Aleksandr Lukashenko makes working trip to Bykhov District, Mogilev Oblast

    Belarus will continue the development of Chernobyl-hit regions upgrading and creating modern high-performance companies, President of the Republic of Belarus Aleksandr Lukashenko said on 26 April during his working trip to Bykhov District, Mogilev Oblast.

    On 26 April the President traditionally visits Chernobyl areas.

    The state has invested a lot of money in the development of these regions. Since 1986 some $19 billion has been allocated for these purposes. In this five-year period there are plans to spend over $2.2 billion on the program to overcome consequences of the Chernobyl disaster.

    “We have done a lot, and I do not look back on time and money spent on the effort. We will keep going this way,” the President said.

    Aleksandr Lukashenko believes that upgrade and creation of modern high-performance enterprises will help restore Chernobyl-affected lands.

    A bright example of this approach is Bykhov Cannery and Vegetable Dehydration Plant, which is one of the main producers of canned vegetables in Mogilev Oblast. Since 2007 the company has been marketing its products under the You are the Boss brand. The major sales markets include Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, USA and Canada. Many locals would like to get a job at the company.

    “To keep specialists in the Chernobyl-affected areas, we need modern companies,” the head of state said.

    The plant produces organic jams, fruit spreads, tomato products, vegetable products, salads, snacks and juices. In 2011 the company earned Br4 billion in net profit. The export made $2.2 million. The company is planning to boost exports and raise proceeds to Br100 billion.

    Aleksandr Lukashenko said that salaries will be raised in Belarus to match the growth of labor productivity. “If you turn out more products, you will sell more products, you will get more money and hence higher salaries. Nobody is going to give the money one has not earned to anyone. We will not print money to pay salaries either,” Aleksandr Lukashenko noted.

    He encouraged everyone to think for themselves about ways to make money. “If aid of the state is required, it will be provided,” Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed.

    Bykhov residents were interested in whether gas service installation will continue in the country. Aleksandr Lukashenko remarked that gas service had been installed in every district capital.

    “We will continue gas service installation as part of the programs to support the countryside. The task to install natural gas in every agrotown has been set. We will have to install gas service where we have combined agricultural enterprises. As far as villages are concerned, we will not make natural gas available in populated localities where two or three people are left,” the head of state said.

    Yet Aleksandr Lukashenko assured that the government will not leave without attention the so-called futureless villages, where only elderly people live.

    The President also pointed out that it is necessary to use more local fuels as gas is expensive.

    Workers of the Bykhov cannery thanked the head of state for attention drawn to the development of Chernobyl areas.

    The same day Aleksandr Lukashenko answered journalists' questions.

    Reported asked the President about measures to prevent brain drain from Chernobyl-hit regions. Aleksandr Lukashenko said that u pgrade and creation of modern high-performance companies will help keep specialists in these areas. “To keep specialists in the Chernobyl-affected areas, we need modern companies like Bykhov Cannery and Vegetable Dehydration Plant,” the head of state said.

    The President reminded that some three years ago governors spoke about the lack of teachers and doctors. At present the problem has almost been resolved.

    The President believes that all kinds of assistance, including assistance with housing, should be provided to specialists who come here to work.

    The head of state said that once he had to make a decision on retargeting the resources under Chernobyl programs. The decision was made in favor of Chernobyl area development. “We have made a lot since then. Reclamation of contaminated land has been launched. And today local people say it was the right decision to make. We took all Chernobyl funds and put them in the contaminated land remediation, production development. Resources were invested in the opening of new companies, the construction of a water deironing station, roads, connection of the regions to the gas distribution networks,” the head of state said.

    Today Bykhov District (former Chernobyl area) is a region of a high level. Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed that the implementation of the Chernobyl program allowed improving the situation in other districts of Mogilev Oblast.

    The President was asked to comment on claims that some European forces can make Belarus suspend the project to build the nuclear power plant.

    “You already know the results as far as some European forces, which have been trying to bend us to their will for years, are concerned,” the Belarusian head of state remarked.

    “The policy has been shaped and I follow it precisely. We are the masters of this land and we will determine what and where we should build,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

    “There are international standards. We borrow the latest technologies from Russians. Russia has built a lot of these power plants all over the world. It is the highest level of protection and safety of the plant,” the President said.

    Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed that Belarus will build the NPP in line with international standards. He said that the IAEA has found no faults with safety precautions and technologies for building the Belarusian nuclear power plant.

    According to Aleksandr Lukashenko, the IAEA Director General has been to Belarus, IAEA specialists are permanently in the country, monitoring the situation and have no problems with the technologies to build the station and make it safe.

    “Lithuanians are complaining but they are eager to build a nuclear station of its own on the same spot. The same distance from our border,” the President said.

    “By the way, the station that they have allegedly shut down and have decommissioned, is still operational. It was built directly at our border. And it takes water from our lakes. Why did they keep silent as they dumped waste in these lakes? They recognized the fact that the power plant was not safe when they shut it down on demand of their partners,” the head of state added.

    The President said that the construction of the nuclear station in Belarus is underway.

    As for the construction of the second NPP in Belarus, Aleksandr Lukashenko said that this matter is not on the agenda yet.

    “I said half-jokingly once that it would be great to have technologies to build a second nuclear power plant. If someone agreed to build a second nuclear power plant on the same terms as Russia is building the first one (you know, the ground for the second nuclear power plant has been examined and is ready; it is located in Mogilev Oblast), we would be much richer because of complete energy security; we would no longer depend on others for electric power,” the head of state said.

    “We are still thinking, calculating, discussing. This matter is not on the agenda yet,” the President said.

    “If we find an investor who would construct a second power plant on the same terms as Russia, we will be happy about it. It may be Japanese, Koreans, French with Germans, Americans… It remains to be seen. But we certainly would like to have it,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

    Journalists were also interested in the oncoming visit of the President of Turkmenistan, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow.

    The forthcoming talks with the Turkmen leader will focus on a wide range of bilateral cooperation, Aleksandr Lukashenko said. “We even may agree on some new projects,” he added.

    The Belarusian head of state also reminded that he had agreed with the President of Turkmenistan to meet once a year to take stock of the progress in implementation of the reached agreements.

    According to the Belarusian head of state, Turkmenistan is a significant and promising partner for Belarus.

    Turkmenistan has resources, but no technologies which, for instance, can be adopted from Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia. “We have launched the construction of a potash plant there, and they are truly happy with our work. We have offered our services to build roads, housing, supply our equipment,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

    Reporters also asked the President about the EU sanctions. Aleksandr Lukashenko said that t he European Union has, probably, recognized the futility of sanctions against Belarus.

    The President said: “Do you think Europeans would have abandoned sanctions if they had thought the sanctions are effective for bending our will? Never ever. They would have pressured us to our knees. They may have understood that sanctions would get them nowhere, that sanctions have no future. They may have understood that they need Belarus”.

    The head of state reminded that Belarus had decided to relocate some forces from the well-established western border to the south.

    “We are now mainly controlling the matters Belarus is interested in and are mainly working on control over entry to the country,” the head of state said.

    He remarked the bordering nations had appealed to Belarus, complaining the border had been left wide open. “But we do not have money. Yes, I can increase the number of customs and border guard stations but pay us, please,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

    When Belarus loosened control over exit to Europe, the West faced an entire wave of migrants from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Asia, Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

    The President also drew attention to big economic losses European countries can bear if sanctions are expanded. “I say nothing of major economic losses that the Baltic ports will incur. Frankly speaking, we are in negotiations with Russia for the sake of getting railway transportation tariffs reduced and getting their Baltic ports to eagerly handle millions of tonnes of our cargoes,” the President remarked.

    Aleksandr Lukashenko also said that Belarus and Ukraine had struck a deal to raise the volume of shipment via southern ports. He concluded: “If the European Union does not need us, we will seek our fortune elsewhere.”

    Aleksandr Lukashenko also stressed: “We are ready to resume negotiations at any time, provided the European Union is ready to humanely talk to us, without preliminary conditions, without bending us left or right. We are not hawks. There has been no hawk policy in Belarus and there will be none. Therefore, we are ready to negotiate on any problems. But if they choose pressure, we will respond”.

    The head of state was also asked about the cooperation prospects between Belarus and Russia.

    The President stressed that all economic and socio-political issues that Belarus and Russia had have been addressed. The two countries will cooperate in all areas, including military technology. “We have no closed topics in the area of military technology, defense of our borders. We will build a common defense policy, a strategy and tactics and will put it into practice,” the President said.

    The head of state reminded that when there were problems in Belarus-Russia economic cooperation, ways to protect the common space were discussed. “Do you remember four gas price increases within five years? Do you remember that gas prices were as high as those in Germany and even higher? Do you remember we had problems with oil and we went to Venezuela? But simultaneously we kept in touch with Russia in the Collective Security Treaty Organization. And we always discussed how we will protect our common space,” the President said. He remarked that in the Union State Belarus and Russia had a joint military taskforce in the western direction. In his words, joint actions and defense were discussed. “Then I said in public we were ready to create a joint air defense system, we were ready for everything. But I had to explain to my people what we will protect if brotherly Russia sells the things we need so much at high prices. I had to explain why we had to strain ourselves while we could trade as it is,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

    In his words, now the situation has changed. Belarus pays about $165-170 for Russian gas, a price virtually no other country is allowed to pay. Belarus gets oil without duties. “While the market price for oil is, let us say, $800, we can get it for $400-450,” the head of state said.

    “We have created the Single Economic Space where everyone is equal. There are no more wars, milk ones and other ones. We have a huge market of about 170 million people, primarily in Russia. All economic and socio-political issues that we had with Russia have been addressed,” the head of state said.

    He reminded that in his time he inked the decree to create a single air defense group right away. “Russians were interested in it a lot and it is a very important matter,” the President added.

    Belarus cooperates in other areas, too, particularly the joint Belarusian-Russian military taskforce. These days Russia takes care of equipping Belarusian rapid response forces. Belarus gets arms from Russia at half the price. “We have something to defend now,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

    “Russia has resolved many issues, spending more than one billion US dollars. Russia has accepted our terms, we have accepted theirs. Therefore, there are no areas we cannot cooperate in,” he added.

    The President also expressed his opinion regarding further integration prospects in the EurAsEC.

    The President is confident that Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Russia will be ready to sign documents on the formation of the Eurasian Economic Union by 2015.

    “There are no fundamental disagreements about it. We will have the Eurasian Union in 2015 for sure,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

    He noted that Belarus and Russia hold similar views on the establishment of the union. “The issues Russia and Belarus can handle independently and the issues related to sovereign rights of the countries should not get under the jurisdiction of the union. We should not delegate all sovereignty-related matters to the still weak supranational body – the Eurasian Commission. We can handle these issues on our own coordinating them with Russia and Kazakhstan,” the Belarusian leader believes. He said that Kazakhstan had serious objections to that. “However it is important that Kazakhstan assured that it will sign the agreement by 2015 for sure. It is a breakthrough decision. Therefore, the Eurasian Union will be definitely established in 2015,” the President said. “There are no fundamental disagreements, however, there are certain timeframes,” the head of state added.

    Aleksandr Lukashenko noted that these issues are to be discussed with President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev during his forthcoming visit to Belarus. The Belarusian leader said that the two presidents are going to study the state of efforts to implement the bilateral agreements. Belarus takes part in 30 out of 35 modernization programs of Kazakhstan. Belarus not only supplies machinery to this country, but is also going to take part in agriculture development projects. According to Aleksandr Lukashenko, Kazakhstan would like to study Belarus’ best practices. “We are ready to construct agrotowns, supply machinery and reclaim farmlands: we can do a lot and we can share our expertise and knowledge in farming with our Kazakh friends,” the head of state said.