Article by: Valery Kalinovsky
Alexandr Lukashenko dedicated almost the entire first hour of the 5,5-hour press conference for Russian journalists to the events of Ukraine, and then returned to them numerous times. Amongst other things, he spoke about Belarus’ intermediary actions in the Donbas conflict, in particular he noted that has been ready since the very beginning to send a Belarusian military contingent to break apart the participants of the conflict, however, the West allegedly refused his offer.
The Russian journalists who view Lukashenko as Russia’s loyal ally, asked him why Belarus and Russia are not “acting as a joint front” regarding the situation in Ukraine; and they obviously did not expect to hear a response containing criticism of Russia’s actions.
“Let us not lie to each other: if not for Russia, ‘DNR’ and ‘LNR’ would have been over a long time ago,” Alexandr Lukashenko noted.
The Belarus President called the events in Donbas a “massacre” and emphasized that the conflict in Ukraine can only be solved through talks, as there will be no winners in this war. Lukashenko refused to answer the question whether he considers Crimea Russian, however he lectured the journalists on the Budapest Memorandum which he personally signed in the name of Belarus in 1994, and brought up its essence.
“Therefore it is unacceptable that some state violates the territorial integrity which was guaranteed and takes the territory from such and such state,” the Belarusian President emphasized.
Lukashenko wants Smolensk and Bryansk territories
Alexandr Lukashenko also stated he is not afraid of Russia’s claims to Belarusian land, he even joked that it would be nice if Belarus got Kaliningrad oblast or Russia’s western regions, and he addressed these words to Putin.
“I say: Vladimir Vladimirovich, don’t worry, we don’t have any tension in this regard. You have to be tense, I tell him, because part of the Pskov, Smolensk and Bryansk lands once belonged to Belarus. So you’ll have to share,” noted Lukashenko.
He promised to accommodate all refugees from Ukraine, of which there are about 30 thousand in Belarus, according to him. Lukashenko also admitted he has Ukrainian roots.
“It is difficult to cut a person open and see whether they’re Russian or Belarusian. We don’t do this, because everything is mixed in Belarus: Russian blood, Polish, Ukrainian, Jewish, we even have 30 thousand Tatars living here. A Belarusian is an explosive mix, a conglomerate. Which is why we are intelligent people, because we have all this. But I am not talking about myself, but about Belarusians. I am more Ukrainian, probably,” said the Belarusian President.
Lukashenko: if nuclear weapons remained, nobody would push us around now
When they asked Alexandr Lukashenko about his biggest regret as president, the answer was honest.
“I am very sorry I removed nuclear weapons from Belarus. We did for free, absolutely. Yes, I had to adhere to agreements which were approved before my time. But I think in the chaos that was happening back then, nobody would have pressured me much. Kuchma said that we would not be able to maintain it. Today, from the height of my experience, I think we would have been able to maintain it all, it would have all been good, and nobody would be pushing us around like now,” Lukashenko noted.
Expert: it is a defense reaction to the ruling ideology in Russia
Belarusian political experts note the reinforcement of independent rhetoric on part of Lukashenko and explain it as a reaction to Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.
“When Lukashenko speaks of territorial changes, it is most likely a defense reaction to the ruling ideology in Russia. Like the one that says that today’s independent republics are a result of Soviet policies, artificial formations which historically never existed,” says Minsk-based politics expert Pavel Usov.
According to the observers, this press conference on part of the Belarusian President was one of the most anti-Russian ones throughout his 20 years in power. Alexandr Lukashenko, besides criticizing Russia for its actions in Crimea and Donbas, also lamented that Russia is not willing to supply Belarus with weapons, and that Moscow’s actions lead to Minsk losing money.