Lukashenko Says Russia Meddling

The St. Petersburg Times

Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko accused Russian authorities of putting pressure on him ahead of a bid to seek re-election and blamed them for his failure to recognize Georgia's separatist regions as independent states, Reuters reported.

Lukashenko, long at odds with the West but lately quarreling with Moscow, also said he wanted better ties with the United States.

The United States and European Union have criticized Belarus for not holding free or fair elections since Lukashenko came to power in 1994. The veteran leader, last re-elected in 2006, plans to seek another term within the next six months.

Lukashenko accused Russia of putting pressure on him ahead of the election, a date for which has yet to be set.

"America keeps its position, but Russia has sharply changed its stance, trying to bring the president of Belarus to heel before well-known political events," Lukashenko said Friday during a visit to Belarus' central Minsk region.

"But you have known me for ages - it is impossible to bend me, and trying to do so is useless," he said, state media reported.

Lukashenko blamed Moscow for failing to provide incentives to Belarus that would offset any negative consequences of recognizing the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, two pro-Russian separatist regions in Georgia that Russia recognized after a five-day war with Georgia in August 2008.

The Kremlin fired back Saturday, threatening to publish the transcript of a meeting of the Moscow-led Collective Security Treaty Organization where Lukashenko expressed a willingness to recognize the independence of the rebel regions.

"We can publish this and other statements by Alexander Lukashenko that would be of interest to public opinion in both Belarus and internationally," said the Kremlin's top foreign policy aide, Sergei Prikhodko, RIA-Novosti reported.


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