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21 May 2023, 22:06

Air defense on high alert, crazy Kiev, hello from comandante, Russian horse in President's Week

The work schedule of the Belarus president is always full of events. Aleksandr Lukashenko holds conferences and working meetings on the most topical matters concerning the country's development, regularly visits the regions, goes on foreign trips and welcomes foreign guests, talks to reporters, signs decrees and laws. And even if there are no public events, it does not mean that the head of state does not work. It must be said that even when he relaxes, for instance, by playing ice hockey or chopping firewood, Aleksandr Lukashenko happens to find the time to give yet another instruction. All the decisions must be prompted by life, he likes to say.

The President's Week project is intended for those, who want to keep up with the head of state, be up-to-date on the latest statements and decisions of the Belarusian leader.

Why did Aleksandr Lukashenko go to the central command post of the Air Force and Air Defense Command? What factors contribute to the president's concerns? What accomplishments can the Belarusian defense industry be proud of? What interest does Vladimir Oblast have in Belarus? How does the advancement of cooperation with Russia exceed expectations? A meeting with heads of parliaments of the Collective Security Treaty Organization member states, dangerous actions of NATO, inaction of international organizations, the need for a new world order, relations with Nicaragua and many other things in the new episode of BelTA's special project President's Week.

GUARDING THE SKIES. Why did the Belarusian air defense system go into a higher alert mode?

In Belarus the president is also the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces. Aleksandr Lukashenko served in the army in the past, in the border service and pays close attention to the development and ensuring the combat readiness of the Armed Forces. The current worrisome situation around the country requires it particularly badly. And then there is the well-known dictum “If you want peace, prepare for war”.

The safety of borders not only on the ground but also in the air. The Air Force and Air Defense Command is responsible for it. In the evening on 15 May the head of state went to the central command post of the Air Force and Air Defense Command where he received a report about the organization and fulfillment of air defense alert tasks.

Aleksandr Lukashenko said: “No need for lengthy reports. Let's look at what is happening around our country, primarily in the air. We very often discuss matters of security of our state, particularly in air space. As I can see, we don't have a critical situation now. Nevertheless, there are factors that raise concerns.”

As of that moment the troops had been on heightened alert for several days already. The president was informed that the troops had been raised to the highest readiness state after incidents in Russia's territory on Saturday, 13 May.

Aleksandr Lukashenko went on saying: “Three days after events next to us. I mean in Bryansk Oblast where four airborne vehicles were shot down. We had to respond to that. We, our troops have been on heightened alert since then. This is why I am interested in the situation around the country. And naturally directions and prospects of development of this situation. Make it brief. Without scaremongering. About what is going on and what we expect in the short term.”

After the report was delivered to the head of state, Commander of the Air Force and Air Defense of the Armed Forces of Belarus Andrei Lukyanovich shared details with reporters. The officer stated that in light of the recent events happening at the western and southern borders, including due to ongoing combat training events of NATO countries led by the USA, the duty forces have been reinforced.

Aleksandr Lukashenko heard out information about the forces and assets being utilized for alert duties and about results. The readiness of air defense alert units is checked every month. The last check was done on 11 May. Results indicated that this kind of the Armed Forces had done its job.

Close attention is also paid to the improvement and purchases of new weapons and military hardware.

KEEP UP THE PACE! What is the foundation of cooperation with Russia's Vladimir Oblast according to Aleksandr Lukashenko?

The president continued regular meetings with heads of regions of Russia with negotiations with Vladimir Oblast Governor Alexander Avdeyev on 16 May. Both countries have recently celebrated Victory Day, this is why the conversation began with this topic. “This is a great accomplishment of our people. I think we deserve another anniversary of this Great Victory and will cherish it religiously,” the president emphasized.

As far as business content is concerned, the Belarusian government has been instructed to provide maximum assistance. “In a word, we are ready to cooperate in everything we are good at and in everything you are interested in,” the head of state noted.

The president recalled that highest-level contacts with Russian President Vladimir Putin are centered around efforts to deepen integration, industrial cooperation and, most importantly, import substitution. “You know, we are doing quite well. Even better than we expected. I think that the heads of regions and enterprises should be primarily interested in this, because they are on the ground, there, with people,” the Belarusian leader said.

Everything that had to be adopted and signed by the heads of state and government has been done by and large, the president stated. “We are well-poised for implementing the ideas in bilateral cooperation that we have discussed,” he noted.

According to the president, in 2022 the bilateral trade reached its highest level since 2017, amounting to almost half a billion U.S. dollars, up by almost 20% over 2021. In January-March 2023 the positive trend remained in place: trade grew by almost a third year-on-year. “We need to maintain momentum whatever it takes,” the head of state set the task. At the same time, he drew attention to the fact that sometimes the rise in trade is followed by a drop. There should not be such sharp fluctuations, the president is convinced.

Belarus is already supplying a broad range of products to the Russian region and is ready to expand cooperation avenues. “This is our kindred region, it is like Belarus. We know that you are not super-rich (just like us), everything is earned by hard work, people are the same. Therefore, we have a good foundation for cooperation. We are always ready for this,” the Belarusian leader stressed.

In turn, the Vladimir Oblast governor confirmed that opportunities and need for manufacturing cooperation are rather high. “We have more than 100 partner countries. Belarus ranks fifth in the list. I believe it is a starting position that should be improved. This means to improve the positions in our commodity turnover, exchange, including cultural and tourist services. We have more than 30 enterprises founded by citizens of Belarus,” he said.

In the evening it was revealed that the governor of the Russian region had presented an original gift to Aleksandr Lukashenko. Vladimir Oblast is well-known for breeding heavy draught horses. Now the president's farm has a colt of this horse variety. It is yet another horse power that will help spin up the flywheel of bilateral cooperation.

A GOOD REASON. What did Aleksandr Lukashenko talk to the Kazakhstan president about over the phone?

Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko had a telephone conversation with Kazakhstan President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev on 17 May. The Belarusian head of state warmly congratulated his Kazakh counterpart on his 70th birthday and wished him strong health and further success in his state activities.

The presidents briefly discussed matters of Belarus-Kazakhstan cooperation and future interaction prospects.

On the occasion of Tokayev's 70th birthday the Belarus president also sent greetings to him. The head of state expressed confidence that the strategic policy chosen by the Kazakhstan president in favor of sweeping economic changes, reformation of the social security system would contribute to further growth of real income of every citizen and to the prosperity of the entire country.

“I highly appreciate our friendly relations and express solid confidence in the continuation of fruitful contacts between Minsk and Astana on the basis of principles of mutually beneficial partnership and trust,” Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed.

TO GOOD EFFECT. What accomplishments can the Belarusian defense industry be proud of?

The 11th edition of the international arms and defense technology expo MILEX 2023 has taken place in Belarus this week. The president sent greetings to its participants and guests.

“This time the international arms salon is held in the year when the State Authority for Military Industry turns 20. The Belarusian section will showcase the most advanced samples of the domestic defense sector products made with the use of high technologies and artificial intelligence, and also innovative civilian products that have been manufactured due to the diversification of some industries,” the message of greetings said.

The president expressed confidence that MILEX 2023 will contribute to the further exchange of experience, open and trusting partnership dialogue, and international defense cooperation aimed at maintaining peace and stability in all regions of the planet.

The expo's thematic areas feature the entire range of technologies designed to take care of state defense and security. In addition to displaying defense and security products the forum traditionally serves as a venue for stepping up Belarus' military cooperation with other countries. For instance, unmanned aerial vehicles are widely represented at the expo this year. Most of the exhibits on display were made by Belarusian companies.

For a long time many world experts have been of the opinion that tanks should no longer be used on a battlefield. However, conflicts of the last few years demonstrated that the experts are mistaken. The T-72 tank attracted crowds of MILEX visitors. The main battle tank was initially designed by the Soviet Union. It has been upgraded and polished by Belarusian military and scientists taking into account modern trends. A T-72BM2 modification was on display at MILEX 2023.

Other interesting new products made by the Belarusian defense industry in the last few years are the multiple-launch rocket systems (MLRS) Polonez and Fleita. The former boasts capabilities on par with foreign analogs. A Polonez MLRS can fire eight missiles simultaneously at a target 50-300km away depending on the MLRS modification. The capability makes the MLRS as potent as cutting-edge weapon systems. Fleita is a lighter MLRS. It is based on the Asilak truck.

Belarusian developers presented an upgraded version of the Soviet self-propelled antiaircraft system ZSU-23-4 Shilka at MILEX 2023. The vehicle is designed to destroy low-altitude aerial targets, including drones.

Various armies embrace more and more robotized solutions. The robotized platform Berserk is on display at MILEX 2023. The self-propelled platform is fitted with a coaxial aircraft machine gun GShG-7.62 and can be used against enemy personnel or low-attitude drones. The robot is controlled remotely up to 5km away in open areas and up to 1km away in an urban environment. The distance of aimed fire is up to 1km. The robot can recognize a human silhouette up to 2km away. An armored vehicle or a helicopter can be recognized up to 6km and 10km away.

These are but a few of the tens of Belarusian defense products, which were put on display during the expo. Despite the military nature of the exhibits Belarus' defense industry is intent on peace and creation, Chairman of the State Authority for Military Industry of Belarus Dmitry Pantus stressed during MILEX 2023's opening ceremony. “All of us understand that these two fundamental factors of favorable development are possible only in a strong state with sufficient economic and military might. The accomplishments secured by specialists of the Belarusian defense industry over the years of independence of our state rest on a solid foundation of history and traditions of weapon making,” he stressed.

Over 30 countries took part in the forum. Official delegations held multiple negotiations. Contracts worth hundreds of millions of U.S. dollars were signed.

STRENGTH THROUGH UNITY. What Western tricks does Aleksandr Lukashenko want allies not to fall for?

A number of bold statements were made as the Belarus president met with participants of a session of the Council of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Collective Security Treaty Organization on 18 May. “It is a rare occasion to be able to meet with my former colleagues - MPs. You know, I worked in parliament for a long time myself. I know what kind of work it is. You are true leaders from the people of your countries, so I am really pleased to meet with representatives of our nations today,” the president greeted the attendees.

Aleksandr Lukashenko spoke first and foremost about tasks of the parliamentary dimension of the Collective Security Treaty Organization. The first task is the alignment and harmonization of national legislations. Performing the observation function during election campaigns in Collective Security Treaty Organization countries is another task that is of current interest. “Given the degree of negative reviews of the conditions of preparation and execution by biased political institutions, the impartial assessments of our assembly play the role of a positive balance,” he noted.

One of the key messages sent by the Belarus president to allies (the country now presides over the CSTO on top of everything else) is to try to stay united.

“I am sure that the motto of the Belarusian chairmanship ‘Through solidarity and cooperation towards peace and security' chimes in with aspirations of all members of the CSTO. In this regard, the question of the unity in the organization cannot be ignored. During its chairmanship Belarus aims to take the necessary steps to boost solidarity of the CSTO states. We need to remove existing disagreements if we want to strengthen the organization, ensure security and stability in its area of responsibility,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

The president noted that he often discusses this problem with the president of Russia: “We don't want the sanctions imposed against us to be extended to your countries because of your cooperation with us. We absolutely don't need this. It will only make things worse. But I want to say that we very much hope that these attempts to tear us apart will not affect our unity. Economy is the cornerstone. So is the market.”

The head of state noted that a number of former USSR nations are facing various problems and challenges. “Yet, we somehow got together, discussed problems. And sometimes we took serious action in order to ease tensions in one or another part of the post-Soviet space. This is worth a lot. They are trying to take us apart. I want to ask you not to fall for these tricks! You should take care of your own interests, the interests of your peoples,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

“Do not allow (first of all, you, parliamentarians) any rupture at this crucial moment in our history. Global superpowers are trying to redivide the world, and their eyes are on us. We should hold on to each other. This is our policy. We invite you to follow suit. I think there is no other way to preserve the sovereignty and independence of our states,” the Belarusian leader is sure.

BLOATED ALLIANCE. Why do NATO's actions pose the threat of a global conflict?

The head of state stated that the negative trends, which have been repeatedly talked about over the past year, are becoming a foreign political reality. NATO has been building up its military presence and offensive potential near the western borders of the Collective Security Treaty Organization. The alliance has been conducting large-scale exercises and modernizing the military infrastructure at an accelerated pace, including in neighboring countries. “Some states have turned into a testing ground for the destruction of old Western hardware and testing new weapons,” the president said.

“After Finland's recent entry into the alliance and Sweden's impending accession, we have once again witnessed the expansion of the North Atlantic bloc. These actions have put the world on the very dangerous brink of a global conflict,” Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed.

He noted that the West justified its actions by Russia's “intervention, aggression” in Ukraine. However, the Belarusian president considers this explanation untenable: “What does the special military operation have to do with or what does Finland's accession to NATO have to do with the special military operation? Absolutely none. They had been waiting for this moment. They decided that this moment had come.”

“I think that this will not cause much harm to either Russia or Belarus. No matter what decisions politicians make, for example, in Finland, the people there are not stupid and know what a war is,” the Belarusian leader said.

The president stated: “Despite the rapid decline in living standards and deteriorating economic prospects in European countries, the West is escalating international tensions and openly admits with the voices of some politicians that it is preparing for war.”

Ukraine remains the central arena of the confrontation, the battlefield on the European continent. In the wake of the military clash there all the most important spheres of interstate relations - political, economic and humanitarian ones - have been violated.

LAPDOGS. What did Aleksandr Lukashenko criticize the UN and the OSCE for?

“Through the efforts of our Western opponents, the UN and the OSCE are turning into institutions of pressure and confrontation, they are becoming minions of Western states. We consider such actions short-sighted and irresponsible,” the president said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko accused the OSCE of inaction: “If the OSCE is indeed the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, if such a conflict is raging in Europe, well, it is time to get together at the highest level, to look at each other and to make some decisions. Or at least talk if we are unable to arrive at any decision.”

“Many times we and Russians have suggested meeting and discussing problems. It was even before the launch of the special military operation. Zero effect. They do not need any discussion. They need one thing - war. And they are doing everything to push us into this war in order to unleash this little war,” the Belarusian leader emphasized.

Nevertheless, Aleksandr Lukashenko emphasized that Belarus remains committed and open to dialogue aimed at strengthening global and regional security. Belarus persistently calls for an end to confrontation and a return to a peaceful solution. “I emphasize: the dialogue should be mutually respectful and equal,” the president said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko mentioned the need to concentrate efforts on forming a new system of international relations based on universally recognized norms and principles of international law instead of some “rules” that the West is trying to force on us. “They keep accusing us that the elections were not based on some OSCE principles. Where are these principles? Who approved these principles? Where are they? There are only ‘rules' that they set up and change depending on a state and an event,” he added.

Belarus intends to continue promoting the principles of a just and multipolar world, to help develop reliable guarantees to ensure both collective security and stability, and the security of each member of the international community.

MISSED CHANCE. Who sabotaged peaceful resolution in Ukraine?

Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko said Russia had been ready to sign an agreement to resolve the conflict in Ukraine. “The Russian MPs were directly involved in this process from the very first day. We suggested negotiations. Well, you've messed up each other's face. Let's talk and stop the war. We hosted three rounds of talks. Then Zelenskyy decided he wanted more air or something and moved the talks to Türkiye. No problem, let's do it in Türkiye. They put a draft agreement on the table. If Russia were to read it now, it would go crazy. It was absolutely disadvantageous for Russia. But Russia was willing to sign it then,” the president said.

“I have this draft on my desk. As soon as Russia agreed to peace initiatives, the agreement, the draft was thrown away. Not all the people may know it. But the experts who were involved in it do,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

“Instead of accusing us of confrontation, the expansion of this conflict, they'd better return to the negotiating table and start working on a new document, not the previous one [that was discussed during several rounds of Russian-Ukrainian negotiations at the initial stage]. The war must be stopped,” the Belarusian leader added.

CRAZY “COUNTEROFFENSIVE”. Why does Aleksandr Lukashenko believe statements about the Ukrainian army's plans are a disinformation campaign?

Aleksandr Lukashenko said: “Many people are now talking about a counteroffensive! But Russians are very afraid of disinformation. It is right. Disinformation is very dangerous in any battle. Recall the Battle of Kursk near Stalingrad where we carried out a successful disinformation campaign and defeated the enemy in that battle.”

“I see this ‘counteroffensive' as the biggest disinformation hoax. From my point of view, no ‘counteroffensive' is going to happen. It's just crazy. Launching the counteroffensive with one to five on the front in terms of hardware and manpower is just madness! But they persist with riling up Ukrainians in order to continue this confrontation and bog us down in it. These are how things are on the front today. We see it. It's right over the fence,” the president said.

“This is why don't think that we are trying to raise tensions and don't want peace talks, don't want to come to an agreement on peace,” he remarked.

The head of state noted that the bigger picture is seen from a distance. “As I always say, we are yet to make assessments. And then we will see who is right and who is wrong. And particularly now,” he said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed the need for a mutually respectful and equal dialogue. “All sorts of preconditions that Ukraine, the Ukrainian president are putting forward today are meant to prevent any negotiations. This is absolutely clear. It is not right to set forward any preconditions. Just sit down at the negotiating table and work out all sorts of conditions there,” the president concluded.

IMMENSE AREA. What relations does Belarus want to build with Nicaragua?

On Friday, 19 May Aleksandr Lukashenko welcomed Nicaraguan Minister of Foreign Affairs Denis Moncada Colindres in the Palace of Independence. The minister was in Belarus on a working visit.

Aleksandr Lukashenko referred to Nicaragua as a remote country that is yet very close to Belarus. The leaders of the countries also share the general understanding of the world situation and have simply good interpersonal relations.

“Big greetings from Comandante Daniel Ortega, brotherly greetings and best wishes,” the minister said at the beginning of the meeting. He also conveyed greetings and warmest wishes from Nicaragua's Vice President Rosario Murillo.

Giving a general evaluation of the bilateral relations, Aleksandr Lukashenko said: “We have a great deal of work ahead. We have a lot to do to advance our relations to the highest level.”

Aleksandr Lukashenko emphasized that Belarus has already achieved such level of cooperation with some Latin American countries: “Take, for example, Cuba, Venezuela, other Latin American states with which we have very close political, trade and economic relations. I think we need to follow the same path in our relations with Nicaragua.”

“We have everything in place today to build good, close relations. And even the legendary leader of Nicaragua, whom we all love and respect in Belarus. I will ask you to convey best regards from the Belarusian people and me personally to Daniel Ortega. We admire his political activities,” the president said.

He assured that Belarus has everything that Nicaragua needs, and even in abundance. “While building our contacts, we need to create a legal framework for bilateral cooperation in the economy. This is a matter of time. I think if we get down to this now, we will be able to develop this legal framework and build deep economic contacts within a year. We are ready for this,” the Belarusian leader noted.

Aleksandr Lukashenko suggested that Denis Moncada Colindres analyze how Nicaragua can benefit from cooperation with Belarus and outline areas of cooperation. “We are absolutely open for you, no topics are off limits. We will take your proposals on board,” the president said.

According to Denis Moncada Colindres, the meeting with the president of Belarus was fruitful. The parties reaffirmed their commitment to mutual support and solidarity, discussed promising cooperation projects with the possibility of signing concrete contracts on supplying equipment, vehicles, and machines as well as other matters.

“We have discussed the financial aspect of the projects that we plan to implement. First of all, this pertains to technology in agriculture, the supply of equipment for infrastructure projects, cooperation in education, bilateral trade. These are our key points of interest where we would like to align our positions. At the moment, we are discussing the specifics of joint projects that we intend to implement. Our primary goal is to create the necessary conditions, an adequate legal framework to implement these projects and explore other promising avenues of cooperation,” the Nicaraguan foreign minister said.

In the future Belarus may use its competences and technologies to participate in a major international project – the construction of the Nicaraguan Canal, which will connect the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean to offer a lengthier, broader, and deeper alternative to the Panama Canal, which was opened in 1920. The Nicaraguan foreign minister said: “During our conversation [with Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko] we talked about cooperation in the development of infrastructure projects among other things. I would like to note that the Nicaraguan Canal and Development Project is running. It has not been put on hold. Therefore, of course, Belarus could also take part in the realization of the agreements concerning the realization of infrastructure projects.”

After the meeting with the president the Nicaraguan minister of foreign affairs met with his Belarusian counterpart. Documents of importance for advancing the relations were signed, including an agreement on providing export loans and an agreement on cooperation in the sphere of education.

A BRIGHT PEARL. What did Aleksandr Lukashenko wish to the Bolshoi Opera and Ballet Theater?

The National Academic Bolshoi Opera and Ballet Theater is celebrating the 90th anniversary since its foundation. It is one of the most famous artistic collectives of Belarus, this is why the head of state could not leave this significant date without attention.

The Bolshoi Theater is a bright pearl of national and world classical culture, said Aleksandr Lukashenko in his congratulatory message to the collective. “Your legendary stage is a living embodiment of the immensely talented Belarusian people, their keen sense of beauty and sincere musical soul. Numerous opera and ballet stars were born here and made their first steps, famous choreographers and directors created their excellent performances, international celebrities were honored to perform,” said the head of state.

This professional level, which has been raised to high standards by several generations, is preserved with dignity by the modern theater company, the president said. “I am convinced that you will continue to work selflessly for the sake of enrichment of our cultural heritage and prosperity of our dear Motherland,” the Belarusian leader said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko wished the personnel of the theater creative inspiration, big premiers, sold-out performances in their native country and abroad, good health and wellbeing.

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