Stepan Putila (born July 27, 1998), is an anti-Lukashenko regime change operative of Belarusian origin, resident in Poland. He is the creator of the Telegram channel Nexta, which in the course of the Belarusian color revolution of 2020 was made the voice of the opposition overnight. A YouTube channel with the same name and logo, was registered by Putila back in October 2015.12
Putila finished his regular school education in Minsk, Belarus (Беларускі Гуманітарны Ліцэй імя Якуба Коласа; Class of 2015). In 2015, he moved to Poland, where he attended the Szkoła Języka i Kultury Polskiej UŚ in Katowice, Poland, most likely to learn, or improve, his Polish, from which he graduated in 2016.2 In Katowice, Putila attended classes by the Grupa Kontratak3 martial arts school, whose leaders, judging from their Facebook stream, seem to be affiliated with the neo-Nazi and hooligan scene.
Stepan Putila taking part in martial arts training in 2015.
Picture posted by Grupa Kontratak on Facebook.
Picture posted by Grupa Kontratak on Facebook.
From 2016-2019 he studied film production in Katowice, Poland, at the Uniwersytet Śląski w Katowicach. There are indications that he was hooking up with some nationalists in Vilnius, Lithuania, in July 2017, judging from a Facebook photo from that time, subtitled4: Happy Independence Day! Ancient Lithuanian cause, don't break! Don't stop! Don't hold back!
Stepan Putila with Antos Lahviniec in Vilnius, Lithuania
Already one year into his studies in Katowice, he started to work for Belsat.tv, a Belarusian TV station run out of Poland, where also his father worked as a sports commentator.1 According to his Facebook profile, Putila worked for Belsat from July 3, 2017 to June 26, 2020.2
The channel's website says5:
Formally, the creation of the TV channel was the result of an agreement signed in 2007 between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Poland and Polish TV. The agreement provides for long-term cooperation and financing of the Belsat TV channel.
Belsat's motivations are more than shady. In 2015, an article that appeared on the channel that encouraged people to join as volunteers on the side of Ukraine in the war with the "Novorussiya" states, even providing a contact email address and phone number.6 In that context, Belsat presenter Daroha Via, who also doubles as nationalist Belarusian agitator (see below), posted a picture on Facebook, showing him together with two fighters advertising the cause. The image is subtitled7:
I am rarely trying to reach out to people on my Facebook profile, but today I not only want to reach out, but also to make clear: KGB employees, you won't be able to block us. You can get in touch with the guys here:
Daroha Via with soldiers in the Belsat.tv studio, advertising to joint the War in Donbass.
The station does regularly give a platform to Belarusian nationalists and neo-Nazis. On March 23, 2019, Putila interviewed the nationalist Belarusian protest leader Ales Karniyenka for Belsat, with whom he is also friends on Facebook, and who, like Putila, seems to fire the August 2020 Belarusian protests from Poland.
Stepan Putila of Nexta interviewing the Belarusian nationalist Ales Karniyenko for Belsat TV, who, like Putila, spurs on the Belarusian color revolution from Poland.
Ales Karniyenka firing the protests in front of the Belarusian embassy in Warsaw on June 21, 2020.
Karniyenka also works for Belsat.tv occasionally. He hosted a talk show in December 2019, where he advertised Nexta, and encouraged people to rise up in the face of NATO at the doorstep.
Belsat seems to have featured various other neo-Nazi figures, such as Yanechak Yasav, as a Facebook post by Karniyenka from November 10, 2019, shows.8
Facebook post by Ales Karnyienka showing Yanechak Yasav on Belsat. Notice the Odinist tatooes and Thor's hammer around his neck.
In Poland, Putila has taken part in demonstrations in front of the Russian embassy in Moscow, together with the Belarusian nationalist Daroha Via.
Stepan Putila protesting in front of the Russian embassy, Warsaw, on December 10, 2019, together with Zmicier Jahoraŭ and Daroha Via.
During his employment with Belsat, Putila continued to build up the Nexta brand, by creating an eponymous Telegram group in 2018 in addition to the YouTube channel.1 He apparently had access to insider information of the Belarusian Interior Ministry, which helped to create the image of a whistleblower platform.1
According to Strana.ua: "In Belarus, the channel became famous for inside information from the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the republic. It did not disclose the sources of its information."1
While in the course of the August protests in Belarus the independent Belarusian news landscape was practically shut down, only Nexta managed to continually publish reports from inside the country. As the BBC wrote, “the popular Telegram messaging app called Nexta ... has managed to bypass many of the restrictions.”9 The answer why Nexta succeeded where others failed, may be that the hitherto practically unknown channel is not a local grassroots effort, but operates out of neighboring Poland, where both, Protasevich and Putila currently reside.
- 1. a. b. c. d. e. Александр Шахов, Два "нехта" из Варшавы. Как Телеграм-канал Nexta управляет протестами в Минске и кто за ним стоит [Alexander Shakhov, "The two 'nextas' from Warsaw. How the Nexta Telegram channel manages the protests in Minsk and who is behind it], strana.ua, August 11, 2020, https://strana.ua/news/283607-nexta-chto-izvestno-o-telehram-kanale-nekhta-kotoryj-upravljaet-protestami-v-belarusi.html.
- 2. a. b. c. About section on Stepan Putila's Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/stepanexta?sk=about§ion=education.
- 3. Grupa Kontratak on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/grupa.kontratak.movement.martialartsschool/.
- 4. Facebook post by Antoś Łahviniec, July 27, 2017, https://www.facebook.com/stepanexta/posts/1575913215762430.
- 5. "Пра нас [About Us]," Belsat, https://belsat.eu/about/.
- 6. "Беларускія ваяры на Данбасе: Добраахвотнікі ствараюць антырэйтынг украінскай уладзе," Belsat.tv, https://belsat.eu/programs/belaruskiya-vayary-na-danbase-dobraahvotniki-stvarayuts-antyrejtyng-ukrainskaj-uladze/.
- 7. Facebook post by Daroha Via, November 3, 2015, https://www.facebook.com/daroha.via/posts/1082835665074692.
- 8. Facebook post by Ales Karniyenka, November 10, 2019, https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10220435433219835&set=a.10211360838800646&type=3.
- 9. Diana Kuryshko, “Belarus election: How Nexta channel bypassed news blackout,” BBC, August 12, 2020, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-53753412.