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Russian journalist Piotr Tolstoy: I do not know people who might be willing instability in Belarus

September 8 is International Day of Solidarity of Journalists. Famous TV journalist Piotr Tolstoy, great-grandfather of prominent writer Leo Tolstoy, gave an interview to the program Simple Questions a few days ago near the Ostankino pond. Here is part of that interview.

... I would like to ask you a few questions about my country Belarus. There are, so to speak, acute - often economic - crises in Belarus-Russia relations, we hear those critical arrows flying from Russian TV channels that all Belarusians have access to.    Are Russian channels ordered to speak differently about Belarus during these crises? Or do you take these decisions on your own?

Piotr Tolstoy, broadcaster, journalist:
We treat Belarus as a part of the big world in which we live. And Belarus is very lucky in this sense. Because Belarus is part of the world, which has a bright charismatic leader. We, of course, have an editor, this is collective work, we discuss all topics and some turns of topics. But we are based on some sort of public opinion in Russia, some consensus that exists on various issues. In particular, we often cite the example of Belarus as a country where many things are done better than in Russia. On the other hand, with all the love for Belarus, it must be said that after all Belarus is not a big country. If Russia had such a territory and a population, I think we would also organize something similar. Some little Austria.

It is always easier to maintain order in a small house.

Piotr Tolstoy, broadcaster, journalist:
Yes, it is easier to restore order. And then, it is important to have someone to restore that order.
As for Belarusian politics, for us it is difficult a bit since we, knowing everything that is happening in Belarus' politics, find it difficult to cause such a keen interest of our viewers in this topic. Therefore, we explain some basic things that happen either before the elections or in the time of the adoption of some important political decisions in Belarus.

We know that we don't have a bright political discussion inside the country.

Piotr Tolstoy, broadcaster, journalist:
It may be bright but in its own aspects. Just realize that it is very difficult to interest a person who lives somewhere in Krasnoyarsk or Ussuriisk telling them what is going on in Minsk.

One of the accusations, which is applicable in general to the majority of post-Soviet countries is the lack of rotation of power, including in Belarus. Stability is also cited as a drawback than a positive thing. How appropriate are these accusations?

Piotr Tolstoy, broadcaster, journalist:
My personal opinion is that we just can't absorb all European ideas and start living according to them. This idea is romantic, beautiful but this is utopia. In the early '90s we had the same intention. But, you know, there is some genetic code, something connected with history that explains what is happening in the country's politics. Russia has never had Anglo-Saxon democracy and will never have it I think. So it is inappropriate to accuse post-Soviet countries of the fact that they don't live in the same way as in France or Germany.  Europeans fought for their present-day principles for centuries. How can we achieve the same in only 20 years? No way. So do not reproach the Chinese for the fact that they are not like you.  

Yes, they do not accuse China of some things but accuse Belarus of the same things. I just wanted to say that some journalists who presented similar analytical programs on Sundays in Belarus are now in EU's sanctions lists.

Piotr Tolstoy, broadcaster, journalist:
The issue of sanctions is deeply distasteful to me since many of my colleagues and friends were under these sanctions. This is just pure hypocrisy, in my opinion. These are double standards, especially against journalists, who a priori can have any opinion and express any opinion. I think that Angela Merkel is an exaggerated political figure or that Francois Hollande, French leader, is a very bad president. I have the right to say it in Russia, Belarus, in France and Germany. We don't see in this case any respect for the opinion that differs from the mainstream. We see the result - sanctions against journalists.

Do you think that there are some forces in Russian that want instability in Belarus prior to the October 11 presidential election?  

Piotr Tolstoy, broadcaster, journalist:
No. I say again: Belarus for us is first of all part of our Union State, and secondly, our closest partner. How are Russians perceive Belarus? Hunting trips, relatives, friends. This is part of us. Therefore, I, frankly, do not know people who might be willing some instability in Belarus, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and so on.