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Minsk Memes: Two Dictators, Two Presidents, A Chancellor, And A Chair

The leaders of Russia, Ukraine, France, and Germany negotiated through the night in Minsk in hopes of an agreement to stop the bloody conflict in eastern Ukraine.

Unfortunately for restless journalists on the scene and for those following it online, most of the discussion happened behind closed doors.

But the Internet never sleeps and the world leaders made "news" in some unexpected ways during the few moments when they did emerge.

Did Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, for instance, engage in some passive-aggressive musical chairs with his much more powerful Russian colleague, Vladimir Putin?

Unfortunately, no. The looped video that went viral was actually set in reverse (notice German Chancellor Angela Merkel's robust backwards gait). The original video shows a much more innocent -- if still a little awkward -- gesture by Lukashenka.

But journalists could be forgiven for taking it too seriously given the importance of chairs in geopolitical culture, first demonstrated by Charlie Chaplin in his 1940 satirical take on fascism, The Great Dictator.

Lukashenka has recently taken a rather defiant tone against Putin. But this next meme suggests that, in theory, he should, as the "last dictator in Europe," be operating more in tandem with his autocratic counterpart against his more democratic Western colleagues.

Then again, as the host -- rather than as a party to the negotiations -- Lukashenka clearly had his work cut out for him. His guests, sitting for a brief photo-op before negotiations, clearly needed someone to break the ice.

Once the leaders did get to talking -- behind closed doors for more than 12 hours -- there was little comment from inside. At one point, though, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters negotiations were going "better than super."

But did Putin's pencil agree?

Journalists, for their part, started out the night as tense as the politicians. Aleksandr Yunashev, a reporter from LifeNews, an online outlet with ties to Russia's security services, literally barked at a Ukrainian correspondent:

His boss, the always professional Anatoly Suleymanov, tweeted that he would have "pissed" on the Ukrainian journalist:

But as the night wore on, media on the scene were left with little to do but wait, share online memes -- and reportedly save a cat.

According to the Moscow-based Russian News Service, bored journalists spent the night feeding a stray feline. Perhaps tiring of their war stories or overhearing LifeNews barking nearby, the cat attempted an escape up a tree but then realized he couldn't get down. Reporters then somehow used a combination of ladders, tripods, and microphones to "rescue" her.

Then they took a nap.

-- Glenn Kates

About This Blog

Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at

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