thus does Putin preserve Russian heritage, apparently.

Though Liubakova lives abroad, she is not unthreatened. “None of us can feel safe anymore,” she says. You will recall that, a year ago, Belarusian authorities forced down — hijacked — a Ryanair flight, traveling from Athens to Vilnius, over Belarus. Their purpose was to seize Roman Protasevich, a Belarusian blogger (and a friend of Liubakova’s). As the plane was descending toward Minsk, the young man (26) put his head between his legs and said, “They’re going to execute me.”

They did not execute him, but they tortured him almost to death, and he confessed, falsely.

Liubakova has to watch where she goes and what she does. Every independent journalist — every critic of the government — is considered an enemy of the state, an enemy of the people. “But I’m grateful for the fact that I’m free and not jailed, as my friends are,” she says. “Some of them have been sentenced to 15 years. So I think that I should do as much as I can to help release them.”

At the end of our conversation, she says that Lukashenko’s senior partner, Putin, has been acting with impunity for years: in Georgia, in Crimea, in the Donbas, etc. “Now it’s really the last moment to stop him,” she says. Democratic and decent nations “finally have to stop him, in any way possible.”

Again, to hear Hanna Liubakova — an exceptional person — go here.

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About the Author

Tony Beasley
Tony Beasley writes for the Local News, US and the World Section of ANH.