Meeting with representatives of foreign and Belarusian media

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Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko met with representatives of foreign and Belarusian media on 6 July.

Journalists representing the media from different countries and regions of the world were invited to the meeting with the Belarusian head of state. First of all, these are the media outlets that have actively applied for an interview with the Belarusian President recently.

At the start of the meeting Aleksandr Lukashenko noted: "Let's have a free conversation (not a press conference) and talk about the issues that concern you and, I believe, your viewers and the peoples of your countries, the Belarusian people as well."

"I am not assuming the role of some kind of player or fortuneteller who knows what awaits the world. Let us wait and see. Probably, the most knowledgeable, enlightened politician or person in any part of the world will not be able to say what awaits the world in the future. But you are absolutely right when you say that the world is changing. I often say that the world has taken leave of its senses. So have the entities involved. You know very well who they are," Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

The head of state noted that the world order established after World War II where the peoples of the Soviet Union played a decisive role in the victory over Nazism, no longer exists.

"Recently, at the SCO meeting I said that the world order as we knew it is gone. We do not live by laws, or international rules. Today we do not even live by a code," the President said. “There are no rules, not codes. The world has been destroyed. So has the world order. Due to the games started by the major powers. As to what awaits [the world], I am absolutely convinced that the unipolar system is gone. Multipolarity is emerging. This process can no longer be stopped, either peacefully or militarily. If this is a true order based on multipolarity, this will be a completely different configuration that will ensure a great stability on our planet, which will rely on many pillars.

Among these pillars, Aleksandr Lukashenko named the United States, the European Union, China, and India. Also, according to him, the countries of Africa and the Middle East will have a role to play too. "I would like the post-Soviet space to close ranks as much as possible, and also act as one of the pillars," the Belarusian leader added.

The President was asked about the position of the West in relation to Ukraine and whether the West will admit its mistakes that led to the conflict.

"Will the West come back to its senses or not? The West has never admitted anything and will not admit anything. Especially now. They consider themselves the arbiters of everything," the Belarusian leader said. “There is no EU, or Europe as an independent entity. It is completely under the thumb of the United States. Whatever they decide in Washington, Europeans subscribe to. Even the things to their detriment, which is surprising. Take Germany for example. It was the world’s fourth largest economy. Where is it now? Why did they decide to destroy such a high-tech economy? Out of fright, out of fear or to oblige someone?”  the Belarusian leader said.

The United States has never admitted its mistakes and will never do, the President stressed. The head of state cited the historical examples: the U.S. bombing of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki when it made no military sense. "Did they apologize? No. There were many such cases: the war in Korea, in Vietnam, then Afghanistan. They destroyed the entire Middle East, Libya, Syria. Did they admit their mistakes? No. They don't give a damn: ‘This is the unipolar world, and we are the hegemon. We have the best army, weaponry and the dollar, as the most powerful weapon’ That's all," Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko emphasized that the USA is a powerful country. “And you see how its leadership is acting,” he said.

The President clarified that this is not about age: “All of us will be old and feeble. Yet, everyone should be in the place where they belong at this time in life.”

“This [USA] is the most powerful country in the world. It makes many decisions that have an impact on the global dynamics. And here you have to bear at least a small part of responsibility. They do not bear any responsibility. Their decisions are just laughable, just antic,” said the head of state.

“Until we achieve a balance on the planet (and this can be done only by creating certain counterweights, as was the Soviet Union), until we do this, they will go on with their antics. And this will translate into the death of thousands and thousands, millions of people,” the Belarusian leader stressed.

"Have you noticed the recent outburst by Vladimir Zelensky against the powers that will gather for the NATO summit in Vilnius? He actually presented them with an ultimatum. Like, ‘I won't go to the summit if you don't do something’. Why is he behaving like this? This is a very important thing, especially for us, Russia and Belarus," the head of state said.

The President stressed that the West had long been preparing the ground for an attack primarily on Russia from the territory of Ukraine: "From the first Maidan to the latest Maidan (if there had been no such preparations, there would have been no Maidans), they were preparing Ukraine for the war. The war began. Do not think that Zelensky and Ukrainian society, the leadership were fools and did not understand how this could end. They understood everything well. But the United States, upheld by its thoughtless satellites, told Zelensky in no uncertain terms: ‘We will support you, arm you, we will give you as much money as necessary, and we will never abandon you’. And then Zelensky got wings."

"What is happening now? Especially since 4-5 June, the start of the so-called counteroffensive. He [Zelensky] finally realized that he would not win the war. That the counteroffensive would not end in anything but the death of thousands and thousands of people," the President said.

Therefore, Aleksandr Lukashenko believes, he gradually began to voice his grievances towards those who pushed Ukraine to the war. First of all, grievances in terms of money and new weapons. "So far, they cannot decide on the F-16. They even stooped so low as to nuclear weapons. Seeing that his needs are not being met and that he is losing on the front and that he will lose the war, he is taking steps to get out of this situation and shift responsibility to someone. The subtext is: "Well, you pushed me to war, you made promises to me and did not deliver on them. So today, having all these agreements of ours, I have the right to give you an ultimatum: I will not attend the summit, and if you are men enough you will make a decision," the Belarusian leader said.

According to the President, even before the special military operation, there was an agreement to fight to the last Ukrainian, and the West was supposed to give weapons and money for this. If they fail to give as much as Zelensky requested, then ultimatums will follow. Aleksandr Lukashenko is sure that this topic will be gaining momentum, especially in the event of failures of the Ukrainian army during the counteroffensive.

The head of state also believes that the clash in Ukraine will be escalating because Ukraine still has considerable strategic reserves. "They must show some success by 11 July [NATO summit in Vilnius]," he said.

"They tried to attack Russia head-on," Aleksandr Lukashenko said. “Head-on did not work and will not work. If Russia continues to act in accordance with the warfare classics rules, the Ukrainians will not have any victory."

“The problem for them is that if they throw their best units into battle in the run-up to 11 July in order to show their patrons what they are capable of, the Ukrainian military capability will be completely destroyed. Their forces will be ground down. They are launching attacks in order to cut off the land passage to the Crimea and destroy the southern grouping. As soon as they wear down their troops, Russia will launch a counterattack, and the Ukrainians will have nothing to defend themselves with. They will cut off Ukraine completely from the Black Sea, and from the best, most advantageous and valuable territories. One should think about this,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

“After that it [Russia] will launch a counterattack in the south of Ukraine up to Transnistria, and this counterattack will pose a huge threat to Ukraine. This will determine the fate of Ukraine’s statehood,” the President said.

That is what Ukraine should think about instead of a carrot they may be offered at the forthcoming NATO summit in Vilnius, Aleksandr Lukashenko believes. According to the Belarusian President, the Ukrainian head of state is not satisfied with the NATO-Ukraine Commission that was offered instead of Ukraine’s full membership in the organization. “Vladimir Zelensky will never agree to this. He will insist that Ukraine join NATO, in other words that NATO enter the war against the Russian Federation. That is where the danger comes from. And if NATO makes such a decision, the war will be completely different. I am afraid it might end very quickly,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

The President gave his take on the possibility that in such a situation the West may decide to replace Zelensky with someone else. Aleksandr Lukashenko believes that this is unlikely: “It is quite possible, but I don’t think it will happen. Replacing Zelensky is the first step towards admitting defeat. There are no grounds to make such assumptions. I have no evidence to prove this. And why would they replace Zelensky if he is doing everything they want?”

“Today we need to come to our senses. There is still a whole set of talking points on the table that can be agreed upon. Tomorrow it will be impossible. Today, we can talk to Ukraine and reach some kind of peace agreement. The situation will change after the counteroffensive, and it remains to be seen whether they will still want to talk to you [the leadership of Ukraine]. It is a pity that politicians in Ukraine do not see and understand this,” the President said.

The head of state noted that Vladimir Zelensky and Ukraine’s military leadership have been at loggerheads for quite some time already. “In fact, the military see what is happening at the front. While he, being pushed by these fidgets Duda and Austin with Blinken [President of Poland Andrzej Duda, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken], believes that he is a hero, a household name around the world and he will win. This will never happen,” the President said.

“We must stop now. A lot of bad things have been done. Many people have died. But it could be even worse. Therefore, it is crucial to stop now, to sit down at the negotiating table. Without preconditions. We all must sit down at the negotiating table and take decisions on territories, security, the future of Ukraine, Belarus and Russia. It should be up to Belarus, Ukraine and Russia, and least of all up to the USA, to decide on that. The USA is far away. They understand what is going on here, but it’s not their war. Therefore, this problem should be addressed here,” the Belarusian leader emphasized.

When answering journalists’ questions, the head of state said that the head of the Wagner PMC Yevgeny Prigozhin is not in Belarus.

"Why do you ask me where the private military company Wagner and the head of this company are today? This is a Russian company. You know it very well. Therefore, the question is clearly not for me. As far as I know the Wagnerians, who are excellent fighters, are in their camps. Their permanent camps where they were after they withdrew from the front for recovery, medical treatment and so on. This is a regular rotation for such a war. After Bakhmut, they were taken to their camps, and this is where they are today," Alexander Lukashenko said.

The President said he sees no risks for Belarus from the deployment of the Wagner fighters in the country.

"As for Yevgeny Prigozhin, he is in St. Petersburg," the President said. ‘Where was he this morning?’ Maybe he went to Moscow, or some other place. But he is not in Belarus,” the President said.

“I see absolutely no risks in the deployment of PMC Wagner. Despite the scaremongering from all the sides, this is not something that can disquiet me. I understand why they are trying to scare me of the relocation of PMC Wagner to Belarus ... All the neighbors, and the leadership of the United States of America understand that this is a very powerful combat unit and there is hardly anyone in the world that can compare to them. PMC Wagner has gone through many battles, and even through the war. Therefore, I understand why you are dwelling so much on this theme,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

The President emphasized that he sees ‘nothing extraordinary’ in the deployment of PMC Wagner in Belarus. The head of state noted that the Armed Forces of Belarus are very combat ready and are not inferior to PMC Wagner.

“Wagner and its commanders will gladly share their extensive experience with our Armed Forces. I mean their combat experience. The one that we need. This is tactics, military operations. We are not going to lower our guard. You see statements by various fidgets, Duda and Volodya Zelensky, they say that they will not leave Belarus alone. Naturally, as commander in chief I must respond to such things. Therefore, we will deal with this problem if you think it is a problem. I personally don’t think that this is a problem,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko said: “We will soon sort out whether they will be in Belarus or not and in what numbers. We will not hide this information. We will definitely inform the public about our further mutual relations with this unit.”

The President remarked that if Russia’s leadership and PMC Wagner decide it is necessary to deploy a certain number of fighters in Belarus for recreation and training, then he will honor his promise to accommodate them.

“I absolutely don’t worry and I am not concerned that a certain number of these fighters will stay in Belarus. Moreover, they will be accommodated under certain conditions. The key condition: if we have to use this unit to defend the state (if they come here), then the unit will be immediately used in any area. And their experience in Belarus will be in demand,” the head of state noted.

At the same time Aleksandr Lukashenko is convinced that the situation that happened with PMC Wagner in Russia cannot be repeated in Belarus. “As we say, it is useless to make wild guesses. But I don’t think that PMC Wagner will mutiny at some point and will turn its weapons against Belarusian authorities and the Belarusian state. All kinds of things happen in life. But I don’t expect such a situation today. You have to work with people,” he pointed out.

According to Aleksandr Lukashenko, the matter of redeployment and housing of the private military company Wagner to Belarus has not been resolved yet.

“We are not building camps. We’ve suggested several former military towns to them. They were used during the war. Including near Osipovichi. But PMC Wagner has a different vision regarding its accommodation. Naturally, I will not speak to you about this vision,” the President said.

According to the President, Belarus is ready to offer several sites to PMC Wagner for deployment. “We have tens of permanent military camps that have been handed over to civilian municipal authorities. We’ve demonstrated how accommodations can be organized. But I emphasize once again: the matter of redeployment and housing of the unit has not been resolved yet. The key matter of where PMC Wagner will be deployed and what it will do is not up to me to decide. It is up to the leadership of the Russian Federation. It is their most combat-capable unit,” he pointed out.

Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed that Belarus-Russia relations will be even stronger after the situation with PMC Wagner.

Aleksandr Lukashenko said: “Why should our relations be weakened as a result? We resolved the problem together. We’ve resolved the most serious problem for Russia. If Putin elevated the ‘Justice March’ to the level of a Presidential statement, an address to the nation… God forbid this turmoil in Russia, as he described it… Everyone would have felt the heat. But we definitely would have. It was impossible for us to stay out of it. I understood it right away. This is why I got involved in this process. As a result, we played a certain role. And he and I prevented this turmoil. Was it beneficial? It was. Then why should our relations worsen? Yes, I see that some opinion shapers in Russia are a bit jealous now. There may be something else, too. I take it into account. It is unavoidable. This is how the situation has turned out to be.”

“The role of Belarus and, in particular, my role have not been detrimental to the Russian Federation. In his second statement, in his address Putin mentioned it. I hope, I think and today I am convinced that on the contrary, our relations will be even stronger. Although they are already as strong as they get. We have had good relations for a long time. We jointly tackle serious issues, which emerge in our relations and around us one way or another. If some tensions arise, we have established channels of communication. We can have a talk within minutes. We can meet and discuss any problem,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko said: “I don’t think there will be any problems with PMC Wagner working in interests of Russia. One should not lose such a unit despite all the subtle details. Certainly, there are a lot of complaints: people have died and so on, many more people could have died. Moreover, one must not lose fighters of such a unit. There are about 20 heroes of Russia over there. I wish the entire army fought as well as these guys. But these are problems of the Russian Federation and President Putin.”

“He and I have agreed to meet soon. I think we will discuss this problem, too, since we have been involved in its resolution. And we will discuss matters of future operation of PMC Wagner. I think it is the simplest problem that will be resolved and is being resolved,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko remarked that security guarantees represent one of the problems the PMC Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin had raised. “I told him: if it is necessary for ending this conflict, I am ready to accommodate you in Belarus and guarantee your security,” the President said.

Apart from that, the Russian side has promised to terminate criminal prosecution, including against Yevgeny Prigozhin.

All the agreements are being honored now, Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed.

Yet it has already been mentioned that the matter of PMC Wagner’s deployment in Belarus has not been resolved yet. This deployment may not happen in the end if the Russian government decides against it.

Asked under what terms PMC Wagner personnel will operate in Belarus if they are relocated into the country and whether they will use the territory for an attack, Aleksandr Lukashenko said: “We have never attacked anyone. I’ve already said it more than once. And we are not going to attack anyone. Nobody is going to attack anyone from our territory. If aggression is committed against us, we will respond. And if PMC Wagner is deployed here, they will defend our interests just like the Belarusian army does.”

According to Aleksandr Lukashenko, if the company is deployed in Belarus, it will sign a legally binding contract where all the terms will be stipulated. The unit’s operating framework will be laid down by a law or a Presidential decree, the head of state stated.

Aleksandr Lukashenko said: “I don’t know everything and I don’t want to know everything about mutual relations between Putin and Prigozhin. But you have to understand that Putin knows Prigozhin much better than I do. I’ve simply seen him during the organization of various events. Putin has known him for much longer. Since the days of St. Petersburg when they lived and worked there. And they have maintained very kind relations with each other. Maybe even better relations than that. I know for a fact that Prigozhin is free. Including right now. We’ve talked over the phone many times. I think he and I talked over the phone yesterday’s afternoon and happened to discuss the matter of future actions of PMC Wagner. He told me one thing: ‘We will work in the name of Russia, for the benefit of Russia, and we will fulfill our duty till the end, the way we will agree and the way the relevant authorities decide’.”

“What will happen to him now? Well, all kinds of things happen in life. But if you think that Putin is so malevolent and vindictive to have him [Prigozhin] eliminated somewhere tomorrow… No, it won’t happen,” Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed.

The head of state pointed out that the situation with PMC Wagner should not be limited to the person of Yevgeny Prigozhin. There are many other fighters in the private military company. Some are heroes of Russia. A large number of the personnel have been awarded orders and medals. “And not because they are Prigozhin’s people but because they have fought truly well. And before that and even now they are fighting all over the world to defend democracy or independence of various countries where France or the United States of America would like to bring people to their knees. This is why I believe it would be wrong to ruin such a unit,” Aleksandr Lukashenko stated.

“As for traitors, mutineers and the rest… It was the first response of President Putin on the Saturday morning. I don’t think the response has changed with the passage of time, that evaluations have changed but they have become much softer. And it is one thing to say it in front of the whole world while what you have inside you is another thing,” the President added.

The head of state noted that modern technologies make is easy to eliminate a person or a group of people, even very protected ones. “It is not a problem at all. You see what these drones can do at the front. Yet, it is better to make the world community believe that Putin and Lukashenko are some kind of barbarians who kidnap people, children and ‘eat’ them. At first they started accusing Putin of relocating children from Donbass to the Russian Federation. These children were taken to safety from the areas of hostilities, some with their parents,” the President said.

As for Belarus, public figure Aleksei Talai is engaged in the rehabilitation and recuperation of children of Donbass: “I really admire this man,” the Belarusian leader emphasized. According to him, many other representatives of Belarus visited Donbass and took the problems of local children close to heart. And an initiative was submitted to the head of state to host such children for recreation and recuperation in Belarus. Aleksandr Lukashenko upheld this proposal. As chairman of the Supreme State Council of the Belarus-Russia Union State he gave an instruction to allocate funds from the Union State budget.

“We hosted these children. It was natural for us, I didn’t delve much into this topic until one day I read an article: “Lukashenko to the Hague ...” For what?  For kidnapping and relocating children. We don’t kidnap anyone,” the President emphasized. Large groups of children come to Belarus for recreation and treatment and then go back. “We have not committed any crime and are not going to. And we will keep doing it, if necessary, if their parents or orphanages turn to us with such a request,” he added.

“And saying that we are pursuing some evil goals in this regard is simply barbarism, especially on the part of the West. They would always lament: Oh, children, children! So why do you criticize me for inviting these poor fellows here, so that they can get a respite from bombing, heal, recover?” Aleksandr Lukashenko asked a rhetorical question.

Aleksandr Lukashenko was asked where the Wagner march weakened Putin.

“Not a bit. There was no confusion or hesitation. There was no speaking about some weakening. Putin was doing what he was supposed to do," the head of state said. “In such a situation, any President, on the contrary, becomes more active, pulls himself together. Putin even more so (I know him). This, on the contrary, made him more focused and determined to protect the country and to rise up to the challenge.”

Aleksandr Lukashenko remarked that it was necessary to nip the dangerous situation with PMC Wagner in the bud. Otherwise, the situation could have spread onto entire Russia and even could have spread beyond Russia.

The head of state noted he had warned Wagner’s boss Yevgeny Prigozhin about it: “I said: Yevgeny, don’t take offense with me but our Belarusian army has been brought to full combat readiness. Army units have been designated and are being prepared for redeployment to the Moscow area. We will defend Moscow together with Putin.”

Aleksandr Lukashenko said that special forces had been prepared for transportation to Moscow. “The first 5-7 aircraft landed in Belarus in order to deliver a Belarusian special forces brigade to the Moscow area. They are roughly as good as Wagner personnel or they may be even better. And you understand how this conflict could have grown larger. We’d agreed [with the Russian side] to airlift personnel fast if necessary,” the President stated.

The aircraft were provided by the Russian Defense Ministry. “The first special forces brigade was already ready. If it was necessary to involve special operations forces (we have them), we were ready to bring them,” he added.