Interview to TV channel Euronews
Sergio Cantone (head of the Euronews bureau for Eastern Europe). Mr President, welcome to the Euronews TV Channel.
My first question concerns the situation in Ukraine. How do you evaluate the situation in the neighboring country – a military conflict, violence, mayhem? Do you see any resolution for the situation in Ukraine?
Aleksandr Lukashenko. Thank you for the invitation.
You have just said that violence is going on in Ukraine, blood is everywhere, people are dying. Therefore, my attitude is obvious. It is the same like yours and of any other person devoted to peace. If it had happened in any other country, my attitude would be the same – people must not die, war is unacceptable these days. A lot of weapons have been accumulated in the world. It often explodes and hurts many people.
Therefore, preventing the conflict from spreading is the key thing now.
I have already said and would like to reiterate that no escalation of the military conflict and the war, continuation of the war will happen in Ukraine. It will not happen because there can be no winners in this war. No side can and will be able to win in this war. The continuation of the military conflict is disadvantageous for both sides because it can increase respect neither for the Ukrainian authorities nor for the other side. This is why the war is a dead end.
Since it has no future, it cannot continue. It is very important that the conflicting parties have understood it.
There is one minor consideration: the war in Ukraine and its continuation are impossible unless very strong external powers, which are interested in its continuation, put more pressure, unless powerful incentives from the outside are applied.
Sergio Cantone. Mr President, you said that there was no future in this war, in this conflict because the sides realized the meaninglessness of the war. Nevertheless, do you think that this conflict will end because neither side will get advantage? Or is it possible that the conflict will be continued in the future?
Aleksandr Lukashenko. If we manage to choke the flame of the war in Ukraine, then the emergence of a similar conflict in Ukraine in the short term and even medium term is impossible. Everyone will make relevant conclusions from this conflict.
Sergio Cantone. Mr President, you have also mentioned the influence of the third parties on the conflict in Ukraine. In your opinion, what is the role of the third parties in the development of the conflict and what is their vision of the continuation of the conflict?
Aleksandr Lukashenko. I have just said that these third parties do exist and they are very influential. I think you should look for them to the west of Ukraine’s borders. By the way, you know them and the entire international community knows about these forces.
Any military actions are tightly related to politics, economy and finance. They bring disaster to someone and benefits to someone else. But we are Europeans and the situation is absolutely unacceptable for us.
Therefore, there are quite a number of interested parties. You know, in a few days after the coup in Ukraine and the Crimean events I said that unfortunately, Ukraine was turning into a battleground for major global players. It is not Ukrainians that wage the war against Ukrainians over there. It is not Russians that are warring against Russian-speaking people. Major international forces use them to wage the war. Therefore, this global conflict represents strong interest for these players if I can say so. If the conflict continued, it would have grave consequences for Europe and the world as a whole.
When I say that some forces — I mention no names but they are understandable — are interested in this conflict, I have the right to say that like no one else. When the conflict in Ukraine was just emerging, individual Western politicians asked me about my view of the situation in Ukraine and what had to be done to stop the war. I certainly didn’t want to discuss the topic because I understood that it was not going to produce results. Nevertheless, I told them I have my own vision and proposals regarding the normalization of the situation in Ukraine, full normalization, including the political situation, without leading the country into a war. We suggested a plan to the West without specifying things at that stage while acting in strong belief that the West would not agree to the plan. Moreover, I promised that if Belarusian proposals were acted upon, the situation in Ukraine would be normalized and wars would be out of the question. The West didn’t agree to the plan. It means that this way was profitable for someone.
Sergio Cantone. Mr President, you intentionally do not name these forces which influence the situation in Ukraine. However, if we pay attention to the development of the situation in Ukraine, try to restore the sequence of events, if we look back at how people participated in maidan events, rebelled against President Yanukovich. After that there were events in Crimea and Donbass. Don’t you think that if we analyze the course of events, we will see which powers were involved in the situation?
Aleksandr Lukashenko. You are absolutely right. I do not deny it.
Maidan, an insurrection is not a new thing for the ex-USSR and for Ukraine in particular. It has happened in Kyrgyzstan and other republics. It has happened more than once in Ukraine but nevertheless, such events didn’t lead to a war, to a military conflict. It led to the military conflict in Ukraine only because these processes were initiated from the outside. These processes developed thanks to external support and incentives.
I am convinced that regardless of the development of the situation in Maidan and in Kiev, the state of affairs would not have drastically changed. This internal conflict has evolved into a military conflict because of various interested parties and involvement in the Ukrainian processes from outside.
Yanukovych is primarily the one to blame for what had happened in Ukraine because it is the country’s president who is responsible for peace, stability, and security in the state, for the integrity of the state. “I believe and I’ve said it already that Yanukovych failed to take all the constitutional measures to preserve the security of the Ukrainian nation and the integrity of the Ukrainian state. He did nothing. Things turned from bad to worse later on. External forces came to play among other factors.
Sergio Cantone. Mr President, don’t you think that the events which took place in Ukraine and started from maidan were a kind of a spontaneous protest of Ukrainian people, their natural requirement to replace the corruption-based regime? Don’t you think that these were the only reasons behind the situation?
Aleksandr Lukashenko. If as a result of the fall of that corruption-based regime a new regime came to be in Ukraine, it would give us some reason to further explore the possibilities. But what has changed in Ukraine after that maidan? Nothing. The corruption that led to the demise of the Ukrainian economy was a fertile ground for revolutionary, strongarm tactics during maidan events. The maidan events were coordinated by politically motivated people, who wanted to grab power to pursue their own agenda. Those were the people, who knew what they were doing. They were followed by youngsters and another part of the population.
Let’s be honest: there are about 40 million residents in Ukraine. Do you want to say that most of them took part in the maidan? Did they speak for the majority? They didn’t. They represented a pitiable minority, who brought down the cowardly government that couldn’t protect either the state or the nation. Taking part in the maidan were people trained in certain Ukrainian camps. I know it because similar camps were created in southern parts of Belarus near Ukraine. We evicted them. And we know who sponsored the training of fighters in such camps. And it was those fighters that participated in the maidan events. I think the West knows it very well.
It doesn’t take a lot to arrange some allegedly peaceful action, including during maidan, with fair-faced goals and then deploy highly trained people, who are ready to act for certain goals, as part of that action. They were prepared in Ukraine.
You may have heard certain USA representatives stating they have spent about $5 billion on democracy in Ukraine. What do we make of it?
Mr Cantone, let’s stop talking about the reasons. Perhaps, we have different views about the situation and different answers for these questions. It is not the main thing now.
Preventing the conflict from spreading is the key thing now. To stop the war and prevent people from getting killed is the key thing now. It is the key thing for us, Europeans.
Sergio Cantone. Mr President, don’t you think that this conflict will never end because the main requirements of the participants of the maidan events were not fulfilled? Don’t you think that it will be impossible to reconcile the conflict without the fulfillment of the requirements which initiated the conflict?
Aleksandr Lukashenko. What you have said proves that more maidans are possible in Ukraine because demands of the people, who once participated in the maidan, have not been fulfilled among other things. It may lead to more internal political conflicts. But right now we were talking about the military conflict in southeast Ukraine. I would separate these processes. A new maidan is possible. But from my point of view the continuation of the war in the southeast is impossible.
Sergio Cantone. Mr President, do you have a resolution which could help to settle a conflict in southeast Ukraine?
Aleksandr Lukashenko. All decisions have been made at this stage. If power was consolidated in Ukraine, then no local clashes in Ukraine’s southeast would happen after the Minsk accord and agreements. But the fierce clashes are happening because the authority is not consolidated over there, since there is no single command over the armed forces because certain political groups and moreover oligarchic groups have their own armed forces and everyone has different interests. We cannot say that the state and the president have absolute control over these armed units, which are often better armed and better equipped than the Ukrainian army, because they are not influenced by the commander in chief, the president of Ukraine.
It is very difficult to overcome the process and to get rid of the armed
units. Coming to terms with them, creating one consolidated armed force in the
country — an army — has to be done first. Nobody but the army can act there.
The army has to report to the commander-in-chief. Once it happens, it will
guarantee that even local clashes in Ukraine’s southeast will not happen.
Sergio Cantone. Are you sure that you are an honest broker in this conflict? Because I have the impression that you are just blaming the Ukrainian side and do not even mention the role of Russia ion the conflict in southeast Ukraine. And you did not mention the project of Novorossiya, which is still an element of instability in Ukraine. What do you think about the idea to set up this alliance, this territorial unit?
Aleksandr Lukashenko. You know, I am absolutely impartial in this situation. The fact that I am more cautious with words now is true. It is because the situation is very serious. By the way, my incisive comments will not do any good. Therefore, I am more careful.
Ukraine has become a theater of military action and a theater of dispute between the big geopolitical forces, as I’ve said it is not only the West; it is also the East, unfortunately.
I think that both the West and Russia have made a great deal of mistakes in the Ukrainian conflict, but the West bears greater responsibility from the start. It was not Russia that escalated the conflict during maidan. It was not Russia that acted there but some officials of Western countries that acted openly there, instigating maidan participants to fight. The entire world knows about it and we know it, too, because we were close. It was not Russia’s doing.
Russia is accused of capturing Crimea, of Russians taking part in the war in Donetsk and Lugansk… It may be possible to accuse Russia of it but the reason to do so did not originate from Russia. Ukrainian authorities at least provided the reason for Russia to become concerned and take preventive measures to protect Russian-speaking people, for instance, in Crimea.
I sometimes think what would happen if, for instance, rights of Americans are infringed in a similar manner in Mexico’s north where there are naturally many Americans or in some other continent. The USA would act immediately, including with weapons! Russia acted the same way in Crimea. Why was it necessary to give a reason for such a powerful country like Russia to interfere in these events and protect the Russian-speaking population in Crimea?! Why was it necessary to give the reason? Ukrainian authorities gave that reason.
The same thing happened in the east. Why did they have to fiddle with such sharp weapons like language? There was nothing wrong with people speaking Russian and Ukrainian in southeast. Was it really necessary to put pressure on Russian speakers, including by infringing on their rights, in this acute phase of confrontation?
That was another reason from that side. Maybe the cause. Why does Russia have to be rebuked for it? And then if America and the European Union say that Ukraine and possibly Ukraine’s southeast are an area of their vital interests, can we reproach Russia for taking care of its interests over there? Interests of the Ukrainian nation should be at the forefront but it is up to the Ukrainian government to take care of that.
I am not rehabilitating Russia or trying to interpret the situation from Russia’s point of view. I said initially that I cannot accept the Novorossiya project, for instance. I am in favor of unity and integrity of the Ukrainian state without any mothballed conflicts, zones like Transnistria, Nagorno-Karabakh that may blow up later on. I personally don’t want that as a man and as the president of Belarus because we are so close to Ukraine.
Sergio Cantone. Yes, I understand that in order to regulate the situation in Ukraine one needs to be very delicate. At the same time, do you think that the demands of maidan participants, first of all, demands concerning the rule of law, were not fulfilled? This problem still exists. Russia and, maybe, Belarus face this problem as well. In your opinion, does the absence of the rule of law lead to such situations?
Aleksandr Lukashenko. In any state if the law fails, if citizens and social groups regardless of their standing fail to comply with the law, a disaster is imminent. Maidan participants demanded compliance with the law but their actions were in violation of the laws of Ukraine.
Sergio Cantone. Mr President, I have one more question. It is a very important question for the today’s interview. Do you have a clear-cut plan of regulating the conflict in Ukraine? How can this conflict be stopped? Can you please share your point of view with us?
Aleksandr Lukashenko. You know, like many others I closely monitor the situation in Ukraine. I want to reiterate that I do it not because I’d love to be a peacemaker or something. No. But because these events are taking place near our borders, they happen to our brothers, our kind of people. It explains my interest as a man and as the president of Belarus. Of course, I make some conclusions and deductions. I am not saying I am drawing some plans, but I have my own point of view on events in Ukraine and I have advice to offer with regard to the issues Ukraine faces.
I won’t go into details, but if I was told: ‘Listen, Lukashenko, there is a disaster in Ukraine, something has to be done, are you ready and can you do it?’, I would do my best. And I think that provided Ukraine, Russia, and the West want it, the situation over there can be stabilized within a year.
But if that happened, then my mission would involve huge difficulties because in the course of implementing these ideas, I’d have to affect interests of both the West and Russia, interests of many politicians, including politicians in Ukraine. But I guarantee that such actions of mine would receive nearly universal acclaim of the people of Ukraine. Univocal. Both in Crimea and in Ukraine’s southeast and the rest of Ukraine. Acclaim by an overwhelming majority of Ukrainians, nearly 100%.
If the West wants peace and stability over there, they should go ahead and say so.
Then together we will do something. But such a plan was once offered to the West. We’ve had this talk in Russia, too. There was no positive response from either.
Sergio Cantone. What plans have you put forward to the European Union and Russia?
Aleksandr Lukashenko. I want to stress once again that I would not like to speak about these plans in public. The plans go beyond the cessation of armed hostilities in Ukraine’s southeast to include the stabilization of the situation in Ukraine as a whole.
Sergio Cantone. Mr President, our audience will be interested in what you have just said. Could you please outline these plans for our audience without giving details?
Aleksandr Lukashenko. No, I can’t. But I can tell you one thing: if it is necessary — and it is a very dangerous and frightful thing for me since Russia distrusts the West, the West distrusts Russia, America distrusts Russia, and Russia distrusts America, and the warring sides distrust each other — I would be ready to use my own armed forces in order to separate the conflicting sides. Provided the arrangements that are specified in advance are observed without failures.