Belarus's presidential election was marred by opposition protests and numerous arrests. President Alexander Lukashenko spoke with euronews' Alexei Doval.
euronews: Mr Lukashenko, can you give us an update on the condition of one of your rival candidates, Vladimir Neklyayev, who was severely beaten. Where is he now? The pictures of his injuries have been seen worldwide. Do you want Belarus to be judged by these pictures or do you plan to change something?
Lukashenko: I don't live in a Belarus of virtual images. That's the first thing. Secondly, the elections were not marred in the way you say. All that happened after the elections. As for Mr Neklyayev, we have a very good health system, just as good as what you have in France. They take charge of all health problems, including those suffered by former presidential candidates. I'm not a doctor so I can't comment on those kind of questions. Now if you're talking of about these clashes that they organised and where they recruited hot-headed teenagers. I guess you saw these pictures too, not just the ones of the candidate with the black-eye. I imagine you also read the comments by his campaign manager, who did not blame the police for what happened. That's their business to sort between themselves. It's not our problem.
euronews: Hundreds of people have been detained, several of them beaten. Seven presidential candidates have been arrested. Isn't this disproportionate. Why such a heavy-handed reaction? Are you scared of the opposition?
Lukashenko: I'm not afraid of these European constructs. I have been re-elected as the president of Belarus. I have to serve my people and secure peace and security for this country.
Everything that happened yesterday was recorded by the press - including foreign journalists and including euronews. If you were honest, you would show what happened. These were riots. The organisers and participants should explain themselves. They will do so but not to me - I don't need to hear it, I'm not bloodthirsty - they will answer before the people of Belarus in accordance with our laws.
That's what happened in France recently. You see the difference between us and France is that we didn't use tear gas against them. We didn't use water cannons because it was so cold outside. So we are still a long way from your version of democracy.
euronews: What's your account of what happened. Did these people break the law?
Lukashenko: Not only did they break the law, they also gathered in Minsk's central square and blocked traffic. They marched towards government headquarters and vandalised them. They smashed windows. Ask for these pictures, ask your journalists to film these things. That's the issue here. Of course, the police were obliged to take the necessary measures to restore order. They detained the rioters and the organisers. But it's not eight or nine candidates being investigated, I'd say it's between two and three. If euronews was an honest channel, you would show what happened in Belarus, what these people did.
euronews: International observers say the heavy-handed breakup of the protests and the questions which cloud the vote count are the reasons why they have not recognised the elections as free and democratic. Does that annoy you?
Lukashenko: That's not correct. Everything the observers wrote in their report pointed to a considerable step forward compared to the 2006 election. It's a massive step and this can form the basis to build our relations with Europe. There are those who want to interpret the situation in Belarus in an impartial way. So I'm not annoyed as you suggested. That's the first point. Second, the elections were organised for our country, not for the OSCE mission. We invited all those who wanted to attend. If they've seen or heard something. whatever that might be, that means there is something to see and to listen to.
It's why I am not interested in all this. I believe that all our problems with France and the EU will be resolved shortly. All I ask is that you be more objective. Euronews journalists should not work in a non-objective manner. Up till now, you have not been neutral in your coverage of what has been happening in Belarus.
euronews: Has the Russian president congratulated you on your victory?
Lukashenko: I spent half of the day at the press conference but since I left, I managed to check my mail. I had messages from President Nazarbaev and Hugo Chavez from Venezuela. Other heads of state have sent me messages of congratulations but I will need to check again after this interview.
euronews: Many thanks, Mr President, for giving us your take on the elections here on euronews.