Belarusian President Rejects Russia's 'Imperial' Approach And European Calls For Democratization

President Alyaksandr Lukashenka said in an interview with Reuters on February 6 that the recent gas-and-oil price hikes by Russia were "barbaric actions" taken toward Belarusians who, he added, are "practically one and the same people" as Russians. Lukashenka asserted that the idea of a union state with Russia is still on his agenda, but stressed that Belarus will never become a part of Russia. "There are increasing imperial tones to Russian policy," the Belarusian leader said. "And I believe that this aspect of the policy of the Russian leadership is dangerous not just for Belarus.... And the reason behind that is the huge funds coming into Russia from sales of oil, gas, and other natural resources. But it won't always be like that. Our time will come." JM

President Lukashenka in the same interview with Reuters rejected the possibility of democratizing public life in Belarus. "All the demands on Belarus on human rights and democratization, made at the instigation of the Americans, were tantamount to saying that we should dismantle our political system. And it is also understood throughout that the current president is illegitimate and should step down," Lukashenka noted. He stressed that he wants "to sort out" relations with the West, but simultaneously noted that doing so is impossible because of the travel ban on Belarusian officials imposed by the EU and the United States. According to Lukashenka, the opposition to his rule in Belarus is a group of "renegades" and mercenaries paid by the West. He also suggested that, his health permitting, he will remain in politics beyond his third presidential term that ends in 2011, when he will be 56. JM