Aleksandr Lukashenko takes part in Victory Daycelebrations

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President of Belarus Aleksandr Lukashenko took part in the Victory Day celebrations on 9 May.

The head of state traditionally led the procession which ambled along Nezavisimosti Avenue from Oktyabrskaya Square as far as Victory Square. Partaking in the procession were veterans of the Great Patriotic War, the Armed Forces, soldiers of the war in Afghanistan, government officials, heads of state bodies, students of the Military Academy and Minsk Suvorov Military School, pioneers.

The President laid a wreath at the Victory Monument in Minsk. He welcomed heads of diplomatic missions and talked to the veterans. Participants of the ceremony honored the memory of heroes and victims of the Great Patriotic War with a minute of silence.

Aleksandr Lukashenko also answered questions of Belarusian and foreign mass media representatives. Reporters asked about the results of the recent talks and meetings of the head of state in Moscow, prospects of the Eurasian integration, Western sanctions in relation to Russia and possible influence of these sanctions on Belarus’ economy. The journalists also wanted to know about the economic situation in the country and the anti-corruption campaign in the country.

Speaking about the negotiations in Moscow, Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed that the sides managed to come to terms on all issues. Among other things the issue of selling Belarus-assembled cars on the Russian market was settled. The issue of road carriers was also settled. “We have dealt with natural gas supplies for a decade in advance although the matter had been settled earlier. What is more important, Belarus will get as much oil as we would like to get including prospects of getting more if we need it. For now 23 million tonnes per annum is enough for us to keep the oil refineries busy,” the head of state said.

According to Aleksandr Lukashenko, Belarus and Russia have also come to terms regarding the gradual annulment of export duties on oil products which have been transferred to the Russian budget. “We will gradually lift them. Next year Belarus will keep about half of the sum. As from 2016 I believe we will deal with the second part, too,” the President stated. “Belarus’ budget will keep about $1.5 billion next year. Roughly the same amount we will transfer to Russia’s budget. As I said, in 2016 we will revise the matter. I am convinced that within two years we will get rid of the duties and will trade in a civilized manner,” he added.

“We have agreed that the Russian Federation will transfer $2 billion to us like it had been promised,” the President said. “It will happen as soon as May. I think we will resolve the issue within a week,” he remarked.

Aleksandr Lukashenko noted that these credit resources will be used to replenish the gold and foreign exchange reserves.

Journalists asked the President if he and the Russian government discussed the issue of exporting cars made by the Belarusian-Chinese joint venture to the Russian market. The Belarusian President said that the matter was settled very fast and easily.

“We have agreed that we will supply about 25,000-30,000 cars, which accounts for about 2% of the Russian car market. We will hardly be able to manufacture more considering the existing capacity,” the President explained.

Aleksandr Lukashenko is convinced that the supplies of cars made by the Belarusian-Chinese joint venture will not have a significant impact on the Russian car market and will certainly not bring it down. According to the President, in 2013 the Chinese manufactured about 50,000 such cars in Russia and managed to sell them all. “The Germans and French could not do it, while the Chinese expanded their sales in Russia by about 46-48% last year. The sales of other manufacturers dropped,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

“It is up to Russians to decide. If they want to buy this car, let them buy it. If this car is of low quality, it will sell neither in Belarus nor in Russia,” the head of state remarked.

Aleksandr Lukashenko emphasized that a lot has to be done to dramatically increase the localization of these cars in Belarus. The localization level of the Belarusian-Chinese joint venture is expected to reach 30% over the next two years and make up 50% by 2018. The output will increase, too, after the construction of the plant. China is providing a $250 million loan for this project.

Speaking about the Eurasian Economic Union, the President said that the issues concerning the formation of the Eurasian Economic Union that had not been settled in the troika format will have to be settled on the bilateral basis. “Yesterday we settled virtually all the issues in the bilateral way. I have instructed the government to thoroughly revise all the parts of the treaty in order to have a clear understanding by 29 May of what we are going to sign, how we are signing it, what we will get from this economic union, what future,” the Belarusian leader said.

“Some things will be delayed by several years, by up to ten years in some cases. It is definitely a bad thing to do, we did not want it. You know our position: we should build the economic union without exemptions and restrictions. Our partners are not ready, mildly speaking, on all these issues,” the head of state remarked.“We are not going to block the signing of the treaty. If we cannot make a leap forward, we should move on in small steps. We believe in it,” Aleksandr Lukashenko stated.

The President noted that Belarus had managed to address all the concerns. “But still it has to be understood that we did not beg. It was a compromise,” the head of state said.

Speaking about Russia’s credit support and the funds that Belarus will manage to keep in its budget due to the reduction of export duties on oil products, Aleksandr Lukashenko said that “it is a major step on the part of Russia with regard to finance.” “But on the other hand we had to make some concessions,” the President noted.

In particular, the head of state said that the Belarusian side had not been satisfied with the approach to medications, alcohol, tobacco products, beer. “We open up too much but it should be understood that we make this step while they make other steps to meet us halfway on other issues. Therefore, those were major compromises, from our point of view they are not always needed today but we do what we can,” the Belarusian leader said.

“Therefore, I do not think we should block the signing of the treaty. Now we are analyzing everything we have agreed on: what we concede and what we get. We will weigh all pros and cons and will sign the treaty on 29 May,” the Belarusian leader concluded.

Speaking about Western sanctions, the Belarusian President emphasized that the mobilization of internal reserves can help resist any sanctions.

“You understand that the vice of financial and economic blockade has been trying to grip us and Russia for a long time. You may have been tracking yesterday’s events: we constantly say that a great deal more can be done by mobilizing internal reserves,” the President remarked.

As an example Aleksandr Lukashenko mentioned the woodworking industry, which is well-supplied with raw materials in Belarus and Russia, the relevant enterprises operate, but even then they have to compete with foreign products on the home market. “I told the president of Russia about it: why cannot we mobilize our internal reserves and get the enterprises working at 120% of their capacity, get them to make the products we need and sell them on the home market? We can do the same in all the market segments,” the Belarusian leader said.

“There is plenty of mess like that. Therefore, we should understand that, first of all, we have to get our people to work, pay a decent price for it and live the way Germany and other countries live. And no one will be able to say anything about economic sanctions then because we will be a self-supporting wealthy nation,” the Belarusian head of state is convinced.

According to Aleksandr Lukashenko, Ukraine should not lose its traditional market. “Once all these events are over, Ukraine will work and live in line with these rules. The West does not need the huge economic complex of Ukraine. They have enough already. Ukraine should count on this market and at least keep it,” the President believes.

“Therefore, there is still a lot of mess here. If we straighten things up, build things, we will not be afraid of any sanctions or enemy forces,” Aleksandr Lukashenko emphasized.

President also answered the question regarding the prospects of the Belarusian ruble exchange rate. “I have repeated once again what I have always said. Devaluations, crashes, wars, conflicts — all of it depends on us. If you do not want it, trust me, it will never happen in Belarus. I guarantee it. If you want it, what am I to do?” the head of state said.

“But we don’t plan any devaluation,” the President emphasized.

According to the President, he regularly hears suggestions to go ahead with a one-time devaluation as large as 10-20%. “Exporters would benefit from it. But it would be a gulp of air for a short time. On the other hand, it would be a blow to the entire nation. It would inflate prices by a considerable margin. And then it would be a blow to the exporters. Do we need it? We do not,” Aleksandr Lukashenko noted.

The head of state reminded that a gradual devaluation of the national currency by about 7-8% has happened in Belarus since the beginning of the year. The government does not go an extra mile to tame the exchange rate of the Belarusian ruble. “We don’t hold it by the skin of our teeth. Why are we supposed to raise prices for the foreign currency if we do not have to?” the President said.

The head of state stressed that Belarus has sufficient gold and foreign currency reserves in order to keep the currency market stable. “We have about $5 billion in the reserves and we are going to get $2.5 billion from Russia this year. It is more than sufficient for us,” Aleksandr Lukashenko assured.

The President believes that the gradual devaluation of the Belarusian ruble by another 5-7% may continue till the end of the year. He said it was not a bad thing. “Nothing dreadful will happen and people will get used to it and we will bring you closer to it via salaries,” the President said.

According to the head of state, a certain category of people keep the rumors about the possible devaluation flowing. “The worse the situation in the country is, the better off they are. They have failed to make conclusions from Ukrainian events. They do not understand that things will turn nasty for them, too, if, god forbid, the situation is destabilized. Therefore we do not plan any devaluation,” the Belarusian leader assured.

Aleksandr Lukashenko reminded that the previous time when the one-time devaluation happened he was advising Belarusians against buying foreign currency and thus provoking the fall of the Belarusian ruble. In his opinion, the nation should learn from that lesson.

The President said that the global economy and the domestic economy look like they are recovering. MTZ, BelAZ, and Belaruskali report rising sales. Belarus increases its output of agricultural products and sales abroad, in particular, in Russia. “We have good prospects ahead of us, but we should wake up and look for our happiness here. I do not advise you to rush to currency exchange offices,” Aleksandr Lukashenko concluded.

The journalists asked the Belarusian leader to comment on some publications alleging that he in fact already started the election campaign on the back of the anti-corruption theme. “If you say that Lukashenko has started campaigning, I will say that I started it in December 2010. Lukashenko launched his election campaign as soon as the previous presidential election finished. Believe me, it is true. If you want to be elected, you should start campaigning from the very first days. Our people are no fools. If you do nothing for 4.5 years and keep saying how good you are in the remaining half a year, people will only laugh at you. You should never stop working, every year, so that in the last year or half a year you slow down and ask people to decide. This is my principled position,” the President said.

“I have not started campaigning and will not. Things will be the same as during the last election. People should come and decide whether they want Lukashenko or not. If you are not tired of him, vote for him then, if you are, you will have all kinds of candidates to choose from,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

The President remarked that most of these persons are familiar to people. “Knowing Lukashenko, you can compare them to him and make your judgment, because they have always, for several years or maybe decades, have been there making statements, serving prison terms, etc. You will analyze it and make an informed choice,” the Belarusian leader remarked.

“If you do not vote for me, I will not be offended. I have worked hard enough in this job. A normal person would have said already it is high time to live for yourself, for your kids, time to relax a bit, wake up in the morning not having to think about the problems I face. It is not a simple job. It is not a job but self-sacrifice,” the head of state said.

“I would be only glad if such a person emerges because I am a mortal man. Sooner or later I will have to quit but I would very much like to see a successor that will not destroy and will not spit on all the things you and I have created, not only I alone. It is my stance,” Aleksandr Lukashenko added.

Speaking about the anti-corruption campaign, the President said that Belarus has the toughest anti-corruption laws. “Ask journalists or, maybe, ‘the fifth column’, not me, to comment on some anti-corruption cases and punishments that popped up. Maybe, the events in Ukraine (corruption was the reason for the economic crisis and these developments there) prompted us to highlight this matter. I would agree on that,” the head of state said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko explained that he used his State of the Nation Address to expose this problem. “No one will get away. The law applies to everyone,” the President stressed.