Censorship as security for domestic disinformation. Minsk is reminiscent of Moscow. Russia’s war aims set out and explained. New applications for established products.

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At a glance.

  • Censorship as security for domestic disinformation.
  • Minsk is reminiscent of Moscow.
  • Russia’s war aims set out and explained.
  • New applications for established products.

Censorship as security for domestic disinformation.

Russia, Wired reports, has continued to move towards an increasingly closed home internet. The process has been underway for several years, even before the sovereign internet law was passed in 2019. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter were banned under this law in March, shortly after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Since then, other forms of censorship – such as strict restrictions on the use of virtual private networks (VPNs) – have been introduced as security measures necessitated by the special military operation. But the exigencies of war in this case appear to be more of a pretext than a reason: everything indicates that self-sufficiency in cyberspace has long been a Russian goal. As Wired puts it: “Since [the invasion]Russian officials have continuously leaked new policies and measures to further control the internet and strengthened the state’s censorship and surveillance powers. Each small step propels Russia toward a more isolated, authoritarian version of the Internet – restricting the rights of those within its borders and damaging the fundamental ideas of an open Internet.

Censorship also extends to occupied territories: The Guardian reports that the puppet governments installed by the Russian occupiers in Donetsk and Luhansk have banned Google from their networks.

Heart calls to heart, and… Minsk echoes Moscow.

Belarusian President Lukashenka, in a interview yesterday with AFP, explained his formula for peace. “We have to stop, reach an agreement, end this chaos, the operation and the war in Ukraine,” he said. “Let’s stop and then we’ll figure out how to move on.” Like his Russian counterpart, President Putin, Mr Lukashenka expressed his concern about the likelihood of nuclear war. “There is no need to go further. Further lies the abyss of nuclear war. There is no need to go there.” In Lukashenka’s view, peace requires that Ukraine come to its senses. “Everything depends on Ukraine,” he said. “Right now, the peculiarity of the moment is that this war can be ended on terms more acceptable to Ukraine.” Ukraine should “sit down at the negotiating table and agree that it will never threaten Russia”, accept that it will not get back its occupied provinces (“This is no longer discussed. It could have been discussed in February or March”), and join the terms of Russia. Mr. Lukashenka’s reference to the populated status of Donbass and the occupied southern regions suggests that Moscow’s policy has been made clear to him. Russia intends to hold referendums in Donetsk and Luhansk at least in September, Bloomberg reports, and the results announced should provide a fig leaf for a violent Russian annexation.

In his call for negotiations with Ukraine, Lukashenka is more ironic than Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov, who said the day before that peace talks with Ukraine made “no sense”. But Minsk’s views on the causes of the war closely coincide with Moscow’s. Russia’s special military operation is essentially defensive, including the initial troop movement into Ukraine, which was a perfectly legitimate and purely pre-emptive operation to forestall NATO aggression. “They started the war and are continuing it,” he said, turning to AFP as a NATO agent. “We saw the reasons for this war. If Russia hadn’t overtaken you, members of NATO, you would have organized and struck at it. He only just got ahead of you.” Had NATO given Russia “the security guarantees” it asked for, there would have been no dedicated military operation. “Why didn’t you give such guarantees on the eve of the Ukraine war?” said Mr. Lukashenka. “That means you wanted war. You, members of NATO and Americans, needed war.”

President Lukashenka, who said that no Belarusian soldiers are fighting in Ukraine, was direct and blunt in his commitment to the Russian cause. “I’m part of the operation that Russia is conducting,” he said. “I support Russia.” NATO is also to blame for this. “Because you were ready to attack Belarusian and Russian infrastructure,” he explained. “Are you saying that I had to sit and wait for rockets to fall on the heads of the Belarusian people? No! I closed the western and southwestern borders at Brest. So that you, the NATO troops, primarily the Poles, are being pushed by the Americans, do not stab the Russians in the back. I couldn’t let that happen.”

He doesn’t like the sanctions either: “The situation with your idiotic and brutal sanctions only showed how dependent you are on Russian energy resources.”

It’s grossly overstated and unlikely to convince the unconvinced, but Mr. Lukashenka preaches to a chorus of only one: Mr. Putin.

Russia’s war aims were given and explained for the least understanding.

Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov told an Arab League meeting in Cairo that Russia’s aim is to replace the “absolutely unacceptable” Ukrainian regime. Mr. Lavrov’s remarks made a clear statement of what has been evident for some time, regardless of what varying justifications Russia has given for its particular military operation. The AP quotes the foreign minister describing the Russian invasion as a humanitarian intervention. We will certainly help the Ukrainian people get rid of the regime, which is absolutely anti-popular and anti-historical.” Among the tools used for regime change are controlled referendums in occupied territories, which Ukrainska Pravda says are being carefully played out by the occupiers .

A leader of the pro-Moscow separatists in Donbass, Denis Pushilin, expressed the Kremlin’s understanding of history earlier this week when, as the AP reports, he urged Russian forces to “close the Russian cities founded by the Russian people — Kyiv, Chernihiv Liberate , Poltava, Odessa, Dnipropetrovsk, Kharkiv, Zaporizhia, Lutsk.” Shortly after his testimony, Russian rocket fire hit at least three of the Russian cities founded by Russians: Kyiv, Chernihiv and Kharkiv.

Vice in the service of… freedom? Maybe… sort of… Sure, why not?

Products can be put to new uses that their inventors never envisioned. Witness the use of the Steam gaming platform, whose wallpaper engine is now being used by adult content fans residing in China to circumvent that country’s strict regulations against online pornography. Apparently, says MIT Technology Review, the Wallpaper Engine serves as both a cloud drive and a video player for exactly the kind of saucy content the People’s Republic would rather not see.

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