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    Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko

    Lukashenko: "Belarus and Russia Must Stand Together, Face Down Threats As Never Before"

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    Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko sat down for his annual press conference roundtable with Russian journalists on Friday, where he touched on issues including the crisis in Ukraine and the role of Belarus in its mediation, the West’s role in fanning the flames of the conflict, prospects for further integration via the Union State and the Eurasian Economic Union, and more.

    Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko sat down for his annual press conference roundtable with Russian journalists on Friday, where he touched on issues including the crisis in Ukraine and the role of Belarus in its mediation, the West’s role in fanning the flames of the conflict, prospects for further integration via the Union State and the Eurasian Economic Union, and more.

    On the Conflict in Ukraine, and Belarus’ Role

    “Our position is as follows: the military conflict and the loss of life in the east of Ukraine must be stopped once and for all. We have already complicated our relations with Ukraine to an impossible level…The conflict in Ukraine can only be resolved through negotiation. There will not be a winner in this war. This is why we stand for dialogue, always and everywhere, and why we are doing everything in our power to promote the negotiations process, and not because of some desire for laurels as peacekeepers.” The president noted that “all of us –Belarusian, Russians, Ukrainians –we all came from the same common Slavic origins. That is why it is simply painful to see what is happening today in Ukraine.”

    “It will be necessary to rebuild cities and villages in Ukraine. If this is not done as soon as possible, the consequences will be truly catastrophic…Already thousands of refugees from Ukraine have left for Russia and Belarus, saving themselves and their children. We cannot just turn these people away. We must help them in a brotherly, neighborly way, especially since they are our own people –they are not foreigners to us.”

    Maintaining Contact with Ukraine and Offering the Peace Plan

    Having worked with most Ukrainian presidents, Lukashenko noted that he “always supported contacts with these leaders, although I was always highly critical on their positions, if they did not correspond with ours.” He noted that Russian criticism of Belarus for maintaining contacts with Kiev was overstated, stating that “there is nothing bad” about staying in contact, as “the last events in Ukraine have shown.”

    Asked about his role as peacemaker, Lukashenko said: “I simply do not accept this war, and not only because innocent children and the elderly are being killed there, but also because this is the potential trigger for a global conflict.” On the Minsk discussions between Ukraine, Russia and the OSCE, he quipped that “we must thank the Europeans in this regard, -that they agreed to meet and hold discussions here with ‘the last dictator of Europe’.”

    “As far as results [of the peace plan] go, yes, there is presently fighting for the Donetsk airport…but what we have managed to achieve here, in Minsk, thanks to the contact group –this is already important. ‘The peace process has begun’.”

    Lukashenko noted that the upcoming parliamentary elections in Ukraine are part of the problem in maintaining the ceasefire, noting that “If it wasn’t for the parliamentary elections, the [peace] process would have gone faster. The political aspect of elections in Ukraine has a strong influence on the state of affairs there.” He attributed the government’s hardline stance to parliamentarians’ need to save face and to show that they will ‘fight to the end’.

    Yanukovich Ultimately to Blame for Allowing Anti-Constitutional Coup

    “When you reflect on the Euromaidan, remember the shooting. It’s difficult to sort out what happened, even for inquisitive journalists. When fighting begins it becomes difficult to determine who is shooting whom and why. Each side blames the other. For someone it is advantageous, for someone else not, but finding out who did the shooting is difficult. Naturally an information war is being carried out, each side having their own goals with regards to these events...A time will come when people will find out the whole truth about it.”

    Lukashenko noted that ultimately “an anti-constitutional coup occurred. Who is to blame? The President of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovich. Only him.”

    The West’s Role in the Crisis

    “It is obvious that someone from the outside is trying to drive a wedge in the relations between our countries, to promote enmity and hatred in the hearts of peoples that are historically close and related in spirit. However, at the same time, we are partly to blame: we create reasons for this, and sometimes, like in Ukraine, set the stage for these pressures from the outside.”

    “The West and America did not want peace in Ukraine. They needed a war. Meeting with Putin I told him, ‘Volodya [diminutive for Vladimir used between friends], they’re trying to pull us into this war. They’ll create a meat grinder for us, so that we can kill each other.’”

    Belarus’ Willingness to Use Armed Forces as Peacekeepers

    Lukashenko noted that in the beginning he “was prepared to go very far, up to the use of my own military forces to separate the conflicting parties.”

    “When all the turmoil was just beginning, I was prepared to use the country’s armed forces, in ways that would be determined by the situation. And now there is such a mess there…There is no one to talk to. Now even with consent from Ukraine, Russia, the Donetsk and Lugansk Peoples’ Republics, sending troops there would be risky. Because today in Ukraine there are forces which are not controlled by anyone; battalions have been formed which are controlled by oligarchs.”

    On the Need for Belarusian-Russian Brotherhood

    “This is not the time to ‘pinch’ each other over trifles, to recall old grievances or to create anxiety in our relations under false pretexts…You can see perfectly clearly what is happening in the world. It is literally being shaken from civil strife and armed conflict. These are the results of the implementation of a strategy of ‘controlled chaos’ which causes serious harm to many countries on different continents, including Europe today. We also know who stands behind this chaos – who creates it, who solves their own problems via the destabilization of vast regions and the pitting of nations against one another.”

    “In this difficult time, I’m confident that Belarusians and Russians need to be together. Facing new threats, we must be united as never before; we must be prepared to lend a hand to one another, and to resolve all disagreements as partners. We must be strong, and not shy away from defending our mutual interests –both economic and political.”

    “We must not forget that only through the unity of our peoples were we able to stand up to the blows of the Nazi hordes, to defeat them in their lair and to liberate Europe, the world and all of humanity from Nazism and enslavement. Let me stress again: our strength is in unity and solidarity.”

    “We are allies with Russia and will firmly abide by our agreements; this is our position. But we also have our own point of view, which sometimes can be different from Russia’s. But we are strategic partners and allies, and we cannot stand back and watch someone suffer while we look on from the side. This will never happen.”

    Integration Issues: The Belarus-Russia Union State Remains the Most Advanced Unit of Integration

    “The Eurasian Economic Union is a purely economic union. At present, we have not reached even half the level of integration which has been formed in the framework of the Russia-Belarus Union State. The citizens of Belarus and Russia are almost completely equal in their rights. The two countries have a common defense space. We work together in the fields of education, healthcare, and the movement of people.”

    Discussing the processes that impede further integration on the basis of the Union State, he noted: “We were set to create a constitution of the future Union government via referendums in Belarus and Russia. In it everything would have to be delineated: the territory, the government, and the parliament. Russia did not agree to this. We had agreed to a single currency. But it would have to be like in Europe, an independent single currency. The production of currency should transpire on equal terms. That is, all matters would have to be handled with the interests of both parties in mind. But we are told ‘no, it will be in St. Petersburg or Moscow, with the [Russian] Central Bank managing everything’….This is why at that time we did not create the basis for future integration, and now the processes are occurring more slowly than we would like.”

    On the Eurasian Economic Union, Lukashenko emphasized that “it is essential that all the agreements which were reached are strictly complied with Otherwise we will not just lose confidence within our union, but also attractiveness in the eyes of EEU candidates.”

    “With our partners for Eurasian integration…although we have made a huge step forward, we are still only at the beginning of a long journey. You will all see how we travel on this journey  in the near future, I believe. A number of sensitive issues in bilateral trade remain…especially with respect to energy resources and the movement of capital.”

    Sanctions

    “We defend the economic interests of Russia, thwarting attempts to import Western goods [through Belarus] which are subject to the embargo. We are working to accommodate our partners on the issue of replacing these goods with Belarusian goods, which is especially important, for example, for the Kaliningrad region, due to its geographic position.”

    “It’s not easy for us. These sanctions which have affected you have hit us too, because our main market is Russia.”

    Speaking about how Belarus itself has long been able to withstand its own sanctions, Lukashenko noted that most importantly, “we united together. It was possible to unite and to stand up.” For Russia this is similarly important, even though it is not easy, he said. “The main thing is for the people to unite together.”

    Elections Scheduled for October/November 2015

    “If the election were held tomorrow, yes, I would participate. What will happen next year –I hope the world does not turn upside down, and Belarus ends up somewhere at the bottom…But if everything turns out alright, and I will be healthy, I will not have any reason to abstain from the presidential campaign.”

    “If the people don’t elect me, that’s fine; I will have a chance to live a bit. If I continue to have the same health I do today, I will live a long while yet; I’ll find some way to keep busy. Perhaps I’ll even relax, if I can.”

    Tags:
    Euromaidan, armed forces, peacekeepers, military conflict, political crisis, Eurasian Economic Union, Russian Central Bank, Petro Poroshenko, Alexander Lukashenko, Belarus, Vladimir Putin
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