In his state of the nation speech Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko has blamed “democratic excesses” for the recent bombing of a Minsk metro station that killed 12 people and injured 200.
He said: “There has been so much democracy it has almost made us sick.”
Lukashenko, who has ruled Belarus since 1994, blamed the former Soviet republic’s problems – including the country’s currency losing a third of its value – on unnamed “fifth column” forces and on failed attempts to adopt Western-style liberal practices.
“We will destroy any fifth or 25th column and this does not make us a dictatorship,” he declared.
Referring to Western sanctions against him over a police crackdown on political opposition after the disputed election he won last December, Lukashenko declared: “Belarus is experiencing massive pressure. There was panic on the currency and consumer markets caused by the opposition and foreign analysts.”
Referring to the bombing he said: “Then we had speculation about the latest events in the Oktyabrskaya metro station. These are all links in the same chain,” he said.
The Belarussian rouble lost more than a third of its value against the dollar on Wednesday after the central bank introduced a free floating exchange rate for inter-bank trade to alleviate pressure caused by a shortage of dollars.