Aleksandr Lukashenko makes working trip to Khoiniki District, Gomel Oblast

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Belarus will build up the manufacturing base of the areas affected by the Chernobyl disaster. The statement was made by President of Belarus Aleksandr Lukashenko during the working trip to Gomel Oblast on 26 April.

The head of state focused on the development of the agro-industrial sector, social protection.

One of the topics discussed during the trip was the import of mineral fertilizers. The head of state believes that Belarusian enterprises are capable of providing the agriculture with the necessary amount of mineral fertilizers. “I am dead set against importing mineral fertilizers from abroad,” said Aleksandr Lukashenko. “Go there and talk to specialists on site in order not to remove foreign currency from the country,” the President instructed Vice Premier Mikhail Rusyi.

The head of state was informed about the overall progress of the spring sowing campaign in the country. According to Agriculture and Food Minister Leonid Zayats, all the oblasts have started the sowing campaign. Work is in progress to fertilize winter crops, prepare the soil, sow early spring cereal and leguminous crops, sugar beet, flax, and corn. However, the work done so far is slightly less than last year’s due to the soil being saturated with water. The work is intensive in Brest Oblast, Gomel Oblast, Minsk Oblast, and Grodno Oblast thanks to the faster release of the fields from snow and soil readiness.

Leonid Zayats underlined that it is technically possible to accomplish the sowing campaign within the shortest time. There are no problems with the availability of fuel and mineral fertilizers. According to the Agriculture and Food Minister, all the sowing operations are more organized this year. The sowing of headed crops is expected to complete by 3-4 May. As far as corn is concerned, it will be sown by 15 May.

Aleksandr Lukashenko had a keen interest in the melioration of lands and the proper control over the treatment of the lands reclaimed for crop rotation.

Aleksandr Lukashenko answered a number of questions of journalists regarding further development of Chernobyl-hit territories, fight against corruption, relations of Belarus with the European Union, agreements with Russia in air defense and other issues.

The President said that Belarus will build up the manufacturing base of the areas affected by the Chernobyl disaster. The head of state remarked that in their time they focused on developing the social sphere.

“I’ve been always thinking whether we made a mistake by allowing this misbalance, by developing and supporting the social basis – education, healthcare, culture, people’s life. Did we make an error?” said the President.

Aleksandr Lukashenko believes that the decision to develop district capitals was the right one. “I indeed paid much attention to it because I understood that we had to somehow show people that we are going to live here. And people can accept only so much talk. And we cannot encourage people to settle down in the region because people are afraid, the process is politicized,” reminded the head of state. In his words, this experience has been transferred from Gomel Oblast to other areas affected by the Chernobyl disaster. “We’ve taken care of the villages, the infrastructure, started offering gas service, building roads and homes, helping young families and young specialists. So we’ve invested a lot in the social sphere. And the manufacturing sphere has fallen behind to some extent. But I don’t regret our doing it now. It had to be done anyway,” said the President.

Aleksandr Lukashenko remarked the process to set up enterprises in these lands had begun already starting with agriculture, woodworking, and ending with the modernization of existing enterprises. The head of state added he wishes the process would go faster.

“This is why we prioritized social development. The entire country helped build agro-towns and district capitals here. We sent people here, paid them, pay them, and will pay them slightly more if we have to. It is necessary to build up manufacturing now,” said the President.

Aleksandr Lukashenko underlined that residents of the region have to make up their mind about what manufacturing projects exactly they will build up, which ones will be most effective in conditions of specific regions. Aleksandr Lukashenko once again reminded about his instruction to start manufacturing projects reliant on locally available raw materials.

“If small support is needed, then certainly we will support the enterprises, which are important for the state,” remarked the head of state.

When asked about the prospects of relations between Belarus and the European Union, Aleksandr Lukashenko said that Belarus wants to develop normal relations with the West.

According to the President, the European Union now understands that the policy of sanctions and ultimatums against Belarus is not just counterproductive.

“It is set in stone among the Europeans and among the enlightened members of the fifth column, they may be opposition members already instead of the fifth column, some have understood that the policy of sanctions and ultimatums is not just counterproductive, but harmful for the European Union itself. The opinion prevails among the Europeans already. I know it for sure,” said the head of state.

“Now the question is how we can break the stalemate we have landed in together with Europeans? And we are not the ones who created the stalemate,” added the President.

Aleksandr Lukashenko noted that the European Union raises the issue of political prisoners in Belarus. “They start saying there are political prisoners over here. I tell them once again that we don’t sentence anyone for political reasons. Purely criminal charges. I’ve already said how we can fix it. Those, who wanted to be free, are now free. Those, who wanted to stay in prison and then come out as a hero, god bless you, stay there, no problem. The state will survive the two or three people, who want to be heroes by doing prison time, but they cannot understand that the time for it is gone,” said the President.

“Some of them are now free. Who can hear them or remember them? Nobody,” added the head of state.

Aleksandr Lukashenko believes that the policy that Belarus pursues is a stumbling block, not the political prisoners. “Nobody around us wants to see independent and self-reliant Belarus. But it is an accomplished fact already. We will be an independent and self-reliant country,” stressed the President.

In his words, the political system of Belarus is another stumbling block. “Some of them don’t like it, too. They don’t like that they cannot loosen up the rigid government system, the strong power vertical. They’d love to see the branches turning into different directions. They would love to divide the country and do it without Lukashenko. Well, they may wish on. We may sometime grow ripe, as I’ve said, for these things ranging from gay marriages to a new political system,” said Aleksandr Lukashenko. “For now we believe the country needs this system,” he added.

“And then you must understand that nobody needs another competitor in the center of Europe. They may want things here going the way of Greece or somewhere else where everyone has bent, with their spirit low, while the Germans sell their merchandise. And where can they get money to pay for it? Well, some may have been thrown away. Do you want it like that? I don’t,” said the head of state.

Aleksandr Lukashenko remarked that a process was going on together with the Europeans. “We have told them right away: our policy is transparent, we don’t want to quarrel with Europeans, we are part of Europe. Moreover, we are the geographical center. We would like to maintain normal relations with European nations,” said the President.

“If you want, we can talk. If you don’t, well, we will have to wait,” said Aleksandr Lukashenko.

As for the arrangements with Russia in air defense, the President said that this does not mean surrender of sovereignty. “Even those people who say that we are surrendering sovereignty do not believe it. You know my position, and understand that it will never happen. I am not that kind of President who would give something away to someone else, not to mention the most sacred thing - the sovereignty. To protect the sovereignty is my immediate constitutional duty. If I said that I would bargain away our country's sovereignty and independence you would never have voted for me,” the head of state said.

As for the sovereignty surrender rhetoric, Aleksandr Lukashenko noted that this is a political game. "Those who fight against Lukashenko would say anything to hurt him. In this case they say that Lukashenko surrenders sovereignty and independence. They themselves do not believe it. So I do not even bother about this,” the President said.

With respect to the supply of four battalions of S-300 air defense missile systems to Belarus by Russia, Aleksandr Lukashenko noted that similar systems are already in service in Belarus. The Belarusian air defense is the strongest in the West direction.

“It was not that Russians suggested this to us. It was I who addressed them a long time, probably seven years ago, and demanded that they supplied these systems to us. When the Russians said that it was quite a challenge I suggested we buy second-hand systems from them, and upgrade them by ourselves. Finally, with the new Defense Minister appointed, the things were put in motion. I am happy that Russia has agreed to meet us halfway and supply these systems,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

The head of state stressed that these systems are aimed against no one. They will be used solely for defense purposes.

“As for the fighter jets, we are considering this issue: they will be deployed either at the operating Belarusian military units or a new fighter jet regiment will be created,” the President noted.

“Today we need dozens of modern jets to secure inviolability of the borders. We have Su-27 and MiG-29m and need more of them or more advanced jets,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.