BREAKING NEWS

BREAKING NEWS

Lukashenko: "Russia is casting covetous eyes on our public sector"

Now Reading:

Lukashenko: "Russia is casting covetous eyes on our public sector"

Text size Aa Aa

The gas war being fought out between Belarus and Russia has led to supplies being reduced to several European nations. At least it’s the summer, so no-one’s about to die of cold, and the dispute appeared to have been resolved. Belarus will pay its gas debts to Moscow, which will pay Minsk overdue transit fees.

Belarus President Alexandre Loukachenko has given an exclusive interview to Euronews, in which he claims Russia has used the gas issue as a way of exerting political pressure on his country.

Alexandre Loukachenko:
“You can see we paid our debt here, in dollars and roubles, on June the 23rd. Yes, we paid yesterday, and said please to Gazprom, please lift your supply restrictions. Lithuania and it seems someone else, Germany, were annoyed their gas had been cut off. They shouldn’t be complaining to us, but to Gazprom. They closed the valves by 60 percent, leaving us only with 40 percent. Where is out guilt in this?”

euronews:
“Several recent events, Belarus not recognising the independence of Abkazia and South Ossetia, refusing to join the customs union, giving exile to the former Kyrgyz president; have all been against Russia’s will. Is this gas war all about politics?”

Alexandre Loukachenko:
“The question goes deeper. Russia is casting covetous eyes on our public sector, which is not privatised in Belarus, and they want to buy it on the cheap, plus they don’t like Loukachenko because he fiercely defends Belarus’s independence. 100 percent. There are other personal reasons, you know what I’m talking about, many other things. Russia doesn’t like our policies, and wants us to toe the line. It’s a fundamentally imperialist position, as journalists have said, intended to keep Belarus in Russia’s sphere of influence. It’s an imperial mentality that is all about pressure, bending someone to your will, strangling dissent.”

euronews:
“So you think gas has been used as an instrument of political pressure in this conflict?”

Alexandre Loukachenko:
“That was just opportune. They say it’s a disagreement between economic entities, but what sort of argument? After I met Medvedev we agreed to study everything, including gas and oil , and he’d phone me back to discuss the results. Two days later I can see the script, just a few scenes, Medvedev sitting down with Gazprom’s boss and issuing instructions…but it was all staged. Then there’s the five day ultimatum to pay up. Why five days when you owe us more than we owe you? Why don’t you pay us? In other words, there was no need for this conflict, absolutely none. They owe us 260 million, as we’ve already stated, and we owe them 187 million. So there was no reason for this conflict.”

euronews:
“So it was just political pressure?”

Alexandre Loukachenko:
“It’s all about getting us to toe the line, to punish us. I’ve already seen on television and in the media that Belarus’s presidential campaign is beginning. It’s all very clear. Pressure is building ahead of the vote. Our opposition, and the Russians believe that to hang onto power and ensure the support of the Kremlin Mr. Loukachenko is ready to flog off Belarus at a bargain price. I’d like to underline one more time that I don’t need any support or recognition today that isn’t from the Belarus people. If they choose John, Smith or Brown he will be president here.”

euronews:
“What does Russia gain from this conflict?”

Alexandre Loukachenko:
“They’ve managed to persuade Europe once more that they have to more actively look for an alternative energy provider, and that they can’t count on Russia. But the Russians know what to expect!”

euronews:
“So tell me Mr President, if it is harder and harder for you to get compromises with Russia on such a range of issues, why don’t you turn full circle and take the road towards European integration?”

Alexandre Loukachenko:
“You know Alexei, first of all most politicians don’t like U turns, and huge policy swings even less. That’s the first thing. Secondly, let’s stay objective. Is Europe waiting on us? Today in the EU of 27 members there are so many problems that there’s no interest in Belarus or Ukraine or anyone else joining. I don’t want to say that Belarus doesn’t like Europe, or we don’t understand it, or want to live like Europeans, no, it’s not that. But our people want to live in their country, we’re not going to swing round 180 degrees, we’re going to stay on our own land living without problems with anyone, especially our neighbours, russia on one side and the EU on the other. We have never looked to cause problems, unless someone forces us. We are going to stay where we are, a sovereign and independent state, without creating problems for anyone.”