Aleksandr Lukashenko presents shoulder straps to high-ranking officers
Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko presented general's shoulder straps to high-ranking officers in a solemn ceremony in the Palace of Independence on 27 June.
“It is already a kind of tradition to meet in the run-up to Independence Day celebrations. Today we are presenting general’s shoulder straps. They go with the greatest responsibility for the future of the country, for maintaining peace on our land and security of Belarusian people. Contemporary Belarusians were lucky to be born and live under a peaceful sky. Yet, military people like us are well aware that a peaceful life is the result of painstaking daily work,” Aleksandr Lukashenko emphasized.
It is not always visible, but it requires colossal efforts, sometimes it is high-risk work, the president noted. “You are intelligent people, almost everyone of you uses messengers, reads various critical articles that blame me for preparing for war. Every day for nearly 30 years, I have been getting ready for war together with you. Maybe that is why we live under a peaceful sky today,” said the head of state.
Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed that sovereign Belarus and the whole world are going through an extremely difficult period now. “The threat of a new global conflict has never been as real as it is today,” he said. “They are once again trying to destabilize our country, our entire region, to make people confused. They are pulling out all the stops to rock the boat and to impose their own rules, establish their own order in which there will no longer be our countries and peoples. And let’s be frank, we are playing into their hands sometimes. We never fail to give a reason for this. As I have said, color revolutions do not happen for no reason,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.
“The collective West is trying to mislead us about their real plans and intentions. Unfortunately, our efforts to resolve the situation through peaceful negotiations are now called ‘diplomatic imitation’ there. The price of this ‘imitation’ is hundreds of thousands of human lives. Today we clearly see a new round of NATO expansion and an unprecedented capacity build-up of the member states in the region, including in the immediate vicinity of our border. We see endless rounds of show of force,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.
According to him, almost every day the border service reports all kinds of provocations on the state border coming from neighboring countries: from tossing of corpses to deliberate drone strikes on the territory of Belarus. At the same time, the construction of walls and barriers on the border, installment of fortification equipment, and mining from the Ukrainian side continue.
“Our generation has been put to the test. We have the mission to preserve peace that was achieved by millions of heroes, our parents and grandparents. This means only one thing - we must be able to combat the threat that is again looming over our land. It is coming from the West again. As you can see, history repeats itself. When talking about strength, the last thing I think about is technical capabilities. We have them. And we are well aware of this,” the head of state said.
Unity and devotion to the Fatherland are much more important, Aleksandr Lukashenko emphasized. “And our Fatherland from Brest to Vladivostok is land, freedom and our peoples. History has showed that Belarusians know how to defend their land. We have been and will be able to rise up to any challenge,” the president said.
At the ceremony Aleksandr Lukashenko commented on the recent attempted mutiny in Russia and its impact on Belarus.
“I must say it was painful for me to watch the recent developments in the south of Russia. Many of our citizens took them to heart as well. This is because we share one Fatherland. Given the role Belarus played in resolving this situation, I would like to say a few words about what happened and explain our position and the decisions we took.
This is important especially in the light of the latest insinuations in the media, especially in the Russian one. Our self-exiled opposition has also started fussing. They have made a false start however. They are trying hard to show at least some results of their work to their bosses. They desperately want to get those $250 million. They will divide them there, while our hot heads [few of them remain here] will get nothing and will again be used as cannon fodder,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.
They [Belarusian self-exiled opposition] have even issued their calls and published plans demonstrating readiness to implement their scenario of an armed mutiny,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said. “There have even been such cases. The so-called Kalinovsky Regiment fighters have taken leave of their senses. They had been deployed to the front to fight. They heard rumors of an ‘imminent revolution’ in Belarus and wanted to rush back here but were stopped by anti-retreat units.”
"I sincerely thank you for fulfilling your duty conscientiously, selflessly serving the Motherland, and congratulate you on the new military rank. The number one task of yours and all people in uniform is to take the necessary measures to prevent the escalation of the situation. It has already reached the boiling point. Just throw in a match and everything will flare up, even explode. This must be brought to the attention of all personnel, your subordinates on the ground. You don't have to constantly think about some lofty matters. Leave that to the politicians. You have clear and understandable tasks. We are all professionals, each in his own field. This is what we must do first of all," Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed.
“When this mutiny attempt was happening in Russia, I ordered to put the army on full alert. Nobody, even all those lousy Telegram channels, said anything against it. It took just half a day for the Belarusian army, all the Armed Forces, including the police and special units, to be brought to full combat readiness,” the head of state said.
"I am sure that you will continue to perform your duties with honor. You have spent a lifetime getting ready to defend our country and our people. You will be able to protect our Motherland from any risks and any threats. I am absolutely convinced of this," the president said.
The head of state presented Major General shoulder straps to Commander of the Air Force and Air Defense of the Armed Forces Andrei Lukyanovich, First Deputy Chief of Support Services of the Armed Forces - Chief of Support Aleksandr Mosolovand Chairman of the State Border Committee Konstantin Molostov. The straps of Major General of Police were presented to the Head of the Internal Affairs Department of the Gomel Oblast Executive Committee Aleksandr Shastaylo, Major General of Justice to Head of the Investigative Committee Department for Vitebsk Oblast Aleksandr Gutsko, and Class Rank of State Counselor of Justice 3rd Class - Prosecutor of Grodno Oblast Aleksandr Zhukov.
After a ceremony Aleksandr Lukashenko shared the details of the negotiations to resolve the attempted mutiny situation involving the PMC Wagner and also the motives for his actions and position.
The event at the Palace of Independence was planned, but its format was expanded. The leadership of the military and law enforcement agencies, special forces, and media chiefs, political scientists and journalists were invited to attend. The conversation turned out to be thorough, and most importantly, as frank as possible, with answers to the most pressing questions that the society has been discussing in recent days. Aleksandr Lukashenko also commented on a number of information ‘leaks' and speculations.
On the decision to speak out
"Yesterday morning I decided that it was time to say something (though not everything) on this topic honestly, openly, without hiding anything.
What pushed me to this was the fact that the media, especially in Russia have been lauding Belarusians. Frankly speaking, I asked my press secretary to call our main media outlets and ask them not to over-cover this topic. There is nothing to rejoice about. You'll now find out why. But in Russia, as it always happens, turbo-patriots have started to lament and condemn Putin demanding that he do not stop criminal cases, that he catch, kill or imprison those involved. This is what I would like to warn both us and Russian society against.
When this situation, mutiny as President Putin called it, was unfolding, everyone was keeping quiet. Matviyenko was a courageous person. So was Volodin, the Patriarch, a couple of people and that's it. After a fight, everybody knows how to wave their fists and demand repression. Listen, there are some that we need to deal with, you know where. There are some that deserve jail time;
“All this prompts me to say a few words about the situation that was unfolding on Friday and Saturday, because, as you know, I was completely involved in these events”;
“I want you to understand, to know, to feel what happened and what could have happened. I would like you to comprehend exactly what it was and what it could have been.”
On getting alarming news
“It was Friday. You know, we had such a wonderful day, we were all preparing for student graduation ceremonies. Naturally, I was pretty much busy, too. To be honest, when I started getting some tidbits of information about the developments in Russia, in Rostov, in the south, I somehow did not pay much attention to it at first. The war is going on, so such things are no surprise.
But after 8 a.m. on Saturday, I started receiving alarming news about the situation in Russia. I was told what people were writing in these Telegram channels, messengers... They told me through the FSB and our State Security Committee, General Tertel: President Putin wants to talk. Fine. We agreed at 9:30 that we would talk at any time convenient for him. At 10:00 he addressed the nation, at 10:10 he called me and provided the details of the situation unfolding in Russia";
"I asked [Putin] several questions, including about his plans to deal with this, and I realized that the situation was serious. I will not provide further details about this part of the conversation."
On advising Putin against tough action
“The most dangerous thing, as I saw it, was not the situation itself, but its possible ramifications. That was the most dangerous part of it. I also realized that a tough decision was taken (Putin hinted at it in his address) - to eliminate those involved. I suggested that Putin should not rush to do it. I suggested that I talk to Prigozhin, his commanders. Putin replied: "Listen, it's useless. He doesn't even pick up the phone, he doesn't want to talk to anyone."
Reaching out to Prigozhin
“I ask: Where is he? - “In Rostov.” I say: “Good. A bad peace is better than any war. No rush. I'll try to contact him.” He once again says: “It's useless.” I say: “Okay, wait.” We talked probably for half an hour. After that he updated me on the situation on the front.
I remember him saying: “You know, it may sound strange but the state of affairs on the front line is better than ever before. I said: “You see, it is not all that bad.” It was 11 o'clock... We still had to find those phone numbers... I asked him: “How do I get in touch with him? Give me the phone number.” He replied that the FSB probably had the phone number. We checked, and by afternoon we had three channels we could use to talk to Rostov.”
“We held the third and the fourth rounds of negotiations using this channel. There were intermediaries at my house, at my country residence. They helped us conduct this communication.”
On the role of Yevkurov and Bortnikov in the negotiations
“I must especially thank General Yunus-bek Yevkurov in this regard. We were lucky. He turned out to be a friend of Ivan Stanislavovich [Tertel, KGB Head]. As far as I know, they were university mates.
I must say the general played a very important role. For the record, he was the commander of the Russian the battalion that took control of an airport in Serbia. Do you remember that march? He was in charge of that battalion. But as it often happens that situation did not had any development, either through betrayal or something else. Even the Russian authorities shied away from talking about it. I am well aware of that situation. He is a very brave man. He was seriously wounded when he was head of Ingushetia. I remember Putin telling me that he narrowly survived. He is a military man, a responsible man and he did a lot within the framework of these negotiations.
I am telling this story in detail because some started waving their fists after a fight, naming those who took part in the negotiations. I am not going to repeat after them. The negotiations involved Yevkurov and Bortnikov, the FSB head. No one else took part in these negotiations.
On first conversation with Prigozhin
“At 11:00 he [Prigozhin] immediately picked up the phone. I mean Yevkurov summoned him, gave him the phone: ‘The Belarus president is on the line. Will you talk to him?’ – ‘I will talk to Aleksandr Grigoryevich [Lukashenko]’.
He was euphoric. Yevgeny was completely euphoric. During the first round we talked using only swear words for about 30 minutes. I analyzed it later. The number of swear words was ten times higher than that of normal words. Certainly, he said he was sorry for using swear words.
I was thinking about what to say to him in order to start the negotiations. The guys had just come back from the frontline. They have seen thousands of their dead. The guys are extremely dissatisfied. Particularly commanding officers. And as far as I could understand it, they strongly influenced Prigozhin himself. I had figured it out beforehand. Yes, he acts like a hero, you know, but he was under pressure and influence of those who were in command of assault units and had seen those deaths. So, in this situation I talked to him when he arrived in Rostov and was ecstatic.
Wagner's actions in Rostov
"Through my channels I received information, including from our committee [KGB] and the military that they occupied the military district headquarters [in Rostov].
"Media has immediately begun whipping up hysteria reporting captures and looting or something else. Those were fake news. Ukrainians did have a field day that day.
I began to ask questions. I asked: "Did you kill civilians, military who did not oppose you?" - "Aleksandr Grigoryevich, I swear, we did not hurt anyone. We occupied the headquarters. Here I am." It turned out to be true. It was very important. Note that it was very important that when they entered Rostov, they did not hurt anyone.
On Prigozhin’s demands
“I say: “What do you want?” (I certainly conveyed their demands to Putin). “Aleksandr Grigorievich, I am not asking for anything. I just want Shoigu and Gerasimov. And I need to meet with Putin”. I say: “Zhenya, no one will give you Shoigu or Gerasimov, especially in this situation. You know Putin as much as I do. Secondly, he will not meet with you, he will not even talk on the phone with you in this situation.” He keeps quiet and then goes: But we want justice! They want to destroy us! We'll march on Moscow!” I say: “You'll just be crushed like a bug on your way although the troops (Putin was telling me about this for a long time) are on the front line. Think about it.” “No,” he said in a state of euphoria.
It took me a long time to convince him. And in the end I said: “You know, you can do whatever you want. But don’t get me wrong. A brigade is ready to be sent to Moscow. And, as in 1941 (you are a well-read, educated, intelligent person), we will defend Moscow. Because this situation affects not only Russia. This is not only because it is our Fatherland. But also because, if God forbid, this mutiny spreads all over Russia (and the prerequisites for this were colossal), we will be next”.
"The triumphal march of Soviet power is another example. Approximately 100,000 Bolsheviks took power in Russia. Without weapons. I ask myself the question: Is everything so good in Russia and here? It is not. There are multiple reasons for this turmoil to spread across Russia and spill over into our country. A trigger was needed. And it emerged.”
On the inadmissibility of the use of force
“Who is Prigozhin? He is much respected in the armed forces today. No matter whether some like it or not. Therefore, I thought: it was possible to kill him. I told Putin: “He can be eliminated. That is not a problem. If not at the first try, but at the second one for sure. I said then: “Do not do it.” Because there would not be any negotiations then. Those guys who know how to stand up for each other, who have fought in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, they will go to any length. They can be eliminated too, but thousands of civilians will die along with those who will stand up against Wagner fighters. PMC Wagner is the best-trained unit in the army. Who will question this? My military men understand this. We have no such [trained] people in Belarus. Those people have been through more than one war in different places.
Therefore, before making this decision, you must think about what will happen next. We must see beyond our noses. I address this advice in the first place to those flag wavers who have been endlessly dwelling on this topic.”
On interpersonal conflict
“We will advance on Moscow. We need justice. We fought, and we fought loyally. You, Aleksandr Grigoryevich, know how we fought, don't you?” “I do,” I replied. He told me that some sort of competition started between the army and his unit. It was some unhealthy competition. An interpersonal conflict between well-known people transformed into this fight.
Here I would also like to explain why I instructed my media, my press secretary not to make a hero out of me, out of Putin or Prigozhin in any way. We let this situation slip through our fingers. We missed it. Then, we saw it unfolding and thought it would go away somehow. Both me and Putin (me to a lesser extent, to be frank, but still) thought so. But it didn't go away. It turned out that two people who fought at the frontline took against each other. I am well aware of the situation. I know how Shoigu works. He is undeservedly criticized at times. Shoigu visited Belarus more than once. Of course, I cannot reveal everything we talked about. We had very serious talks. General Khrenin has met with him more than once. We have always provided any support we could (and we could do a lot) and we did a lot. Shoigu has done a great deal in this respect. He has occupied a niche where he could do something.
"Yevgeny Prigozhin... He can be understood. He is similar to Shoigu (they have similar characters), very impulsive.. That's how it began.
On the condition for Prigozhin and his decision to drop his demands
"Talking for the second or third time, I warn him. I can already see that he is ready to back down, but I warn him: "Yevgeny, no bloodshed. As soon as you kill, intentionally or unintentionally, at least one person, especially a civilian, that's it. There will be no negotiations with you, and I will not talk to you either. He swore to me. “We don't have such a goal,” he said. “I swear to you that this will not happen.”
Negotiations went on throughout the day. Six or seven rounds of negotiations. I expressed my position. I didn't call him again. He reached out to me six times, I think. He consulted, made offers, and so on. When he said to me: "Aleksandr Grigoryevich, I will not demand that the president give me Shoigu and Gerasimov, and I will not even ask for a meeting." I said: "Well, that's good. This is a very good step. That is not a realistic demand and it can escalate the situation.”
I said, "Let’s imagine the situation that you are my Defense Minister. And some bandit ..." - "I'm not a bandit" - "I'm saying, for example: some bandit demands I give him Khrenin and Gulevich. I will never go for it. I will die myself, but I will not go for it.” - "Yes, I understand" - "Since you understand, let's act." He says, "Tell me, what now?" and I say, "We need to stop the convoy." That is, he decided to negotiate.
On guarantees from the president of Belarus
“At some point after the first round of the negotiations he said: ‘Let me gather the commanders and have a consult’. I say: ‘Of course, talk to them so that they will not blame you afterwards’.
We had the conversation at eleven o’clock, and at five o’clock in the evening he called me back and said: ‘Aleksandr Grigoryevich, I accept all your conditions. But ... What shall I do? If we stop, they will start eliminating us’. I said: ‘They won’t do this. I guarantee you. I’ll take it upon myself’. I was in contact with the leadership of Russia, the FSB dealt mainly with this issue, Bortnikov. I urged them not to do it. Bortnikov is a smart person. He said: ‘Aleksandr Grigoryevich, I’m not a fool, I understand what could happen.”
“If they stop somewhere, this will lead to a huge concentration of troops on a narrow stretch of land and there will be a temptation to strike at the column. They promised: this will not happen. I told Prigozhin: ‘This is a guarantee’. ‘What will happen next?’. ‘I will take you to Belarus and guarantee absolute safety to you and your guys who have advanced here in this column.’ ‘Yes, I believe you. I believe’. ‘Well, we will follow this plan.’
On the end of the negotiations and Putin’s promise
“By evening the negotiations were drawing to a close. I was pressed for time as the defense line had already been built 200km from Moscow (Bortnikov informed me about it). Everything was ready (Putin told me about it later), just like it was in the war times. Cadets were summoned as well. The police, some 1,500 officers, were also in reserve. They gathered a lot of military personnel in the Kremlin and near the Kremlin. I think there were some 10,000 soldiers there. I was afraid that if the Wagner fighters were to clash with them on this line (and it was just some 200km away from Moscow), there would be bloodshed.
I said [to Prigozhin]: “Bortnikov is in charge there. You must get in touch with him”. “He does not pick up the phone,” he replied. “He will. Call him in 20 minutes,” I said. I asked Ivan Stanislavovich [Tertel, KGB head] to find Bortnikov and ask him to call me. He called back. I said: “Aleksandr Vasilyevich [Bortnikov], pick up the phone if Prigozhin calls you.” He was very angry with the whole situation, of course. I said to him: “Listen, put your emotions aside and do as we have agreed with him.” They had a conversation. He turned his people around and they went to their camps in Lugansk Oblast. They went back to their camps.
I talked to Putin in the evening. I asked him once again to stick to the agreement. He said: “I will do everything I promised.” He kept his word.
The turmoil was thus prevented. Dangerous events that might have taken place were reversed. Security guarantees, as he promised yesterday, have been provided.”