Interview with host of Ekho Moskvy radio station Aleksei Venediktov

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Developing allied relations does not imply the loss of sovereignty, Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko said in an interview with Russian journalist, editor-in-chief, host of the Ekho Moskvy radio station Aleksei Venediktov on 24 December.

“There is no contradiction here. Belarus and Russia are two sovereign states. Now we are promoting a kind of integration which does not devalue the sovereignty of Belarus and Russia in any way. What is sovereignty? It is the rule of government within a certain territory. Belarus has borders, Russia has borders, and power is exercised within these borders. Neither Belarus nor Russia divvies up any sovereignty,” the Belarusian leader said.

“As for the current integration agenda, we have the so-called 31st road map. You have already mentioned it, too. This is a plan of building supranational bodies, such as the parliament, the president, probably, and so on. By the way, Mr. Putin and I agreed not to discuss this topic. Yet the government tried to raise it again. However, I don’t know why,” the president said. “Those 30 road maps are mostly focused on economic issues, such as customs affairs, business, territorial defense, etc. And we are currently using these plans of action. The economy is the cornerstone. Defense and diplomacy are also important, and that is what makes us different from the EAEU. The 31st road map is a plan of building or completing the formation of a union with supranational bodies.”

“We ruled out this topic back in Sochi. But some want to push it, especially through the government (I’ve recently read that Dmitry Medvedev mentioned this topic again). He was not present at the talks in St. Petersburg. So he does not even know what your president said. Literally when we were in St. Petersburg he said why we raise the topic of this 31st road map as we agreed with the Belarusian president not to touch these issues at all. Why do you again tie these issues with the issues of the tax system, the economy and so on?” the Belarusian head of state noted.

Aleksandr Lukashenko emphasized that the appropriate agreement had been reached with [Vladimir] Putin. “All conspiracy theories in Russia now rest on the following thing – whether the president will stay after 2024 or not. This is your issue. And it’s our issue to a certain extent because, no matter what we are saying here and there, Belarus and Russia are very close (regardless the integration plans), and we do care about who will rule in Russia. Russia is also concerned about what will happen in Belarus, especially after Lukashenko,” the president said.

He believes that Russia would be unwilling to lose Belarus in any case. “I told Putin in rather crude terms that I understand them, losing Belarus is even worse than losing a piece of land somewhere in Russia.”

At the same time, the head of state believes that it is “absolutely unreal and impossible in current conditions.” “Don’t even make such plans, don’t write about it in the internet, don’t discuss it. Russia will never be at war with Belarus like some people are thinking. I get these warnings from the west: you will be next after Ukraine,” the Belarusian leader said.

He explained this position of his by the fact that there is no “revolutionary” situation in Belarus-Russia relations.

Aleksandr Lukashenko recalled that a web of contradictions involving numerous issues, including language and ethnicity, emerged in Ukraine before the crisis in relations with Russia. “Things like that should not have happened in Ukraine. But this web was getting bigger and bigger. Yanukovich was unseated, and so on. Yanukovich rushed to Donbass. He wanted Donbass to be the stronghold of his offensive campaign. However, Donbass rejected him. But those ideas stayed – an opposition to Kiev and things like that. This turmoil began from that. I was keeping an eye on those things. Therefore, I am in the know,” the president remarked.

“Either way, I’m not making excuses for Russia. And I don’t reproach Ukraine. However, Ukraine did give a reason, albeit a small one, for this clash,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

When asked if there could be any hypothetical reasons for Belarus to turn its back on Russia, the president said: “If you put pressure on us all the time, like in oil and gas matters and so on. And if we still have to spend every New Year’s Eve handling such things. If you continue saying and writing in your online media that we are spongers, a heavy burden for Russia, that you [Russia] give your all, and we are doing nothing in return. Then we will say thank you and good bye.”

Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed that not only Russia supports Belarus in a way. Belarus also provides different services to Russia. The Belarusian head of state also discussed it with [Russian] President Vladimir Putin at the recent talks. “We do not use your wealth for free, we provide a wide range of services, and some of them are of great value. Not all things can be measured by money. This is not accounting,” he said.

The president added that Russian government members and Vladimir Putin are very smart and pragmatic people. In certain aspects they support Belarus for a reason. The head of state described a corresponding scheme of interaction as the one with mutual benefits.