Misuse of funds provided by the US and EU governments for support of the civil society and opposition of Belarus

Since 2007, a project called “Television of the independent Belarus – Belsat channel” has been implemented. According to press statements, the donors of the projects are the US and EU governments. The main contribution is made by the US government.

According to the official information [1] received by our party, currently the total investment into the project is about $100 million.

In January 2013, Belsat stated on its official website (https://belsat.eu) that its audience in Belarus is 900 thousand regular viewers. There is no doubt that this amount is also mentioned in the reports provided by Belsat to its sponsors.

In 2013, a civil oppositional movement of Belarus called the Renaissance conducted a survey of 1000 citizens living in 4 major cities: Minsk, Brest, Mogilev and Vitebsk. The question was “Have you watched Belsat at least once?” There were only two positive replies. This way, the amount of viewers of Belsat in Belarus (with total population of 9 million) was not more than 20 thousand people at that time.

The Renaissance sent several messages to the editorial of Belsat offering cooperation to promote the channel in Belarus among the Renaissance supporters and to extend the audience. The only thing required from Belsat was its agreement, all the expenses for the campaign would be covered by the Renaissance.

However, Belsat rejected our offer.

In 2015, a Polish journalist Tadeusz Jasinski from Warsaw held its own investigation after he had received information from the Renaissance, and published an article called “Kity z satelity” [2]. The journalist requested information about the audience in Belarus from Belsat. That time, Belsat split the audience to permanent and occasional viewers, however the total amount of viewers was still high – 840 thousand people. In his article, the journalist mentioned independent ratings of popularity of TV channels in Belarus. Belsat was missing from all of them, however the audience of 840 thousand people should have meant top positions in ratings. The journalist made conclusion that the Belsat editorial significantly exaggerated the size of its audience and that there were facts of misuse by its management.

Starting from 2015, the Renaissance sent several appeals to the EU bodies about signs of fraud in the activities of Belsat. Citizens of Poland who manage the channel provide false information about the audience of the channel to its sponsors. The amount of viewers is 50 times overestimated. At the same time, the managers of Belsat do not strive to make the channel popular in Belarus and are not interested in the real effect of this project. Current situation in Belarus is profitable for them, because the longer Belarus is controlled by dictatorship, the more money they will get from the US and EU governments.

In December 2016, in an interview to a Polish media “wpolityce.pl”, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Poland stated that “the influence of Belsat in Belarus is insignificant” [3], [4]. This way, the Renaissance estimation of 20 thousand viewers was officially confirmed.

In our opinion, the Belsat channel could be a very effective way to help restore democracy in Belarus. Unfortunately, the channel was turned to a way to lure money from American and European taxpayers. The situation with Belsat needs immediate intervention of the US authorities. It is necessary to investigate the activity of the Belsat editorial and bring the fraudsters to responsibility. It’s necessary to dismiss all Polish citizens from managing Belsat, move the editorial from Warsaw to another European capital, and let a team consisting of representatives of the Belarusian opposition manage the channel. It must be Belarusians, not foreigners, who should define the policy of the channel.

The problem with democracy in Belarus is used by fraudsters of different nationalities as a pretext for getting funds from the US and EU governments. Tens of projects are being started aiming to support the civil society of Belarus, however they have zero real effect. The leaders of getting funds on the pretext of supporting Belarus are citizens of Poland and Polish non-profit organizations (the details can be provided by the Renaissance).

Our experience in Belarus showed that the activists of civil movements of Belarus and Belarusian organizations either do not have access to the support of the countries of the Western Democracy, or this access is extremely difficult. Over the last few years, there were no projects implemented in Belarus which could significantly influence the political situation in Belarus, however there is a list of immediate measures which need to be taken. The reason of that is absence of real support and funding, as they are intercepted by foreign intermediaries.

To solve the issue of funding of the Belarusian opposition, the Renaissance suggests to register a non-profit organization in Brussels consisting of representatives of different opposition movements, organizations and parties of Belarus. The funding can be transferred to the account of this organization and the citizens of Belarus would decide which projects should be implemented. This will allow to avoid participation of unscrupulous intermediaries and the expenses of this organization will be transparent and easily controlled.

The European Commission has still not replied to our offer of possible cooperation with such Belarusian organization.

Facts indicate that the European Commission itself suffers from corruption inside it. It would be very difficult for the corrupt employees of the European Commission to give up such way of illegal enrichment as “the Belarusian question”.

This way, restoring of democracy in Belarus depends on when the level of corruption inside the European Commission lowers to an “acceptable” level.