Updated at 20:11,29-10-2020

Cui prodest. Why Russia picks up scent of ‘Belarusian islamists’ in Brussels attacks?

Мaryna Vashkevich/MS, belsat.eu

The Belarusian-born Dovbash brothers, Suleiman (Ivan) and Khalid (Alexei) did convert to Islam but they insist on not being involved in any terrorist activities.

According to pro-Kremlin media outlet Lifenews, Russia informed the Belgian authorities of them preparing attacks in Brussels. It was as far back as March 14 when Lifenews reported about the Belarusian islamists on its website with reference to a source in the FSB, Russia’s security service.

However, when interviewed by RFE/RL, Ivan and Alexei denied reports on their participation in yesterday’s attacks in Brussels.

“These articles (are the latest examples of) yellow journalism and nonsensical efforts of miserable journalists to get their next little ‘star’. The first article appeared on 14 March. In it, we were described as suicide attackers — yet the police didn’t try to find us, nobody even telephoned. Don’t you find that strange? “And what’s most important: If we are suicide attackers, why are we still alive? And if we’re terrorists, why haven’t we been arrested?” Mr Dovbash wonders.

The Belarusian State Security has become interested in the brothers’ story.

“They are natives of Belarus. The KGB is aware of their existence, the Committee is carrying out checks on their participation in terrorist activity,” KGB spokesman Dzmitry Pabyarzhyn told Belsat on Tuesday.

RFE/RL journalist Vital Tsyhankou stresses that the news about the ‘Belarusian trace’ appeared only in the Russian segment of the Internet. Western media usually verify information and sources more thoroughly. According him, Lifenews which is famous for gutter journalism might have made an attempt to boost its audience rating again. But there is another version as well.

“Lifenews is known to have ties to the Russian special services, which was clearly seen in their work during the conflict in Donbas. And if one watches the development of the topic, they get interested who and why benefits when setting Belarus up in this case,” Tsyhankou says.

In turn, Vasil Gritsak, the head of Ukraine’s Security Service of Ukraine, suggests that it was the Russian intelligence services, not Belarusian-born brothers, were behind the attacks in Brussels.

“You know that there were two blasts in Brussels today, and, according to preliminary data, there are 12 victims. I would not be surprised if it is part of Russia’s hybrid war, although the blame will be certainly laid on the Islamic State,” the official said on Tuesday.

In response, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev slammed Gritsak using undiplomatic language on his Facebook.

However, echoing the words of Mr Gritsak, a lot of media outlets note that the attacks took place right on the day of passing a sentence on Ukrainian pilot Nadiya Savchenko. Therefore, the world’s attention has been diverted from her case whereas the pro-Kremlin TV’s stove-piping about the Belarusian brothers has fuelled the flame of the ongoing information war.