At a glance.

  • Censorship as security for domestic disinformation.
  • Minsk echoes Moscow.
  • Russia’s war aims stated and explained.
  • New uses for established products.

Censorship as security for domestic disinformation.

Russia, Wired reports, has continued to move toward an increasingly closed domestic Internet. The process has been in train for several years, since even before the passage of the Sovereign Internet Law in 2019. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter were banned under that law in March, shortly after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Since then other forms of censorship–severe restrictions on the use of virtual private networks (VPNs), for example, have been put in place as security measures necessitated by the special military operation. But wartime exigency seems more pretext than cause, in this case: there’s every indication that autarky in cyberspace has long been a Russian goal. As Wired puts it, “Since [the invasion], Russian officials have continuously dripped out new policies and measures to further control the internet, boosting the state’s censorship and surveillance powers. Each small move continues to push Russia toward a more isolated, authoritarian version of the web—restricting the rights of those inside its border and damaging the foundational ideas of an open web.

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

Heart calls to heart, and…Minsk echoes Moscow.

Belarusian President Lukashenka, in an interview yesterday with AFP, explained his formula for peace. “We must stop, reach an agreement, end this mess, operation and war in Ukraine,” he said. “Let’s stop and then we will figure out how to go on living.” Like his Russian colleague President Putin, Mr. Lukashenka expressed his concerns about the likelihood of nuclear war. “There’s no need to go further. Further lies the abyss of nuclear war. There’s no need to go there.” What’s needed for peace, in Mr. Lukashenka’s view, is 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 more acceptable terms for Ukraine.” Ukraine should “sit down at the negotiating table and agree that they will never threaten Russia,” accept that it won’t recover its occupied provinces (“This is no longer being discussed. One could have discussed this in February or March”), and accede to Russia’s conditions. Mr. Lukashenka’s reference to the settled status of the Donbas and the occupied southern regions suggests that Moscow’s policy has been made clear to him. Russia intends to stage plebiscites in Donetsk and Luhansk at least this September, Bloomberg reports, and the results that will be announced are expected to provide a fig leaf for forcible Russian annexation.

In his call for Ukraine to negotiate Mr. Lukashenka is more irenic than Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov, who the day before had said peace talks with Ukraine “made no sense.” But Minsk’s views on the causes of the war are closely aligned with Moscow’s. Russia’s special military operation is essentially defensive, including its initial movement of troops into Ukraine, which was a perfectly legitimate and purely preventive operation to preempt NATO aggression. “You have fomented the war and are continuing it,” he said, addressing AFP as an agent of NATO. “We have seen the reasons for this war. If Russia had not got ahead of you, members of NATO, you would have organised and struck a blow against it. He just got slightly ahead of you.” Had NATO given Russia “the security guarantees” it asked for, there would have been no special military operation. “On the eve of the Ukraine war why did not you provide such guarantees?” Mr. Lukashenka said. “This means you wanted war. You, members of NATO and Americans, needed war.”

President Lukashenka, while saying that no Belarusian soldiers are fighting in Ukraine, was direct and forthright in his adherence to the Russian cause. “I am part of the operation that Russia is conducting,” he said. “I am supporting Russia.” This, too, is NATO’s fault. “Because you were ready to strike Belarus and Russian infrastructure,” he explained. “Do you want to say that I had to sit and wait until rockets start falling on the heads of the Belarusian people? No! I shut the western and the southwestern border near Brest. So that you, the NATO troops, primarily the Poles being pushed by the Americans, do not stab the Russians in the back. I couldn’t allow it.”

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

It’s crudely overdrawn and unlikely to persuade the unpersuaded, but Mr. Lukashenka is preaching to a choir of one: Mr. Putin.

Russia’s war aims stated and explained, for the meanest understanding.

Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov, addressing a meeting of the Arab League in Cairo, said that Russia’s objective was the replacement of Ukraine’s “absolutely unacceptable” regime. Mr. Lavrov’s remarks represented a clear statement of what has for some time been evident, whatever shifting justifications Russia has given for its special military operation. The AP quotes the Foreign Minister casting the Russian invasion as a humanitarian intervention. We will certainly help the Ukrainian people to get rid of the regime, which is absolutely anti-people and anti-historical.” Among the tools being used for regime change are controlled referenda in occupied territories, which are, in Ukrainska Pravda’s account, being carefully gamed by the occupiers.

A leader of pro-Moscow separatists in the Donbas, Denis Pushilin, expressed the Kremlin’s understanding of history early this week, when, as the AP reports, he called upon Russian forces to “liberate Russian cities founded by the Russian people — Kyiv, Chernihiv, Poltava, Odesa, Dnipropetrovsk, Kharkiv, Zaporizhzhia, Lutsk.” Shortly after his statement Russian missile fire hit at least three of those Russian cities founded by Russian people: Kyiv, Chernihiy, and Kharkiv.

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

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