Interview with TBS Television from Japan
Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko gave an interview to TBS Television from Japan on 17 March.
The interviewer is Shigenori Kanehira who has been working for the TV channel since 1977 and who is now the presenter of Hodo Tokushu (Special Report) program.
The interview lasted for about an hour and a half. A considerable part of the interview was dedicated to the situation in the region, in particular, events in Ukraine, security problems, opportunities for a peaceful resolution of the conflict, and Belarus’ role in these processes. The matter of nuclear energy was also raised. Nuclear energy is of special importance for Japan, which has survived an accident at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. The interview also touched upon Belarus-Japan relations. Apart from that, the President was asked about his opinion of the collapse of the Soviet Union, about personal and professional relations between Aleksandr Lukashenko and leaders of Russia and Ukraine.
In an interview Aleksandr Lukashenko spoke about the situation in Ukraine, ways to resolve the conflict and the position of Belarus on this issue.
The head of state was asked whether he supports Russia’s military actions in Ukraine. "I would like to answer your question with a question. You [Japan] are an ally of the United States of America and support the United States on the main problems of the world order. Why?" the President said.
In this regard, he recalled the decision to set up another bloc in the Pacific Ocean - the AUKUS defense alliance.
"So it's easy for me to answer your question in the sense that Russia is not just our ally. Russia and Belarus are kin people growing from the same root. You, as a Japanese, will understand me," Aleksandr Lukashenko said. “First, economically we are almost inseparable systems. We are deeply integrated into the production system of Russia, and Russia - into the Belarusian system. Severance of cooperation ties will create a catastrophe in the economy. Secondly, we have a single market. We supply probably half of our output to Russia. This is our main market. And that says it all."
"Belarus and Russia are practically one whole in terms of manufacturing, economy, sales market. And militarily, we have one grouping of armed forces. We are interconnected. These ties are called the Union State, which we have been building with Russia," the Belarusian President added.
According to Aleksandr Lukashenko, before the start of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, Belarus did everything to prevent armed confrontation. “Ahead of Ukraine's conflict with Russia (you know my stance) I did everything possible to prevent war and ensure peace there. I was even ready to close the border between Donbass and Russia. It is 400 kilometers, and I was ready to send Belarusian border guards and also provide other assistance to Ukraine. Russia agreed to that. Ukraine refused. Why? Because the West was pushing them to this war,” the head of state said.
Moreover, Ukraine had imposed sanctions against Belarus even before the West did. “They closed their airspace for Belarusian aircraft. They limited all kinds of flights. Since the start of their conflict with Russia in 2014 they used Belarus as a layover to fly to Russia and other countries. They trained militants against us. They are training them now. They supplied explosives and weapons for terrorist groups here. We neutralized them all. Everyone knows about it,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.
"Ukraine had taken a hostile position against Belarus. Tell me, what we should have done in that situation?" the Belarusian leader asked rhetorically.
"There is not a single Belarusian soldier in Ukraine. Despite their hostile stance towards Belarus, encouraged by the West (we turned this page), I called Zelensky and offered him to immediately enter into negotiations with Russia. Literally on the third or fourth day of this war," the head of state said. “He accepted the offer. We organized three rounds of talks here in Belarus. Now these negotiations continue in the videoconference mode."
“In other words, we don’t attack Ukraine, we don’t bomb Ukraine. We advocate negotiations. We would like these negotiations to end in this hall [the interview took place in the Green Hall of the Palace of Independence where Normandy Four talks took place in 2015 and where the Minsk agreements on resolving the conflict in Ukraine were worked out]. In this hall would be symbolical. Agreements on Ukraine were signed in Minsk back then,” the Belarusian leader emphasized.
“This is why we advocate negotiations. We would like peace to be over there. If there is no peace over there, there will be no peace in Belarus with the passage of time. It is our position,” Aleksandr Lukashenko added.
“If only Ukraine continues escalation against Belarus, we will respond. What I mean: at the moment of the conflict on 23-24 [February] they intended to deliver a strike against Belarus’ territory. I’ve talked about it. From four positions. We prevented it. They violate our state border with flying vehicles, a helicopter, and so on,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.
The head of state said: “Moreover, they launched two missiles this past week. At least two Tochka-U missiles into Belarus’ territory. Fortunately, we’ve managed to shoot them down. This is why if they provoke us constantly, we will be forced to respond.”
"I am almost convinced that we will not go to war with Ukraine. The West will not be able to drag us into this conflict. We are smart enough not to get involved no matter how hard the USA and its partners are trying to," the President said.
"I am convinced that this conflict, Russia's operation, will end in peace soon," the head of state said.
“First of all I would like to tell you the following: Russia offers Ukraine (Putin to Zelensky) an absolutely acceptable deal. I know it for sure. Today it is still possible for Ukraine and Russia to come to terms and for Zelensky to sign this deal with Putin,” the head of state said. “If Zelensky fails to do it, then, believe me, he will soon have to sign an act of capitulation”.
He is sure that Russia will not lose this war. “You know it, too. Japan knows better than me what it means to lose a war,” the Belarusian leader said.
"Fire will be ceased as soon as the treaty, which is being draw up in the course of negotiations that are underway in Belarus, is initialed. Once the foreign ministers initialise the treaty, a ceasefire will be possible. But I am absolutely convinced that Russia will not stop or suspend the operation until the treaty is initialed," the head of state said.
According to him, Russia has learned its lessons, among other things, from the recent past: "In 2014, the fire was stopped on the basis of the Minsk agreements, the armed forces were separated, and how did it all end ... This ended with the current war. Therefore, Russia has every reason not to trust the current leadership of Ukraine."
"In addition Russia is pursuing its certain goals with this operation. It will definitely achieve them," the Belarusian leader is sure.
Aleksandr Lukashenko believes that the settlement and the agreement that Russia is proposing to Ukraine are absolutely acceptable. "Russia offers Ukraine such things that we have here in Belarus. Ukraine should become a country like Belarus, with certain nuances," he said.
"It should not be a springboard for an attack on Russia in the first place. It should not have nuclear weapons, it should not threaten Russia, it should not prohibit people who live in Ukraine from speaking any language," the head of state continued. “There are a lot of Russian speakers there. If they want to speak the Russian language, they should let them.“You do not forbid your citizens in Japan to speak Russian or English. Ukraine should not either. No one should infringe on the rights of anyone. In no way should Nazism flourish there. Otherwise, it will turn into the fascism which the world went through in the middle of the last century. Is anything wrong here? This is all natural,” the head of state said.
According to the Belarusian President, now is the face-saving moment that Ukraine should seize to end the conflict: “Right now Russia is offering Ukraine to come to an agreement. If Ukraine fails to do so, it will have to sign an act of capitulation.”
“Ukraine should use this face-saving opportunity to get out of the situation. There might be no other chance like that. Therefore, Ukraine should jump at this opportunity. It will benefit Ukraine, and Russia, and Belarus. If a deal is signed now, we will save thousands, thousands of lives,” the Belarusian leader stressed.
A number of forces can stop the war in Ukraine, the President said in an interview. In particular, the interviewer wondered whether the United Nations Organization or mediators, including China, can be such forces. “Everyone you’ve mentioned influence the situation around Ukraine one way or another. Not more than that. No United Nations Organization has stopped a single war. It will not stop this one either. Just like other countries won’t,” Aleksandr Lukashenko noted.
The President mentioned who can drastically influence the situation for the sake of terminating combat operations: “The war can be stopped by Russia and Ukraine if they come to terms and sign the treaty. Or by Americans, who order Ukraine’s leadership to stop the war. If Americans go for it, then the European Union and the rest will promptly align themselves with the USA and will support the USA’s decision. This is why two forces – Russia and Ukraine. Or America.”
The head of state stressed the importance of resolving the situation in Ukraine as soon as possible. “People are dying. It is very bad. People are dying on two sides: Russians and Ukrainians. What makes this war different is that the Russians treat the civilian population extremely carefully and respectfully, sometimes even to the detriment of themselves (I know this)," the president said. According to him, this factor should be taken into account by the United Nations when it publishes data on civilian casualties among the parties to the conflict in Ukraine.
"In order to end the war today, we need one signal from the UN, the United States, the West to the Ukrainian leadership, a strong signal to end this war. When it comes, the war will end overnight,” the Belarusian leader is convinced. "If the Americans give a call to the phone (the one on Zelensky's desk) and say: ‘We need to stop the war and sign a treaty with Russia by the evening,' the war will end by the evening."
To the clarifying question of the journalist, whether he meant a call from the President of the United States, Aleksandr Lukashenko answered affirmatively. "The war could end very quickly if he calls, if America takes a position towards peace on Ukrainian soil.
However, such a signal from the United States is very unlikely, the Belarusian head of state believes. The United States benefits from what is going on in Ukraine and Europe in general: “Such a call is very unlikely. The situation in Ukraine is very beneficial for the United States. This is what the United States needs.”
During the conversation with the head of state, the journalist said that the TV channel's film crew recorded short interviews with passers-by on the streets of Minsk. Most of the respondents spoke in favor of an early cessation of hostilities in Ukraine.
"This is what we're doing," the President said in response. “We advocate the negotiations. We don't want war. Like the Japanese, we know what war is. We suffered a lot in World War II. So we don't want war, and people told you that."
According to him, if there are some supporters of military action among Belarusians, they go to Lithuania and Poland: "They set up battalions there, arm them and collect money from the Belarusian diasporas around the world to finance these death battalions that are fighting in Ukraine."
“We have an absolute consensus in our society: there should be no wars,” the Belarusian leader emphasized. Moreover, Belarus has been hosting refugees throughout the conflict in Ukraine, accommodating them and granting them equal rights.
“A couple thousands of people have recently arrived in Belarus [since 24 February 2022]. Some of them have relatives in Belarus but they all are fleeing the conflict. All in all, about 200,000 people have arrived in Belarus since the conflict started in 2014. Some say 170,000-180,000 refugees, others – 200,000. Very few people have returned to Ukraine. They are now coming back to Belarus,” said the head of state.
“Thousands of people have come to Belarus. They are guaranteed the same rights as Belarusians. The reason for fewer numbers of Ukrainians coming to Belarus now is that because they have to pass through the positions of the Russian troops in order to get to Belarus. This fact restrains people from Kiev, other cities. People from the cities that are in the rear of the Russian troops such as Chernigov, and others, have been actively coming to Belarus,” said Aleksandr Lukashenko.
Aleksandr Lukashenko once again recalled that Belarus and Russia have close relations within the framework of the Union State: "As for our relations and support for Russia in any situation... We are allies. We have concluded appropriate contracts. We have the closest military-political relations. If there is anyone that supports Russia, it is Belarus. Others either take a neutral position or fight on the side of Ukraine."
Developing his thought, the President added that one should not worry about the fact that Belarusians and Russians have found themselves in the same boat, by the will of fate. "We will never betray Russia. Never," he said.
As for the likelihood of Belarus' participation in the Russian operation in Ukraine, the President repeated his thesis: "We are not going to get involved in this war. I have stated this more than once. We will do everything to stop this war."
“No one has asked us to take direct part in the Russian operation. I said that recently. We will not be able to add anything to this operation. They have enough troops, hardware (it is the same as ours, and even more advanced). Russia will deal with it without Belarus, and without Japan, and without other countries. Russia will solve this problem. The only question is that the people will be suffering. Therefore, it must be stopped. What is going on between kin nations is nothing but madness. Russia understands this, Ukraine does not want to understand,” the head of state said.
In his words, now it is important for everyone to concentrate their efforts on ending the conflict, not on speaking out in favor of any of the sides: “If there is nothing else to do in Japan or in the West, then go ahead, engage in rhetoric of condemnation. We need to work towards ending this war, building the warmest and friendliest relations. Every war is followed by peace, and people eventually forget about it, even about Hiroshima and Nagasaki, although such things are very difficult to forget.”
The interviewer wondered whether the Belarusian head of state intends to deploy nuclear weapons in Belarus and whether President of Russia Vladimir Putin had asked him to do it. The reporter noted that he is a representative of the country where the cities Hiroshima and Nagasaki are located. Atom bombs were dropped on the cities in 1945.
Aleksandr Lukashenko said: “I am a historian and I studied the World War Two situation very thoroughly. And I know very well who delivered a nuclear strike against Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And I know well that doing it was not necessary then. The war had ended. It was not necessary. It was an act of intimidation of the entire planet. The USA had to demonstrate they have nuclear weapons. It is the reason behind the USA’s strike against Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”
Aleksandr Lukashenko explained the essence of his previous remarks about the matter: “In order to prevent Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Belarus, in order for it to never happen, and in order to prevent even threats like that to Belarus, I’ve said: if Americans, France, Britain deploy nuclear weapons in direct proximity to Belarus, let’s say, in Poland, Lithuania, or Ukraine, then I will demand that Putin should give back to us the nuclear weapons we once handed over to Russia.”
The head of state was also asked whether one can assume that the revised Constitution of Belarus allows deploying nuclear weapons in the country. “The previous Constitution and the current one have nothing to do with it,” the President stressed. “Because nobody prevented me from returning nuclear weapons to Belarus according to our old Constitution. The same applies to the new one. We didn’t even think about it as we were revising the Constitution. It is a fabricated story of the West. And it has reached you. Maybe via your embassy in Belarus.”
“I don’t intend to deploy nuclear weapons here, make nuclear weapons here, create and use these nuclear weapons against anyone. Plans of Belarus’ leadership and my plans have never included such things,” Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed.
Asked whether Belarus will have to deploy nuclear weapons after all if the situation gets worse, Aleksandr Lukashenko said: “I don’t think such a situation will happen. I don’t think America and the West are so crazy that we have to resolve this problem with nuclear weapons.”
The head of state said in an interview that Belarus has provided electricity feed to the Chernobyl nuclear power plant to help prevent a possible man-made disaster.
“A situation emerged there when electricity supply to the Chernobyl plant stopped. This plant stores nuclear waste. The storage facility is huge. The plant needs electricity for water cooling and waste preservation. Electricity supply stopped. Putin called me (at night) and informed me of the situation, of the danger, as he noted, it may pose to Europe," Aleksandr Lukashenko said. “He said that we needed to help. Because if, God forbid, an accident had happened at this huge storage facility, the harm to Europe would have been huge."
According to the Belarusian head of state, the Russian leader asked him to feed electricity to this facility. "So we did. In this issue we are a concerned party (the Chernobyl station is located nearby). We would not want another man-made disaster happen there. So we have supplied electricity there," the President said.
Aleksandr Lukashenko gave his assessment of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in an interview with the Japanese TV channel TBS.
“This is my opinion about the two presidents. Thank you for asking these questions. This is the first time that I answer them,” the Belarusian leader remarked.
"We do not just meet as heads of state. We are on friendly terms. I am familiar with many details, both state-wise and personal, as far as it may be allowed. We have met many times and will continue to meet. Anytime. We do not hesitate to call each other. If there is a need to meet, to talk something over, we do. There are absolutely no problems with this," Aleksandr Lukashenko said. “I know why you have asked this question. If you think that President Putin is physically unwell or unfit or whatever, he is, as we often say, healthier than ever. He will catch a cold at the funerals of all of you, as our saying goes. He is an absolutely clear-headed and normal person."
"The West should stop spreading this nonsense. Vladimir Putin is absolutely clear-headed. He is as fit as ever. He performs his duties according to the new Constitution. Under the new Constitution, the government and parliament have been vested with more power. The President has fewer duties. He exercises them in full. He is absolutely clear-minded and physically fit,” said the head of state.
According to him, all this talk is meant to undermine confidence in the President inside the country. “They will not succeed,” the Belarusian leader said.
“I can offer my point of view regarding Volodymyr Zelensky. I think that he has little control over the processes in Ukraine. Even before the conflict he had little sway with these processes, probably because he was unprepared professionally. But he is smart. I hoped that he would gain some experience and, perhaps in his second presidential term, he would be able to take control of the situation in Ukraine. It did not happen. The conflict broke out,” said Aleksandr Lukashenko.
“Today (as I see it though I might be wrong) certain people are running the things, especially on the frontline, directly from Kiev. It is not Zelensky who is in charge of the process. It is not even the advisers who say the military what to do. It is the representatives of the West and the United States who have taken full control of the military action against Russia. In addition to the fact that they officially supply the most advanced weapons there, I think they are in charge of the entire military process in Ukraine,” the Belarusian President said. “Roughly speaking, Zelensky has two phones on his desk: one phone, and the other one which is a satellite connection with Biden [U.S. President] and British Prime Minister Johnson. Two phones. He is basically run by these two leaders. He is not his own person. Not just because he can't run things there. It is because he will not be allowed to do things differently."
Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed that what is happening now in Ukraine is beneficial to the United States and its allies: "They would want for Belarus and Russia to get bogged down in this conflict, so that we stop caring about Japan, Syria, China, Africa or Venezuela. Get us bogged down in this conflict. Therefore, they will restrain Zelensky in every possible way should he want to do things differently. They will do everything in their power to make things worse for Russia, and Belarus too. This is how I see things. This is my opinion based on the analysis of the situation."
One of the questions was about the bilateral relations, which have recently deteriorated, including due to the decision of the Japanese government to recognize Belarus as an unfriendly country.
"This is very disappointing for me," the Belarusian leader said. “I never thought Japan would become a yes-man for the United States of America, or, as our people say, a minion, an errand boy for the big brother."
Aleksandr Lukashenko emphasized that he has the greatest respect for the Japanese and the Japanese state. He has been to Japan, talked to ordinary people, and saw similar features between the two nations. “Japanese are just as hardworking, smart, and disciplined as Belarusians. Japan and Belarus have similar economies. Both states have suffered from nuclear disasters: you had Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and Fukushima, we - Chernobyl. Belarus cooperated with Japan in mitigating the Chernobyl consequences. We worked with you on this matter more than with anyone else. All of a sudden you start following in the footsteps of the United States, imposing some doubtful sanctions against us,” the President said.
Moreover, contrary to logic and fairness, Japan imposed sanctions even against the sons of the head of state. “Tell me why did Japan impose sanctions against my children? They had nothing to do with politics!” the Belarusian leader asked a rhetorical question. “How should I assess the actions of the Japanese authorities? You have just decided to join in, without looking into the matter carefully, without thinking about what it may lead to. It does not matter that we are far away from each other. The world is interconnected. Believe me, you may need our help one day.”
When asked about the role of journalism, the head of state stressed that it is very important. Journalism should meet high professional standards, the President believes. "Journalism must be unbiased. It must report facts, corner us with facts, as I often say. Facts, not propaganda," Aleksandr Lukashenko is convinced.
"As for journalism in Belarus, it is much freer than in the United States of America, in the West and, perhaps, even freer than in Japan," the President continued. He explained his point of view by the fact that in Japan, in addition to professional restrictions, there are the traditions: "Japan is an ancient empire. There are laws and a certain mindset. For example Mr Kanehira [the Japanese interviewer Shigenori Kanehira] or some other journalist will never dare to violate these traditional, centuries-old established norms, not only laws."
“You also have traitors, all kinds of people. The West does not hype about it, and neither do you. You deal with them just as we do. Since we do not yet have these traditions (imperial in a good sense, like you have in Japan, including in journalism), we have to put some of journalists in their place. Journalists are citizens of the country like other Belarusians,” the President said.
He stressed that in Belarus journalists are not criminally prosecuted for their professional activities. However, if they fight against their own state and receive money from the United States and the collective West to do this, they are held accountable for such illegal actions.
“You get your salary from Japan, from your company, don’t you? Does China pay you? Does North Korea or Russia pay you through some non-profit, nongovernmental organizations or some foundations?” the Belarusian leader asked.
“No, they do not,” the journalist answered.
According to the President, some journalists in Belarus got money from Germany, Poland and the United States to fight against their own state, to break the law. “Japan punishes those who break the law. We do the same. We learn from you,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.
The interviewer asked the head of state about his attitude to the Belarusian writer Svetlana Alexievich (her works are well known to the Japanese audience) and the reasons for her departure from the country.
"I don't have any. I am very glad that you read Alexievich's books. I would like you to read the works of our other Belarusian authors," the President said.
She left Belarus on her own volition. She made a choice in favor of another European state. "This is a person who became a Nobel laureate (we will not say how and why), who grew up on this land, betrayed it and fled. No one expelled her from Belarus. That's her right. She chose Germany. It's probably warmer there. She probably receives some payments. I'm not interested in this question. There is no such problem in our society," Aleksandr Lukashenko said.
As for some obstacles or threats upon return to Belarus, the President explained: "Most likely, she can return to Belarus, like all others. But if they have violated our laws, they should understand that they will be held responsible for this, like any citizen of Belarus."
Speaking of his attitude to the collapse of the Soviet Union, the President called this event a tragedy: “I was born and lived in that country. I was devoted to that country. I was a member of the Communist Party. Back then, I was a member of the Supreme Council of Belarus, so I was involved in the political process. That was why for me, as for the whole world (the world has realized it now), it was a tragedy. The collapse of the Soviet Union was a tragedy.”
“If the Soviet Union had survived, we could have avoided all sorts of conflicts in the world. The West and the United States always had to take the Soviet Union into consideration. We had good, friendly relations with Japan, despite all kinds of problems,” said the President.
With the Soviet Union, the world was multipolar, and one pole balanced the other, said Aleksandr Lukashenko. “Now the reason for what is happening in the world is unipolarity, the monopolization of our planet by the United States,” the Belarusian leader said.
Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko revealed the details of the talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin that took place in Moscow on 11 March in an interview to the Japanese TV channel TBS.
The first set of questions, according to the Belarusian leader, was about the situation around Ukraine. The heads of state discussed this topic together with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces Valery Gerasimov. "We discussed in detail the situation in Ukraine: pros, cons and so on," Aleksandr Lukashenko said.
The course of the negotiation process between Russia and Ukraine was also on the agenda. The head of the Russian negotiating delegation, Vladimir Medinsky, reported to the President on this issue. "After listening to his report, we analyzed in detail the proposals made by the Russian Federation," the head of state said.
"The third set of issues was the West’s sanctions against Russia and Belarus and the plan of our actions to respond to the sanctions: in economy, finance, and so on," the President summed up.