Lukashenko Speaks on Migrant Crisis, Ukraine and Explains Why Belarus Needs S-400s
In an interview with RIA Novosti, the president of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, reflected on the impact of Western sanctions imposed on his country after the EU and the US refused to recognise his victory in the 2020 presidential election, also commenting on tensions between his country's closest neighbours - Russia and Ukraine.
Speaking about what his country has been doing to defend itself amid unstable and tense relations with the EU and NATO's reported plans for eastward expansion, Lukashenko mentioned what Minsk needs.
"Today we completely cover our borders with our air defence systems ... But in order to be effective against a missile attack, we need just the S-400, and maybe the S-500 [air defence systems]," Lukashenko said.
When asked when Belarus could receive these defence missile systems, Lukashenko said that Russian President Vladimir Putin would make that decision. Lukashenko also mentioned that Belarus already has a combat-ready S-400 system in its training centre, and Minsk wants to ask Moscow to leave it in Belarus.
Lukashenko added that all launchers for nuclear intercontinental missiles in Belarus have been preserved and are ready for use, except for one.
"Why did I become an enemy for the West? Not because I am a dictator. Because all the sites on which Topol [missiles] stood, except one, are completely preserved and are still ready for use," Lukashenko said.
According to Lukashenko, former Russian President Boris Yeltsin sought to destroy these launching facilities due to pressure from Washington.
"I said no. But when the pressure was extreme so that you know, I can prove and show it, we blew up one site, it was in the forest, the sites are not just 10 centimetres there, it is very big [area]," Lukashenko said.
1 December 2021, 06:13 GMT
On Tensions Between Russia and Ukraine
According to Lukashenko, Putin offered to former Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko assistance in the restoration of Donbass, but Poroshenko refused due to external influence.
"And Putin wholeheartedly says: well, what they are doing, we need to finish this … It [the war] should end and Donbass must be restored. People need to live normally... I say, if it's official, I'm ready to talk with Poroshenko on this topic … I was already leaving, he [Putin] took me by the hand: and [said] I will help to restore Donbass. And I will help, tell him [Poroshenko]," Lukashenko said.
The Belarusian president mentioned that he had good relations with Poroshenko and knew him before he became the president of Ukraine.
"I suggest you restore Donbass. Putin told me about it directly. I emphasize this. You know, Poroshenko finally agreed. But after a month, within a month, he began to do everything the other way around. Why? Because the guy was under external control," Lukashenko said.
He also asserted that he had offered to place Belarusian border guards on the border with Russia and Ukraine, adding that Moscow did not mind, but Kiev had refused.
"When Putin and I once again talked, you know, when the OSCE sent these observers, I say: you know, I've seen enough observers in my life. Nothing will come of them, they will play on the side of the West. He says: well, okay. They want, let there be these observers. Well, what option is this? Therefore, for me, it is more than clear what is happening in Ukraine and what is the way out in this situation. Well, they did not use this way out then, including that I was even ready to deploy my border guards on 400 kilometres of the Ukrainian-Russian border," he said.
28 November 2021, 16:32 GMT
According to Lukashenko, he was ready to close the border.
"When Putin came to Minsk, we discussed this problem. You, he says, take such a neutral position. I do not mind. But Ukraine opposed. That is, any normal initiatives were torpedoed. Okay, you didn’t trust Lukashenko then. Now I understand, now Lukashenko is Putin's lackey, as they say. But then he occupied a neutral position, as you say," the Belarusian president stated.
Ukraine torpedoed all initiatives because, in Lukashenko's words, "they did not rule their country then, and even more so now".
According to Lukashenko, before the change of power in Kiev, the Ukrainian military offered to their colleagues from Russia the opportunity to save Crimea from a NATO invasion in 2014, which was reported to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"They [Ukrainian military] reached out to Russian [military] ... They warned the Russians that Crimea will not be Russia's if we do not take certain actions. It will not be Ukraine's either. And whose? — NATO's ... And after the next meeting with the Russians ... they suggested ... that the issue of Crimea is necessary to be decided. According to my information, it was reported to the Russian president," Lukashenko said.
According to the Ukrainian military serving in Crimea, the US had already designed barracks in Sevastopol, the Belarusian president added.
"Therefore, those who served there in Crimea, they saw it, Ukrainian, former Soviet generals and officers. And they offered Russians ... And, according to my information, the president insisted on a legal solution to the problem. He was absolutely in favour of it. I know Putin's position — in no case should there be NATO troops in Crimea," the Belarusian president said.
He said that "therefore, there was not a single shot [in Crimea]."
"Because it was agreed in advance that Crimea should be saved, and then, as I know and understand, Putin insisted on a referendum," he said.
According to Lukashenko, the referendum has legally reunited Crimea with Russia.
On Migrant Crisis on the Border With Poland
Smuggling weapons from Ukraine intended for migrants at the Belarusian border, activities stopped by the Belarusian security service, started long before the migration crisis, Lukashenko told Ria Novosti, adding that the goal was to use these arms against himself, as well as a Russian military base and reporters.
"We noticed this, I think, three weeks ago, and began to record even earlier. This is arms traffic already coming from Ukraine, this is a disaster," Lukashenko claimed.
The purpose of these weapons was "to eliminate the president and commit terrorist acts on the territory of Belarus," he added.
"We prevented [the use of weapons] against the Russian military base, we showed it, against our journalists, against your [RT] journalist Konstantin Pridybailo ...The organizers were ... Americans and Belarusians who were detained in Moscow," Lukashenko asserted.
15 November 2021, 07:55 GMT
Russian citizens, including Chechens, were among the organizers of the delivery of Middle Eastern migrants to the Belarusian border, Lukashenko continued.
"These people [refugees] hire private traders, 300-350 kilometers, and they are on the border near Brest and Grodno. Private companies, then taxis, buses ... But, guides from Russia worked here, and thanks to the Chechens. What an organized people. They were the most organized here, organizing the flow," he said.
He also pointed out that the European Union had terminated the readmission agreement with Belarus.
"I said directly, well, you tore up this agreement, you stopped cooperating with us and talking on border issues, well, God be with you. Your problems, but I tell you, I will not protect you anymore like I did last year. They all hear it, and the organizers as well," Lukashenko said.
Acting German Chancellor Angela Merkel in phone conversations earlier promised Belarus EU assistance to solve the problem of refugees in a camp on the Polish-Belarusian border.
"Those [of the Iraqi refugees at the border] who have already worn out, we worked with them and sent them to Iraq. I fulfill my promise, which I gave to the European Union through Merkel. They did not take a single step, although Merkel promised me that the issue of this camp, these 2,000 migrants, will be decided by the European Union, together with us," Lukashenko said on the essence of his negotiations with Merkel.
According to him, "this is already a big step forward."
"They [the EU] didn’t talk about it at all, and now they will decide," the Belarusian president continued.
"Why are migrants sitting there? They are waiting to be taken away," Lukashenko said.
In November, about 2,000 migrants, mostly Kurds, gathered near the border of Belarus and Poland, trying to break into Poland
at the Bruzgi checkpoint in the Grodno Region (on the Polish side at the Kuznica checkpoint). The attempt was stopped by Polish security forces. Belarusian authorities have prepared a transport and logistics centre near the border checkpoint to accommodate the migrants.