There has been big progress in the rehabilitation of Chernobyl-affected territories in the past two decades, Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko said during the visit to the Polesie State Radiation and Ecological Reserve in Khoiniki District, Gomel Oblast, on 16 June.
“This is part of my personal and presidential life. I have mixed feelings, from pain to positive impressions. I have lived this life with them (people from the affected territories),” the Belarusian leader stressed.
The head of state remarked that in the first years of his presidency he regularly visited Gomel Oblast, including radiation-polluted places, and continues doing it now. “The main thing is that people live a normal life here,” the President said. “Back then, when I arrived here in the second year of my presidency, people were frightened. Many people have built their politics on it, they are abroad now (they used foreign grants). Then they left, while people stayed here.”
“A lot has changed over 20 years. People live here, just like in the entire Belarus. The greatest joy for me, one of the results of this presidential period, is the achievement of the Belarusian people. They have preserved and restored these territories. This is the main result,” Alexander Lukashenko said.
The President said that such issues as the restoration and rehabilitation of Chernobyl-affected regions are of great importance for him. It is essential to make serious decisions here. “When we started to reclaim lands, there was very much criticism of my decisions,” he said.
The head of state said that the results of the efforts are also reflected in economic indicators. For example, Gomel Oblast managed to double and even triple the production of foodstuffs in certain segments in the past years. “They buy only clean products. There is strict control,” the President said.
When in the radiation and ecological reserve, Alexander Lukashenko visited the uninhabited village of Babchin. More than 700 people were evacuated from this village after the Chernobyl accident. Part of the buildings of the village is used for the needs of the reserve. The head of state was informed that a big part of the territories can be used in various economic activities if all safety precautions are taken. A list of industries includes wood –processing, beekeeping, horse breeding. Specialists of the reserve have made much progress in these industries. They make clean products in compliance with all standards here. Alexander Lukashenko visited an apiary and tasted honey of local beekeepers.
The President gave an instruction to continue developing corresponding industries to keep the affected territories in order, create new jobs and conditions for the increase in the salaries of local residents.
The head of state was also informed about the plan to alter the borders of the reserve. Plans have been made to exclude part of the territories and involve them in the economic turnover. Over the years since the accident, the radiation background has improved significantly. It is attributed to such physical processes as the half-decay of radioactive materials. Besides, the scientific research of recent decades proved that clean products can be made on these territories, animal husbandry can be a success there. The President gave an instruction to prepare and submit a corresponding draft decree.
The head of state also gave an instruction regarding the distribution of funds allocated for the economic development of affected territories. Governors should be in charge of these issues.
After the visit to the apiary, Alexander Lukashenko changed his route. He decided to visit places which remained uninhabited after the evacuation of residents three decades ago. He visited one of the abandoned houses on the territory of the Polesie State Radiation and Ecological Reserve.
The President also visited a research center of the reserve where he familiarized himself with the organization of the laboratory analysis and control of the radiation background, paid a visit to the history museum of the reserve.
During the working trip Alexander Lukashenko was briefed on the social and economic development of Gomel Oblast. He urged the region’s administration to step up control over three major issues, namely prices, employment, and salaries.
Gomel Oblast Governor Vladimir Dvornik said that the region fulfills forecast targets in H1 2017. He is also convinced that there are good prospects for further development in agriculture and other industries. The average salary in the region makes up about Br700. “I think that the average salary in the region will reach Br950 by the end of the year,” Vladimir Dvornik said.
During the working trip the head of state also answered a number of journalists’ questions.
Speaking about the problem of growing prices, Alexander Lukashenko said that it will stop being relevant soon. “I am confident that if we manage to keep inflation as it is this year and the next one, then people will forget about this problem,” the President remarked.
The head of state said it is possible that the inflation may be way below the expected figure at the end of the year. The head of state underlined that plummeting prices negatively affect the economy just like skyrocketing prices do. “This is why if prices are to rise, the rise has to be smooth and low. If prices are to drop, it has to be smooth and slow. I wish inflation in Belarus could be at 3-4% at the end of the year,” he said.
The President also spoke about the need to restore the cross of Turov. “We discussed this topic with the head of the Development Bank, former Vice Prime Minister Sergei Rumas. I asked him to join this project and involve other state banks,” the President said.
In 1962, during the excavations in the town of Turov archaeologists unearthed four icons dating back to the 12th century. One of them presumably depicts Kirill of Turov. According to scientists, these icons were part of the cross of the Turov Episcopal Church (Turov cross). “These four icons can be used as we restore the cross, which will happen in the near future,” the head of state said.
During the conversation with journalists Alexander Lukashenko also explained his attitude to vacations and recreation. “The president of Belarus cannot go on vacation like a regular guy. I have no vice president. According to the Constitution, I cannot transfer my authority to anyone else,” the head of state said.
The President underlined that even when he leaves the country, for instance, to go to Sochi for a couple of days, he constantly stays in touch with Belarus, taking part in the handling of important matters. Speaking about recreation, Alexander Lukashenko said that, for instance, going to the seaside does not necessarily have to be part of the package. “I rest by changing the scenery and occupation. I can rest by playing ice hockey today, chopping firewood tomorrow, cutting grass, roller skiing, and so on the day after tomorrow. I hate lying on the beach, sunbathing. It is unacceptable for me,” Alexander Lukashenko said.