Interview with representatives of foreign and Belarusian media

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Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko met with representatives of foreign and Belarusian media on 16 February.

The event was unscheduled. The President responded to the requests of the foreign guests who arrived in the Belarusian capital.

"I am telling you honestly that the meeting has not been planned. The press secretary told me that we have such a powerful "army", especially foreign journalists (I do not count Russians among as such). I thought that it would probably be inhospitable on behalf of Belarus not to give you some time," Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

The head of state answered questions from journalists of Belarus and also Austria, Azerbaijan, the UK, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, the USA, France, Japan and the interstate television and radio company Mir.

"I see my old acquaintances here [in particular, BBC journalist Stephen Rosenberg who interviewed Alexander Lukashenko in November 2021] who came to see me some time ago and we had a very thorough conversation on various issues, on different topics. I think that it would be interesting to see the dynamics of the problems that they were concerned about and that they were so persistent to blame me for them then and now," the President said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko also noted that today's meeting with journalists does not cancel the Big Conversation with the President announced earlier. "What we have here is the over-scheduling. The President's address to the people and Parliament will take place in just few weeks. Two events, one after the other, there are bound to be some repetitions," he explained.

"The Big Conversation, as we call it, is not removed, just postponed. There is no conspiracy here. It is just an issue of over-scheduling," the President once again noted. According to him, time will be allocated for a meeting with media representatives within the framework of the Big Conversation in the future.

Aleksandr Lukashenko spoke about those who do not want peace in Ukraine and also named the reasons for Belarus to use its army.

“I am ready to fight together with the Russians from the territory of Belarus only in one case: if at least one soldier sets foot in Belarus to kill my people. If they commit aggression against Belarus, the answer will be immediate. The war will acquire a completely different scale then,” the Belarusian leader said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko added that this pertained not only to Ukraine but also to other neighbors of Belarus.

Answering the question from the BBC journalist, he recalled that even before Russia started its special military operation, Ukraine was preparing to use its multiple rocket launchers against Belarus. “Ukraine was doing it deliberately. I do not know why they needed it. They came under fire from the territory of Belarus in the first minutes. It was in the morning, a few minutes before the start of the special military operation,” he said.

The President said that back in 2020, Ukraine was actually the first to impose sanctions against Belarus, even before the Western countries did it. “It was not the United States, not the Anglo-Saxons, not Western Europe. Unfortunately, it was our kin nation of Ukraine. It closed the airspace, launched provocations, trained fighters,” the head of state said.

He also recalled statements by Western politicians that the Minsk agreements were used as an opportunity to prepare the Ukrainian army for war.

"You call it 'an invasion'. I think otherwise. It's not an invasion. The Ukrainian authorities provoked this operation. By actions like that. I just named a few of them. Had they reached an agreement with Russia there would have been no war. But everything was tailored, starting with the Minsk agreements, to unleash a war,” the Belarusian leader stated. “There was no invasion. I believe this is the protection of the interests of Russia and those people, Russian people, who live there."

Aleksandr Lukashenko also recalled the actions of the Ukrainian authorities in Donbass and the country as a whole, including the oppression of Russians and Russian speakers, the Odessa tragedy. These events in Donbass did not begin with Putin or Russia. They began as an internal turmoil in Ukraine itself. The trigger was the Maidan and the flight/departure of Yanukovych to Donbass at that time. He wanted to restore order in Ukraine from Donbass. That's where it all started. What does Putin have to do with it, what does Russia have to do with it?”

When asked whether the special military operation was worth it, Aleksandr Lukashenko said: "It was, as you were stepping up hostilities in Ukraine and were preparing for war. I have the same question for you: was the war worth it or would it be better to give Russia security guarantees which it requested from you on paper? What did this document cost you?... Nothing. For you, the West, the United States, it was nothing. Back then Russia and Putin demanded that you give them a written document of security guarantees that no aggression against Russia would be committed from Ukraine or Europe, which is nearby. For Russia to be convinced of this, you had to pledge that you would never bring nuclear weapons or long-range missiles into Ukraine. Hence my question: why didn't you give Russia a piece of paper? You didn't because you needed a war."

The President is sure that Ukraine was only a pretext for the war that the West was pushing. Moreover, there is interest in the dismemberment of Ukraine. "I am referring to your attempts to wrest the western parts out of Ukraine by the hands of Poland. Well, the fight is going to be epic. And then you will not be asking me whether we will attack it from the territory of Belarus or not. You accuse Russia of wanting to tear off a piece of Ukraine. But it is you who want to dismember Ukraine by the hands of Poland. Those will be monumental events. Masks will be flying off," he said.

The head of state called for peace talks: "If you want peace in Ukraine, let's start talking about peace as early as tomorrow. And the guns will go silent. But you [the West] don't want that. But things may come to the point when the military will come to Kiev and twist the politicians' necks, Zelensky's too. The Ukrainian military will come to Kiev and put everyone into their places. Because they are in the meat grinder, while the Ukrainian authorities are touring around Europe asking for weapons, fighter jets and so on to standing ovations. You are escalating this conflict today. People are dying. Let's stop that. Everything is in place for this. No. You don't want that. Europe is ready for this because it knows what it can lead to. The United States does not want that. They've bent Europe over and are making it do it whatever they want."

Returning to the question of whether "aggression" on the part of Belarus is possible, Aleksandr Lukashenko once again repeated: "We are a peaceful nation. We know what war is. We don't want war. We are in no way going to send our troops to Ukraine. Unless you commit aggression on Belarus from there. Here's my answer. It was given a long time ago."

The President also recalled that Russia is an ally of Belarus. The countries have a joint group of forces. Even so, Russia has never asked Belarus to start a war against Ukraine. "Russia has never asked me to start the operation against Ukraine together. Russia understands perfectly well that I have problems near Brest, Grodno and to the north with Lithuania.”

The job of Belarus is to provide security in the western direction. "The West wants us to go in there. Not just there. Preferably also to Poland, Lithuania and Latvia. But we're only going to do that in one case. So far, I don't see any other reason. I have the most important task: I must ensure the security of the country, primarily in the western direction," the President said. He recalled that he made relevant statements in the first days of Russia's special military operation.

Aleksandr Lukashenko voiced intelligence data that the West wants to draw Belarus into the war and is literally dreaming of it. Given the length of the borders of Belarus, this would further stretch the front by 2,500 kilometers, which would complicate the situation for the troops of Belarus and Russia.

"This is a good scenario. But empty, clueless. We won't give you that chance. But if you dare to set foot on our land, the answer will be the toughest. The West knows how we will respond and what weapons we will use," Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

He noted that in peacetime the Belarusian army is 75,000-strong. But if necessary, if there is war, it can be increased to half a million.

"Nobody needs war. While there is no expansion of the hostilities today, let's negotiate peace," the head of state urged.

At the same time, he believes that the West and Ukraine are not yet ready for this. "Not only are you not ready, it would be a terrible tragedy and a disaster for you if peace talks began now. You need war," Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

In this regard, he drew attention to another point - it is the West that sends mercenaries to Ukraine to fight. There are already more than 20,000 of them. "How many people did Lukashenko send there? How many? Zero! And you are throwing blame at me. I do not send people there and I am not going to do it," the President said.

One of the questions was about the possible fears of citizens of Belarus that their sons could be sent to fight in Ukraine. The head of state noted that people, in particular in the frontier areas, are concerned, for example, about a Ukrainian missile landing there. "Their anxiety has increased. Once their missile could land in our territory, it means that tomorrow it will be soldiers. This is the basic fear. And not that I will gather their children and send them to Ukraine. Any sensible Belarusian understands that I will not do this," Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

The President noted that he is a military man himself, and he has three sons. "I understand them [citizens of Belarus] and therefore I am not going to send people there," he added.

The head of state recalled how negotiations between Ukraine and Russia were organized last year. The President managed to persuade the Ukrainian authorities to engage in a dialogue with Russia. A few rounds of negotiations were organized in Belarus. One more meeting was held in Istanbul; then the parties were preparing to conclude a peace treaty. However, the Ukrainian delegation thwarted the arrangements.

“So, who wants peace and who doesn't?” the Belarusian leader asked a rhetorical question. “If they had achieved peace, this [rejection of agreements] would not have happened in 5-7 years. It would be a lesson for both sides. The war has showed a lot,” he said.

Some people think that Russia cannot win this war, the head of state noted. But he said he has a different point of view. “It will be sensational if Russia does not win. But Russia will never lose a war. Never. The Americans were the first to say: that a nuclear power, in case with Russia the strongest nuclear power, will not lose a war,” the President said.

“To be absolutely frank, my point is that there is always someone to talk to about peace. It may seem strange but I think this dialogue should be conducted with the Ukrainian military. I am convinced of this. Ukraine's military have a somewhat, to put it mildly, different point of view than Ukrainian politicians and President Zelensky. Vladimir Zelensky is well aware of it. The upcoming, as many are already predicting, reshuffles in the military prove this point. The most professional military are most convinced that the war must be stopped. You will see that we - and the Russians in the first place - will have to negotiate with the Ukrainian military. You see what Ukrainian politicians are like. Talking heads from all over the world. You know that actions speak louder than words. Everybody knows how to talk, but not everyone can go to fight at the front or at least visit the front – none of them have been there. Arestovich, the poor guy, has been thrown out. All of them talk a lot. The military understand that,” Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed. “(People are used as cannon fodder there, they are ready to sacrifice millions of Ukrainians. The military understand that. The military will be able to negotiate peace agreements.”

"With Russia, you can agree on unbelievable things. Full stop. Unbelievable things indeed. But you need to take steps in this direction and not set preconditions before sitting down at the negotiating table. Setting preconditions like ‘leave the territory you have seized' seems fair, but in this case it suggests that they do not want to sit down at the negotiating table. Therefore, the focus should be on the military, since politicians do not understand this,” the head of state is convinced. "But as soon as some (I believe it is the military) sit down at the negotiating table, politicians and leadership of Ukraine will start singing a different tune."

"Now emotions are running high. It is 'an aggression' and so on. Seems fair. And so on and so forth. That's the case now. But time will pass and people (you see what they have to deal with not only in Donbass but also in Lvov) will start asking him [Vladimir Zelensky]: ‘Do we have to suffer all our lives? For what? What's next?' Meanwhile Zelensky is going to fight to the last Ukrainian and so on. What person would like that? If he is a far-sighted politician, he should look a little ahead. He should not run around Western Europe asking for F-16s or some other fighter jets, long-range MLRS. He should think about how to stop the war, so that 100,000 to 300,000 Ukrainians do not die in it. That's what we are talking about today," the Belarusian leader said. “Zelensky should simply understand: he is the President, this is his country, his state and he needs to pursue an independent policy. If he is unable (and we see that he is), then others will do it. Who - I have already talked about that. In this situation. Perhaps it will change and other people will come to negotiate. Any war ends in peace, so let's end it now. Now the conditions are more favorable for Ukraine. End this war and keep moving. In this case Ukraine will be supported by everyone. I'll be the first one. When we sit at the negotiating table. Wherever they want."

The President stressed that peace is inevitable in any case and urged to start negotiations as soon as possible rather than continue the war.

“It is time to wake up. Who needs such freedom when you go to sleep and do not know whether you wake up tomorrow morning or not? Who needs such freedom?” Aleksandr Lukashenko addressed representatives of the Western media.

“Let us engage in talks. We need only peace. All this is going to end up in peace anyway. The world is growing interconnected. It may not matter if you live in Belarus, Russia, Ukraine or the United States. The world was moving in that direction, people were free to move around the world, to choose their place of residence. It does not matter whether there is a border here or there. This is the way things were going. Why are we killing each other?” the Belarusian leader said.

He pointed to the involvement of European countries in the escalation of the conflict in Ukraine by increasing the supply of weapons. “Why do you support Ukraine by stuffing them with weapons? Why do not you want to sit down at the negotiating table, as I suggest? You are already discussing supplying long-range weapons (up to 300km) and F-16 fighter jets, the most advanced ones. You are sending hundreds of Leopard tanks there. Why are you doing this? You understand that this is an escalation,” Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed.

“I hate wars. Belarusians hate wars. We don't want war. We want peace negotiations. But you have Zelensky bound hand and foot and do not let him to the negotiating table. This is my conviction, and many facts prove it. This means you want war,” the head of state said addressing the Western mass media. “We want peace! Do you, the United States, hear me? We want peace. Give the corresponding command to Zelensky and sit down at the negotiating table yourselves together with Putin, and I will sit next to you.”

“Wake up! Only the United States needs this massacre. Europe does not need it. If there is an escalation, it will be hot in Europe. The Europeans understand that, even the British understand that, never mind the Ukrainians,” the President said.

When asked what role he could play to end the war in Ukraine, Aleksandr Lukashenko noted that everything depends on the joint decisions of the Presidents of Russia, Ukraine, and the United States. “I can do only what Putin and Zelensky ask me to (I have told Putin about it). In this case, nothing can be done without the United States. If the three Presidents see me at least partially capable of helping to solve the issue, I am ready to do anything.”

At the same time, the President pointed out that no one can influence the Russian President: “He is a wise and strong person. Everyone understands justice their own way. Putin also has his concept of justice. If he is convinced that he is right and just about something, you will not be able to make him change his mind about it.”

When asked how the war in Ukraine could end, the Belarusian leader said: “In peace. All wars have ended in peace. The only question is when and how many people will die as a result.” The President emphasized that it was important to analyze the events and to get to the root causes of the conflict in order to understand how it started. The oppression of the Russian-speaking population and the fight against the Russian language in Ukraine played an important role in the conflict, the Belarusian leader is convinced. He recalled that there had been an attempt to split the society along the language principle in Belarus in the 1990s. But the issue was solved thanks to a wise policy of the then government, and now there is no such an issue on the agenda.

“If Putin is friends with someone, he will defend this person to the last drop of blood. I saw how he was disappointed (not only him, the entire Russian society) that Russians were being offended. It is the mind of every Russian person: Russians should not be offended. Americans are the same: if one person is offended somewhere, they are ready to fight (you went even further). What are you reproaching him for? He defended Russian people. If you, Americans, had agreed to start a dialogue on peace, believe me, the war would have been stopped, peace talks would have been started, and agreements would have been made not even to the detriment of the position the Ukrainian authorities hold today,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

The President said that the closure of border crossings in the western part of the country is an economic provocation and Belarus is prepared to respond to this.

“You see what Poland and Lithuania are doing. There is a flurry of economic provocations on their part. They are putting the blame on me. So they closed the checkpoints. What does it mean? It means no trade, no economy. They are gradually conducting these provocations. They are simply provoking us. Well, it is not going to last. Now we are preparing a response. Decisions have been made. At first our response will be mild. If they don’t understand, we will take tougher action. We have enough leverage for this,” the Belarusian leader said.

“But this all amounts to an escalation. We are forced to respond. The response will be symmetric, adequate. If it comes to taking asymmetric measures, we will go for it. This option is on the table. But we do not want this. We want to be friends with Poles, Lithuanians, like it has always been,” Aleksandr Lukashenko emphasized.

“We even turned a blind eye to the fact that they draw maps at school with the border near Minsk. They dream of their dominance “from sea to sea” - from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea,” the President added. However, in his view, neither Belarus, nor other states would agree to this.

The head of state noted that literally this morning he approved the proposals on response measures that had been submitted to him by the government and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“They closed the border crossings – it does not affect us in any way. They have once again shot themselves in the foot. We are under sanctions, we don’t go to Europe anyway. Few of our people go there. For example, what if we ban Polish drivers from crossing our border? Thousands of cars, trucks enter our territory. What will happen if we close them?” the President asked.

Aleksandr Lukashenko believes that one of the reasons for such a move on the part of Poland and Lithuania was the introduction of the visa waiver by Belarus. “It has hit them very hard. The Lithuanians who return home from Belarus say: Is this really a dictatorship there? Products and fuel are cheaper there. It had a negative impact on the situation inside,” the head of state noted.

“It did not go down well with nationalists in Poland and Lithuania. So they began to shut down border crossings in order to create problems. For whom, for the Belarusians? No, for their own people. As they are doing this publicly, we have to respond publicly,” the President added.

The head of state emphasized that if the measures taken crippled Belarus’ economy, the response would be tougher. “If the escalation continues, we will respond in a tougher way,” the Belarusian leader warned.

Aleksandr Lukashenko reporters why the state made a conciliatory gesture towards those who fled Belarus after committing offenses.

The question was about the so-called political prisoners. “Name any ‘political prisoner’. We will explain what he or she has done, why he or she is there. We have taken a step towards not only those who are in Belarus, but also those who fled after having committed offenses here. Let’s turn the page. Come here and we will discuss things!” the President said.

“Like many here, including Belarusian journalists, I personally don’t want our compatriots to roam abroad, be it in England, or in France and even in Poland that has no one to work in hospitals. But our doctors from ‘bad Belarus’ are in great demand there. I want them to live and work here. And we are ready to forgive what can be forgiven. This is our democratic dictatorship,” the President said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko told reporters that Belarus is not going to announce mobilization, Belarusians should not worry about this.

“We keep working in the same way. Our military keep performing their duties in the same way. We have not announced any mobilization and are not going to do it. But we are preparing for war in order to be able to prevent aggression against us. That’s it. Belarusians do not need to worry about it,” the head of state assured.

“Our people should keep doing their own thing and stay calm,” the Belarusian leader stressed.

Aleksandr Lukashenko explained when a mobilization drive can be announced: “It is laid out in the documents, they are not classified. If we get a feeling that a war is about to begin, we will carry out mobilization. So far there is no such threat.”

The head of state went on saying: “If you want peace, prepare for war. It was not me who invented this idea. Therefore, if you want peace, you must be prepared for war. And your enemy must understand that you are ready.”

As for some reports that nearly call to flee from Belarus, Aleksandr Lukashenko is sure that this ‘panic’ will subside soon and this is just an information campaign that pursues certain goals. “It means that they are contemplating something in Belarus. Or they simply want to fan the flames here,” the President said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko said at the meeting that he was planning to meet with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on 17 February.

“We will discuss security and defense issues. Most importantly, (I have already said that we are getting ready for a session of the Supreme State Council in April-May) we are set to discuss economic, military and political issues which are to be considered at the Supreme State Council. We want to see how the governments of Belarus and Russia are performing the tasks we have set. First of all, these are economic matters: energy resources, single market, import substitution, how they are financed and how they are implemented. It is a whole range of issues. Therefore, we are going to discuss all these issues. If we mention the issue of our joint group of forces in Belarus, of course, we will discuss it, too,” said Aleksandr Lukashenko.

Speaking about the regional group of forces, the President stressed that the Russian military stationed in Belarus have no plans of attacking Ukraine. They are undergoing combat training with Belarusian servicemen in order to be ready, if necessary, to repel aggression against Belarus together. “If there is aggression against Belarus, President Putin and I have agreed that this division will go under my command and will fight in a joint group of forces of Belarus and Russia,” the head of state said.

“We have written everything down, so that the United States will not be able to reproach us for hiding anything. We have a clear understanding of how many tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, soldiers we have,” the President said. “We do not hide the fact that a large group of air force and air defense troops has been redeployed to Belarus. I have them at my airfields. It was my strictest demand: no matter how difficult it is in Ukraine, the joint group of forces must be in Belarus. At least temporarily. Military pilots, if they are deployed here, must train. Just as the Americans fly along our border in Poland, we fly along and across our country today with the Russians. We rely on Russian aerial reconnaissance, and this A-50 reconnaissance aircraft has been redeployed here as well. You have seen the United States flying along our border. They do not come close, they spy. Our group is flying, training, too. It would stay so in the future,” he said.

“That is why we are going to touch on this topic, too, of course. There are no closed topics. We must now respond to any move and word,” Aleksandr Lukashenko added.

"Why is Biden going to Poland?” the head of state asked a question. “Why Poland? We're cool with that. But if he is willing we are ready to host him in Minsk and to have a serious conversation (please convey this to him through your channels). If he wants peace in Ukraine.

The head of state also said that he was ready to hold a joint meeting with Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden: "Even Putin will fly over to Minsk for the trilateral meeting: two ‘aggressors’ and the ‘peace loving’ President. Why not? For the sake of ending the war. If he wants to stop the war (Poland is nearby, I will send a plane, if anything, a Boeing for him), and we will host him. We have international airports. His air force one can land here. Clinton visited us once. Here, in your presence, the three of us (I guarantee you that Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin will come) will sit down and solve the problem. We will be able to solve all the issues here."

"But, alas, he won't come. Though he should for the sake of ending the war, for preventing further loss of life. He will stay in Poland, because Poland is the hyena of Europe and plays the most active role in escalating the war in Ukraine today. Poland is the loudest today, even louder than the United States. So I invite you and your President over to Minsk. We will ensure complete security, safety and comfort. And, most importantly, he will not regret this visit. Let's see how things may turn out," the President added.

"I can convince Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin of something, but not your Biden ... We'll see. We are announcing all over the world that the Belarusian President has invited him to Belarus. It is next to Warsaw, 30 minutes away by air. I invite the Russian President and Biden over to Minsk to sit down and talk. If he [the President of the United States] does not come to Minsk (I am dead serious about it), then it will mean that you want war. I guarantee you that I will persuade President Putin to fly over to Minsk so that the three of us sit down and think about what can be done. Or maybe, if Biden is willing, we will invite Zelensky too. He can fly right over the border, not through Warsaw. The Russians and I will guarantee his safe trip to Belarus. 40 minutes and he's here. From Kiev to Minsk," Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

In an interview with foreign and Belarusian journalists Aleksandr Lukashenko said that by his actions to escalate and continue the conflict, Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky is destroying the country.

"Volodya Zelensky is destroying Ukraine," the head of state said.

No one will be restoring Ukraine after the conflict is over, Aleksandr Lukashenko said. "You see, a new pressing problem will emerge tomorrow and the world will turn its attention to it. They will forget about Ukraine. It will take a hundred years [to restore the country]. No one will help," the Belarusian leader is sure.

If someone still does, whether it is the United States or the European Union, then others will govern the country, by economic methods. "If Ukraine needs it, if Zelensky needs it, then let them continue the war. But this is not something that ordinary people need," the head of state emphasized.

The military in Ukraine do not need it either. "That's why I say that we need to talk to the military there. Slowly, step by step, we will come to an agreement somehow," the president said.

He drew an analogy with the Second World War and the Great Patriotic War, which lasted several years: "We thought that we would never shake hands with the Germans again. Yet we became friends. There are many such facts in history. It's just a pity that a lot of people don't understand that."

Aleksandr Lukashenko believes that the escalation of the conflict, that is still using conventional weapons, is dangerous. But it could potentially turn hypersonic, God forbid, nuclear. "That's the danger. Therefore, it is important to stop the war, to stop fooling around and lay down arms," the head of state said.

Addressing the representatives of the Western media the head of state asked them to pass a piece of good advice to Zelensky: “No need to push Europe, the United States away. After all, they supported him and he owes it to them. But he still needs to take a little turn eastwards and take a more independent, pragmatic stance in the interests of the Ukrainian people and the future of Ukraine.”

“I will not go into details, because it would be a long conversation. A lot depends on Ukraine today. I will not say that everything depends on Vladimir Zelensky (he has already lost a lot, but not everything yet),” the Belarusian leader said.

The president recalled Vladimir  Zelensky's recent trips to Western European countries. “Do you remember the cheers ‘Gorby! Gorby!’ to Mikhail Gorbachev, the cheers to Yeltsin in the United States. Those leaders who were applauded and cheered in the West did not end well. Have you ever thought, Steve, that the same can happen to the president of Ukraine? Think about it,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said addressing the BBC journalist.

The president is convinced that all problems must be resolved peacefully at the negotiating table. Belarus, and personally the head of state, were involved in this process during the work on the well-known Minsk agreements.

“Well, come to an agreement, sit down at the negotiating table, you see that it is possible. And there were a lot of proposals. Yet you, together with the West, chose to deceive Russia having gathered in Minsk,” the head of state said.

He continued: “Although it was not deception. It’s just a trend. Now Hollande and Merkel want to show that they played an important role in keeping Ukraine going, that they gave Ukraine the opportunity to prepare for war. Back in those days everyone believed that we needed to follow the path of the Minsk agreements.”

“Today both Hollande and Merkel are lying. And Poroshenko is also lying. Because today it is not de rigueur to talk about what happened in Minsk. It is not de rigueur. That’s the problem,” Aleksandr Lukashenko added.

Answering one of the questions, the head of state noted that nuclear weapons are divided into tactical and strategic. “We absolutely do not need strategic weapons. We are not going to kill the Americans and launch nuclear strategic missiles from the territory of Belarus,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

He recalled that when he became president, nuclear weapons were withdrawn from Belarus as the Americans insisted. “We had the most modern Topol-M. We had the most modern weapons here. We agreed to abandon them against the guarantees of the Americans, Europeans and Russians that they would never encroach on our sovereignty and independence, would never impose economic sanctions on us. This arrangement was formalized. They [the West] disregarded it, trampled on it, they are using sanctions against us. They strangle us wherever possible, in violation of that treaty. Had we had these nuclear weapons, they would not have talked to us like that. So, everyone understands only force,” the head of state said.

“Therefore, we do not need strategic nuclear weapons. We are not going to strike at America and even at European countries. But what we are talking about now are tactical nuclear weapons. The aircraft that can carry tactical nuclear weapons should be prepared,” the president explained.

He said that the aircraft are ready to move special weapons; the pilot unit is also prepared. “We have had these aircraft ready to transport these weapons since Soviet times. And we quickly trained people,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

In the conversation with the journalists Aleksandr Lukashenko said that the best option for the European Union would be an alliance with Russia. The United States and China would envy such an alliance.

“The best option for the Europeans is to ally with Russia. The one has resources, the other - high technology. It would be the main center of power on the planet. The United States and China (with all my due respect and friendly attitude towards China) would be jealous of such an alliance. There would be three powerful centers - the United States, China and the European continent together with Russia, think Eurasia. Perhaps a fourth center can be formed around India or India and others can join these centers. It would be great for the planet,” the Belarusian leader said.

The president believes that this is the direction in which the situation will be developing. Although the United States does not want this and is torpedoing any normal processes, including attempts to establish peace in Ukraine, which the Europeans want. The countries of the European Union “are still running behind the United States” in decision making.

However, the head of state does not agree that the conflict in Ukraine can be just considered as a conflict between Moscow and the West. The Belarusian leader is convinced that this process should be viewed from a broader perspective. “This is a global conflict between the United States and the West on one side, and China on the other (China, not Russia, is the main opponent for them). We can see it as a conflict between West and East (China and Russia, you can also add Iran and others),” the president said. “The most acute phase of this conflict is the conflict between Moscow and the West,” he added.

“I tried to get through to the United States and tell them that they are now at war with the whole world, not only with China, Russia, but also with Europe, their allies. They have put Europe in a very uncomfortable position. Europe is not happy with this situation,” the president of Belarus said.

He mentioned the actions of the United States aimed at breaking ties between the European Union and Russia. He cited the blowing up of the Nord Stream, which supplied natural gas from Russia to Europe and which was destroyed so that no economic threads were left to connect Russia with Europe. The transoceanic opponents of such close cooperation are well aware that strong economic foundations between Europe and Russia can contribute to the development of political, diplomatic and ethical ties.

The United States, in an attempt to protect its market, made the most attractive conditions for European companies and they rushed there. “Are these friendly steps?” the Belarusian leader asked.

The president named Brexit another compelling example. "Why have they torn it away from Europe? Do you think it was the UK’s decision? This is a step towards the destruction of the European Union,” the head of state said.

The U.S. interference in a billions of U.S. dollars deal between France and Australia to build submarines was completely humiliating for Europe. “Who is making this product for Australia now? The United States. They just called the Australians and the French and said that this contract is not going to happen, and there will be a contract between the United States and Australia. What is this? This is the humiliation of a nuclear power. France is a nuclear power. This is the U.S. policy towards Europe,” the president explained.

The situation with supplies of heavy weapons to Ukraine from the EU countries is also a vivid example, Aleksandr Lukashenko said. He recalled that at first the EU countries were not going to send tanks and other equipment, but under pressure from the United States, they agreed to do it.

The President was asked about the details of his talks with the leadership of the United Arab Emirates.

Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed that he and UAE President, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan have been friends for many years. “We discussed various issues. The talks lasted for four hours,” the head of state said. “We discussed many issues. From security and production of equipment to counter modern weapons to trade matters.”

The head of state pointed out that Belarus produces advanced means of radioelectronic warfare and has competencies in microelectronics.

The parties also discussed beef supplies to the UAE and the opening of an additional flight.

“The influence of the Middle East has been growing in the world politics today. Money decides everything in the United States. If not everything, but a lot for sure,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said. “The Middle East is very influential. Their role is great today. We discussed one of such issues with the President of the UAE. Time is ripe for a new reserve currency or maybe several of them.”

Negotiations and meetings in Russia are scheduled for 17 February, the head of state informed. "Then it is China. President Xi Jinping invited me in early March. Then we are negotiating with Iran. Things are set to go ahead with India," Aleksandr Lukashenko said. He stressed that diversification is extremely important for Belarus to maintain its independence.

Belarus has to export half of what it produces and thus the country earns foreign currency. Visits at the highest level make it possible to open new markets for Belarusian exports, to intensify work on this front. For example, the President's recent visit to Zimbabwe resulted in $200 million worth of contracts.

Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed that Belarus has long been working on diversification and consistently pursues this policy. At the same time, the Russian market remains the main one for Belarus.

Now the whole world is going through a difficult process of transformation, and it is important that Belarus maintains its positions and strengthens them. "Belarus, just like Austria and other countries, needs to carefully pass this way. The world will be different. It will be redrawn, reformatted. I don't even know what will be of the EU. I think that Europe will regain its senses and come to an agreement with Russia. This will be a solution for both the giant Germany, and also for Austria, a relatively small country like us, but a very important, high-tech country. We will be able to reach an agreement," the Belarusian leader said.

"But what the balance will be like in the future is still unclear (or It is still unclear where we will end up/where the current developments will take us/what the future holds for us?). There are a lot of underwater currents," he continued. “We don't yet know where the next conflict might break out. Who guarantees today that the policy the United States is pursuing now will not pit it against China? This will be a disaster. China is not Russia, or the United States or Ukraine combined. No country was able to rein in China. Neither will be the USA.”

Aleksandr Lukashenko noted that the development of cooperation between Belarus and China caused discontent in the United States, and at one time this topic, among others, was raised during the visits of John Bolton and Michael Pompeo to Minsk. "They were very unhappy with us maintaining relations with China. I told them openly: ‘You do not set me against China. Because when you started sanctioning us, China opened its doors to us.’ I have to say that Michael Pompeo is a decent man. So is Bolton. They said, ‘Ok, we get it’. The matter was closed."

"Very decent people, both of them," Aleksandr Lukashenko said. “Absolutely pro-American, protecting their own interests."

The head of state stressed that Belarus aims to develop economic cooperation with the Far East. "We will process fish in Belarus, as well as all the other riches that are there," he said.

The parties are also working on the launch of joint ventures. "Primorye Territory is very interested in our technologies," the President said.

"The most important thing for us is that we began using Russian ports. Lithuania and Latvia have closed their ports for us to their own detriment. Odessa is not available (the war is going on), although we could use it to transport grain. We are starting to work from the eastern ports. We want to build a port in Murmansk and along the Northern Sea Route deliver our goods. Such are our plans, and we began to realize them. But this is only the beginning," the Belarusian leader added.

Journalists from the Far East asked the head of state whether Belarus plans to launch tourist routes to Russia’s Primorye Territory and, in particular, its administrative center Vladivostok. The President replied that he had discussed this topic with Governor of Primorye Territory Oleg Kozhemyako. Corresponding instructions to work out the issue were given to both governments. Cooperation with the Far East in tourism was also touched upon during the negotiations with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

"For Belarusians, it would be of great interest, despite the distance. A very interesting land. We're ready. I think governments will make specific decisions to make it easier for us to fly to you and for you to fly more to us. I absolutely support that. The Russian President supported it too. Everything will depend on how quickly the Russian government makes the appropriate decision. We are instantly ready for this," the Belarusian leader stressed.

American journalists asked the President how he feels about the fact that the Belarusian government system is called a dictatorship, and he himself is called a dictator. “The fact that you in the West think that there is a dictatorship here is an advantage for me. Soon you will also want a dictatorship. You have it in fact, but in an unfair, twisted, stupid form. It has always been there ... There is complete laxity in the West: there is neither dictatorship, nor democracy there. We in Belarus make decisions and address tasks. Indeed, I have to intervene or take most of the decisions. If you think it’s a dictatorship, it is fine with me. I don’t think it’s a dictatorship. There’s no dictatorship here,” the Belarusian President said.

“We didn’t plunder the country. I don’t have billions in your bank accounts (though you say I do; if so, you can take it). There are probably many shortcomings. This is our country, we live here, we don’t create problems for anyone. We are not at war and we are not going to fight. Therefore, I don’t care about what you say about me as a person and that you call me a ‘dictator’. But I do care about what you say about my country. And I want us to have normal relations. There is only one condition on my part: no meddling. We will somehow figure things out on our own. You can help us. Then there will be no ‘political prisoners’ and other problems. You are creating them. You wanted to turn the country upside down in 2020. I was among those who didn’t let you do it. Therefore, don’t interfere in our lives, and we will be good partners for you. We are ready to do everything that does not run afoul of our interests and the interests of our allies. If you do not coerce us, we will quickly come to an agreement,” the President emphasized.

Speaking about migration, Aleksandr Lukashenko emphasized that he was concerned about migration trends. However, he noted that migration was common for all countries. “We have a saying: every person is looking for where it is better, and the fish for where it is deeper. It is up to everyone to choose where to live. We will do everything to encourage our people to stay here,” the President said.

The head of state noted that Belarus is a country of smart and talented people who have an opportunity to get a good education in the country. “Those who leave or want to leave are talented and educated. Our system works. I am glad about this. But, of course, I want them to live and work here. If someone wants to go to America for work, I have only one requirement as a President and a person: before you go, you need to pay for the education that you received here for free and as much as it would cost in America. But people leave without paying. We have not legislated against it yet. Therefore, if someone wants to leave, they can do it,” the President said.

On the other hand, many of those who once left Belarus are returning home, Aleksandr Lukashenko noted. They have learned new skills, studied new technologies abroad and are ready to implement them in their home country. “What’s wrong with that? I understand that. This is good. If you think that everyone left Belarus and we have a huge outflow of specialists, you are wrong. By the way, today our people are no longer that much willing to go to the West,” the President said.

“It is true, you are richer. It is true, you can lure talented people with your green dollar and probably offer them more than I can. Some people are attracted by this and chose to go, but the number of such people is getting fewer, because they begin to value their own land. And they understand that they can be useful to their home country. Therefore, indeed, there is such a problem, I would like fewer people to leave. But I am not that much concerned about it, because they have a way back. They can come back and work here, having learned additional skills there,” the President noted.

The head of state was asked whether Belarus was going to oppose the construction of a nuclear power plant in Poland by the United States, as the neighboring countries used to do in relation to the NPP construction in Belarus.

“We have no Duda, or Morawiecki,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said ironically. “We are not crazy. They want to build a nuclear power plant and, no matter how others react, they will do it.”

“We are cool about that. If they want to build, let them build. They have already shown their true face. They used to criticize Belarus for the NPP project, slamming it as harmful and bad. Why are they going to build it themselves then?” Aleksandr Lukashenko remarked. “Lithuania is also planning to build a nuclear power plant. I do not know why they, being energy deficient, have closed that one in Ignalina.”

The President is convinced that Polish and Lithuanian politicians are not guided by national interests when making decisions: “They are time servers. They are neither democrats, nor dictators. They know that they will be kicked out of power tomorrow.”