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15 April 2024, 01:00

Belarus hero, production strategy, peace plan for Ukraine, space in Kremlin 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.

The president’s last week was full of not only large-scale and significant events but unexpected ones at times.

Information Minister Vladimir Pertsov came to the Palace of Independence on Monday morning. What initially looked like the information minister’s report to the head of state became Vladimir Pertsov’s appointment as a deputy head of the Belarus President Administration. Aleksandr Lukashenko himself described it as a radical step but he is confident that Vladimir Pertsov can perform his duties relating to ideological work and mass media in his new capacity.

On Monday the president hosted a long-awaited government conference to discuss the problems that had accumulated in the manufacturing sector. Although the overall results can be described as rather good, the president was quite critical and encouraged to look into the distant future. He wants discipline and quality on par with Japan’s.

Aleksandr Lukashenko had a number of events in Minsk and Moscow on Thursday and Friday. He met with the Uzbek minister of foreign affairs in the Palace of Independence to discuss prospects of advancing cooperation. Probably the brightest event of the week took place after that: the president awarded a Hero of Belarus Medal to the cosmonaut Marina Vasilevskaya in a solemn ceremony.

After that the head of state flew to Moscow for two days. He negotiated with the Russian leader Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin in the evening and then met with members of the Security Council of the Russian Federation. Negotiations of the heads of state continued on Friday, too. But on the occasion of Cosmonautics Day the leaders also met with the cosmonauts Oleg Novitsky and Marina Vasilevskaya (she had arrived in Moscow on board the president’s plane after the award ceremony in Minsk).

A joint phone call to a family of reindeer herders, who live in Yamal, answers to multiple questions asked by reporters, and many other things that were left behind the scenes.

After such a busy week on Saturday, 13 April the head of state went to play an ice hockey game as part of the final series of the Republican Ice Hockey League in Minsk-based Olympic Arena. The president’s team played against the capable Minsk Oblast team and was initially lagging behind in the number of scores. The spectators witnessed a true thriller as ice went flying from under the skates, players crashed into each other, and emotions ran wild. Instead of simply playing both teams fought a fierce battle till the very last second. The resulting score 10:8 proves it. A great ending of the season and the 15th victory of the president’s team during this tournament.

Key details of the president’s schedule are covered by BelTA’s special project President’s Week.

RADICAL STEP. What personnel appointment did Lukashenko start the week with?

On Monday, 8 April Aleksandr Lukashenko appointed the now former minister of information Vladimir Pertsov Deputy Head of the Belarus President Administration. He replaced Igor Lutsky, who had been elected Chairman of the Education, Science, Culture, and Social Development Commission of the Council of the Republic of the National Assembly of Belarus the other day.
The new deputy head of the Belarus President Administration will focus on ideological work, which is coming to the forefront today, as the Belarusian leader emphasized it. “We need to put everything in order in mass media, in ideological work and the whole work should be coordinated by the deputy head of the Presidential Administration. Maybe, there will be some kind of commission under his leadership to provide consultations and to respond in a timely manner,” the head of state said.

By the way, the president has previously repeatedly said that a good ideologist is a unique product. Getting one’s message across to people, reaching into their hearts to explain topics of importance for the state and the society is a skill. The Belarusian leader is convinced that Vladimir Pertsov has the necessary skill for such work.

“I think that this radical step to transfer you from the ministerial position to the post where you will be in charge of the country’s mass media and ideological work is a necessary and useful step,” noted Aleksandr Lukashenko. “There will be a lot of work. You need to be a self-starter. Do not think that someone else - the Administration head or some other officials - will do this work for you. No, this is exclusively your area of responsibility. And the Administration head and other people, including me, will help you. It is necessary to come up with an efficient working model. I hope you will be able to do it.”

Aleksandr Lukashenko drew Vladimir Pertsov’s attention to the topically of wise propaganda and counter-propaganda. The situation around Belarus is far from simple and a genuine information war is in progress, with mass media playing the central role in it. “We are doing our best to keep the country out of the hot war. We have been successful so far. I think that we will be able to solve this problem,” the head of state said.

The self-exiled opposition also pours oil on the fire by “running around various decision-making centers and advisers from the United States and Brussels begging for money.” According to Aleksandr Lukashenko, their curators are ready to finance not only mass media but extremism, terrorism, and a potential armed confrontation in Belarus.

The president stated that many of the self-exiled opposition members pocket part of the Western money. The facts are covered by mass media of the opposition but there are also those, who would love to fight for real, seize power, and profit from it. “I warned our defense, security, and law enforcement agencies of this scenario. This is what is happening,” Aleksandr Lukashenko noted.

The president gave a specific example: “Those poor guys were sent to Ukraine and titled as the Kalinovsky Regiment. There are more than a hundred men in it. We also know how they fight. I do not quite understand the Ukrainians in this situation. Why do they need to aggravate relations with Belarus? Having a third party always comes in handy in a situation when two states, or one nation in fact, have been pitted against each other. In this case it looks like both Russia and Ukraine will need a peace-loving, calm Belarus.”

Information fight with opponents should be based solely on truthful facts, Aleksandr Lukashenko said. “The truth is the foundation of everything,” the Belarusian leader stressed. “Any psychological operations are worth nothing if they are not based on the truth. We don’t need to think up anything.”

The head of state came up with another terrible but illustrative example: “Look at how many bodies are lying on the border today. The snow melted and revealed a horrible scene. I get reports every morning. More migrants are getting kicked out. Here is a psychological operation. You just need to film and show to people all those scoundrels who kill people, migrants and dump their bodies in our territory. And I could give you many examples like that.”

WHY SO SLOW? How does the president want the manufacturing sector to work harder?

Aleksandr Lukashenko convened a major government conference in the Palace of Independence on 9 April to discuss the state and tasks concerning the development of the manufacturing sector.

The meeting brought together about 300 participants. Among them were high-ranking officials, members of the central government, heads of the oblast administrations and the Minsk City Executive Committee, heads of industrial organizations, banks, research centers, heads of administrations of free economic zones. This meeting had been on the president’s schedule for a long time. The head of state instructed to expand the format of the event in terms of participants and in terms of the raised issues in order to have a fundamental conversation about the development of one of the most important branches of the country’s economy.

Not only the manufacturing sector gives reasons for holding such massive government conferences. On the whole, a number of conferences took place on the basis of last year’s results starting with one focusing on the defense, security, and law enforcement agencies. After the manufacturing sector the president’s next big conference will focus on agrarians, who are about to become really busy with agricultural work.

There is no doubt that the Belarusian manufacturing sector has a number of significant accomplishments. But Aleksandr Lukashenko convenes such conferences primarily to solve a number of existing problems. This is why it is necessary to correctly interpret the criticizing attitude of the head of state. “These are serious times. They require the strictest discipline and most active efforts on the part of everyone,” the president stressed.

The government conference lasted for about four hours. Members of the central government, heads of regional administrations, and heads of enterprises presented their vision of the situation in the manufacturing sector.

Chairwoman of the National Statistics Committee Inna Medvedeva and Chairman of the Presidium of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus Vladimir Gusakov informed participants about the worst issues impeding the development of mechanical engineering and metalworking enterprises. Chairman of the State Control Committee Vasily Gerasimov explained how the president’s instructions regarding the development of enterprises and raising the quality of manufactured products are being fulfilled.

Agriculture and Food Minister Sergei Bartosh and Chairman of the Minsk Oblast Executive Committee Aleksandr Turchin shared their opinions about the quality of Belarusian machines, vehicles, and equipment. The latter turned to the head of state with a request to expand the options for buying agricultural machines on leasing terms and received Aleksandr Lukashenko’s support.

Director General of OAO Gomselmash Aleksandr Novikov informed participants about the situation at the enterprise.

Industry Minister Aleksandr Rogozhnik and Chairman of the State Authority for Military Industry of Belarus Dmitry Pantus presented reports on ways to solve problems, on prospects of development of their enterprises and the measures being taken to improve the quality of products. Export was an important item on the agenda. Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Belarus to Russia Dmitry Krutoi presented detailed information about peculiarities of working on the Russian market.

Prime Minister of Belarus Roman Golovchenko presented a report on strategic tasks and strategic development projects for the period till 2030.

Manufacturers need to see their perspective

According to the government, on the whole the Industry Ministry has been ensuring steady growth of output figures for the last three years.

The output increased by nearly 40% over the last three years. Some result was achieved last year as well. Industrial output was close to Br30 billion, with the growth rate of nearly 113%. The production of electronics, cars, trucks, and harvesters expanded significantly. But the happy state of affairs cannot be observed everywhere: the output of refrigerators, tractors, loaders, and engines decreased. Individual enterprises are operating below their output capacity or lag behind in terms of the usage of modern technologies.

“They lack all of it. But the saddest thing is that they lack a vision of the future,” the head of state identified the problem.

Call to work harder to sell products

“Making a product is one thing. We know how to do it more or less. The main thing, however, is to be able to sell the product and earn money,” the head of state said.

On the one hand, organizations affiliated with the Industry Ministry reported an increase in export shipments in the last few years. On the other hand, they were forced to withdraw from Western markets. In 2023 the economy branch reported a record-high export volume of $6.5 billion over the past decade. Export increased by almost $500 million or by about 8% in comparison with 2022.

Shipments were redirected to the markets of friendly countries, first of all, to the traditional market of Russia and other CIS countries.

However, the situation is much worse for the far abroad, Aleksandr Lukashenko pointed out. Plans concerning export to friendly faraway countries have not been fulfilled. Despite the fact that there is a huge demand for industrial products in Africa, Latin America, and Asia.

“Our strategic task is to set up joint ventures in anchor countries to assemble Belarusian vehicles and machines. The key goal today is to diversify export,” the president stated.

Although over 90% of the output is shipped to Russia, Belarusian manufacturers sometimes lose their ground over there as well. It is possible to explain why Belarusian goods are inferior in terms of pricing but it is necessary to keep up quality standards. On the whole, the president wants everyone to roll up their sleeves and work on the Russian market because Belarusian goods should dominate many niches on this market.

At the same time it is necessary to prevent competition from conquering the domestic market: “The government will answer for this. Despite the availability of a wide range of domestic vehicles and machines, we still purchase imported analogues. These are not isolated cases," Aleksandr Lukashenko pointed out.

The growing stock in storage is another problem. In 2023 the stock in storage increased by almost a quarter (by Br350 million). The president mentioned the tractor manufacturer MTZ as an example: nearly 6,500 units of equipment or more than two months’ worth of the company’s output are stored in warehouses of the company’s trading houses. “This is what your ‘output’ and your ‘export’ mean,” he noted.

The president’s demands to reduce external overdue accounts receivable have not been fulfilled either.

“What is the overall outcome? First of all, the decline in the qualitative indicators of enterprise development. Profitability is below the level of 2022. The number of loss-making organizations and the sums of losses are growing. We have complicated logistics and the rising cost of imported raw materials. Destruction of manufacturing cooperation ties with Western suppliers has led to the need to find alternative partners or to establish our own production of components, including accelerated development and implementation of new technical solutions. It is generally clear what to do. Why are we so slow? Why don’t we act?” the Belarusian leader wondered.

Call for more import substitution efforts to neutralize sanctions

The head of state noted that Belarusians can make competitive machines and vehicles using domestic materials and components. However, in his words, the renewal of the product range and the upgrade of manufacturing facilities proceed extremely slowly in a number of areas.

“We need to take measures to ensure maximum technological independence and create conditions for the stable operation of the economy regardless of any sanctions. It is a strategic task for our manufacturing sector,” the Belarusian leader stated. “We need to build a reliable shield against any external factors. This is another task for everyone. This is why import substitution is so crucial. These efforts must never stop.”

In his words, this task has an overriding priority. Although there is a lot of talk about it, one has to admit that the manufacturing sector is stepping up these efforts extremely slowly.

Aleksandr Lukashenko also drew attention to the risks inherent in dependence on foreign equipment and software. This is why the development of Belarusian software and its assimilation should become an unconditional top-priority for Belarusian developers.

The bulk of ongoing projects focus on the modernization of industrial giants, a part of the Soviet Union’s legacy that has been well-preserved (MAZ, MTZ, BelAZ). “It is good but we need to create absolutely new, cutting-edge manufacturing facilities that make innovative products,” the president encouraged.

In these conditions the realization of programs of the Union State of Belarus and Russia, of joint import substitution projects meant to create the foundation for technological sovereignty and economic security is becoming particularly important.

“As I’ve said, if we slow down and trail behind, we will be run over. You were given all the necessary tools to finance projects and the authority to make prompt decisions. What else do you need?” the head of state wondered.

“Projects designed to achieve technological sovereignty should drive the renewal of our manufacturing sector, help the entire economy become more efficient and competitive,” Aleksandr Lukashenko emphasized.

The president tasked the government with compiling a long-term order portfolio for high-tech products from Russian partners. This order portfolio should last at least till the end of this decade.

About discipline: You will not be punished for making an honest mistake

Aleksandr Lukashenko believes it is unacceptable when corruption schemes are regularly detected at manufacturing sector enterprises. For instance, criminal cases have been recently opened against executives of the Belarusian manufacturing sector’s flagship OAO BelAZ.

Aleksandr Lukashenko instructed the prosecutor general to pay close attention to the matter.

“Do not tell me about some risks, do not say you do not have enough risks [business risks which managers sometimes have to take in the interests of further development of the enterprise]. We turn a blind eye to that. But it will never work if you pocket money and do it in plain sight of oversight agencies. Do not go around complaining about excessive pressure on someone,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.
“No one will punish you for a mistake. You can always reach out to the president and explain your mistake. But if you steal shamelessly, letting down [significantly worsening the financial situation of] thousands of labor collectives and flagships of our industry, then forgiveness is out of the question,” the head of state stressed.

Time to raise merchandise quality to Japanese standards

Aleksandr Lukashenko described efforts to ensure the quality of products and proper aftersales service as a key matter.

“In the Year of Quality (and beyond) our products must meet the highest quality standards. There is no other way. This is not a whim but a necessity of the harsh life. The future of the country and people depends on it. Our products should have high quality characteristics and parameters,” the Belarusian leader remarked.

Aleksandr Lukashenko noted that today it is very difficult to compete with Chinese manufacturers as their products are cheaper. “This means that our products should win customers by offering exceptional quality and the aftersales service the customer needs,” he noted. “We must achieve the Japanese standard of quality. The task is to gain a foothold on the market and expand our presence. And if our strategy is built around being the lowest bidder, this will affect the quality of our products and the production of our own component parts.”

Personnel of crucial importance

“Everything is important - investment, technology, discipline, product quality. But the most important thing is personnel. Period. A highly qualified specialist will resolve any problem. An incompetent worker will ruin a business. However, today we have to talk not about the quality of personnel training, but about the overall deficit of workforce, especially the shortage of blue-collar workers,” the head of state noted.

The head of state drew attention to the unused reserves and the need to improve financial incentives for the workers.

On the other hand, it is necessary to improve the prestige of blue-collar professions in order to attract young specialists without losing the existing competences.

Aleksandr Lukashenko pointed out it is necessary to improve communication between all the educational levels starting with secondary schools, higher education institutions and enterprises.

Summary of the conference: The current results are insufficient

Summing up results of the conference, Aleksandr Lukashenko gave proper credit to industrialists, thanks to whom the state and the nation do not feel the wild pressure of sanctions. But the accomplished results are not sufficient. “I am grateful to you for what has been done. To everyone, who kept improving things all this time. But the key is that the accomplishments are insufficient. I thank you for what we’ve accomplished. But it is extremely insufficient. Every of us needs to see their targets and tasks,” the head of state stressed.

He pointed out that executive personnel have all the necessary authority. “Act! You wanted the authority. We’ve given it to you and have adopted the new Constitution,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said. “The government is free to discuss these issues and make decisions. If things do not work out, feel free to submit proposals.”
As for export, it is indeed difficult to operate on foreign markets and the competition is strong. This is why the head of state spoke in favor of selling products in smaller batches.

Aleksandr Lukashenko remarked that some believe that the market can regulate everything. However, his presidential experience suggests otherwise. “We were encouraged to embrace this ‘market’ by those, who compete with us. They claimed that the market, freedom, demand, and supply can put things in balance. Never ever in my presidential life has the market regulated anything. We had to interfere all the time,” the head of state pointed out. “I don’t even know how the campaign to regulate prices will end. But if the government does not fail me, it will be a unique operation in the so-called market economy.”

Aleksandr Lukashenko recalled that as soon as the government began to regulate prices, the country was predicted to face deficits and declines. “In a year, a year and a half, or two, we will fix all this, though it’s not easy. The most difficult thing in this so-called market economy is to regulate prices throughout the country, but we will do it in such a way that they will come here to learn from us,” he was convinced.

“I am in favor of resuming the practice of concrete output targets wisely and without rush although we have never essentially phased it out. But some did throw it away. This is why we need concrete tasks,” the head of state demanded.

At the same time the head of an enterprise should not be a whipping boy, Aleksandr Lukashenko pointed out. “They should be rewarded properly as well,” he said.

NOT A STEP BACK. What ambitious plans won’t Belarus and Uzbekistan step back from?

On 11 April Aleksandr Lukashenko met with Minister of Foreign Affairs of Uzbekistan Bakhtiyor Saidov, who was in Minsk on an official visit.
The head of state first thanked Bakhtiyor Saidov for the hospitality he had enjoyed during a recent official visit of the Belarus president to Tashkent and conveyed his best wishes and gratitude to the Uzbek leader Shavkat Mirziyoyev.

“Back then we set ambitious plans: to reach $1 billion in mutual trade. I think we do not have time to retreat, and we do not need to. We are ready to play our role. I hope that Uzbekistan will also make every effort to do it,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

The president also expressed gratitude to Uzbekistan for supporting Belarus on its way to becoming a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

He asked the minister of foreign affairs to pay special attention to the development of joint ventures that the parties had previously agreed on in order to work substantially in this direction.

Aleksandr Lukashenko emphasized that Belarus has always been friendly towards Uzbekistan and the people of this country. “You can rest assured that this will always be the case. I often say that we are very similar in our diligence, patriotism and attitude to our states. This is why let us fulfill the agreements we reached in Tashkent back then,” the president concluded.

In turn, Bakhtiyor Saidov conveyed greetings from the Uzbek head of state to Aleksandr Lukashenko. “He specifically drew my attention and said: ‘Give my best wishes to my friend.’ The visit you made to Uzbekistan is no doubt a historic one,” the minister said.

He assured that Uzbekistan is ready to elevate relations with Belarus to a brand new level across the board.

HERO OF BELARUS. Why is Marina Vasilevskaya’s flight into outer space significant for the country?

The arrival of Marina Vasilevskaya, the first cosmonaut in the history of sovereign Belarus, to Minsk on 11 April was a long-awaited event that is comparable to her space flight and the consequent safe return to Earth. The cosmonaut left the airport and went directly to the Palace of Independence where her family and colleagues were already waiting for her.

One can say with confidence that the president looked forward to meeting with her as much as other people did. For weeks he kept worrying about Marina Vasilevskaya’s flight and even had a sleepless night to watch the undocking and return of the spacecraft live.

During the solemn ceremony organized to honor the Belarusian cosmonauts Aleksandr Lukashenko violated the protocol right away by going to warmly welcome back the cosmonaut instead of making an official speech. “Well, all the hardest things are behind you now!” he told the Belarusian hero.
Opening the ceremony, the head of state noted that one slogan, motto, idea had defined the life in Belarus for two weeks: “Space is ours!”

“We all thought about it, dreamed about it, and so it happened,” the president said. This phrase was said when the country saw off and welcomed back Marina Vasilevskaya, the first cosmonaut in the history of sovereign Belarus.

“Of course, we are proud of our fellow Belarusians, of everyone who, over the years, has made their Motherland proud by developing space technologies and conquering outer space,” Aleksandr Lukashenko emphasized.

People in Belarus are very happy about the successes of their compatriot Oleg Novitsky, who lent a helping hand to Marina Vasilevskaya and did everything he could to help her adapt to difficult conditions and fulfill non-standard tasks, the president noted.

“Her flight marks a new stage in sovereign Belarus’ participation in space programs and a new level of allied, very kind, fraternal relations between Belarus and Russia, between our peoples,” said the head of state. According to him, the state flags unfurled at an altitude of more than 400km above Earth became a symbol of the fraternal ties of the two peoples.

Belarusians watched the flight with bated breath and admired the courage and determination of their compatriot. In fact, the country can be proud of all the young women who signed up for the project: more than 2,000 volunteered for it. All of them are amazing people who want to test their limits and meet expectations of millions of Belarusians. Aleksandr Lukashenko sincerely thanked each of them: “You are smart and beautiful, real patriots of Belarus.”

“Marina, one can say that you were luckier than the others. But you yourself did a great job. You absolutely objectively deserved this flight. It was not easy. The flight was preceded by extensive training, a lot of anxiety and stress,” the president said.

But on the whole, Marina Vasilevskaya’s mission has just begun, Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed: “I know what it means to be the first one. Today you have become part of every Belarusian family, of all the families who watched you and worried together with you, together with your parents. Being catapulted to fame comes with a new responsibility. It is a very heavy burden, which you will have to carry your entire life. I’m sure you can handle it. We won’t let you stay complacent. You will have to work very hard.”

The president sincerely thanked Marina Vasilevskaya’s backup Anastasia Lenkova: “You did well. You aced all the tests like the first cosmonaut. I know it for sure. Of course, I know how you felt (I would feel the same way) when you were one step away from your dream and things turned out a little different. But you carried yourself with dignity. And I promise, your experience will come in handy. We will try our best to make your experience and your dream come true.”

Aleksandr Lukashenko also thanked everyone who provided scientific support for the project, organized it, and prepared the young women for the flight. This includes scientists, doctors, trainers, and professors - everyone who helped them become even more confident. The head of state also thanked parents of the cosmonauts for raising such amazing daughters.

The president stressed that the flight of the Belarusian cosmonaut was no accident because Belarus knows how to make a lot of things for the space industry. It is thanks to Belarusian R&D products and technologies in this sphere that this flight has been possible in tight cooperation with Russia. “Without these advances in the space industry in Belarus, nobody would have talked to us. Nobody would have suggested a flight to the outer space for us,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

The head of state emphasized that the Belarusian cosmonaut had been between two empires at the International Space Station. She had to work alongside Russians and Americans while in orbit. “It is not about enhancing the image. It is the greatest victory of our country. A victory that our nation deserves,” he stated.

On the eve of Cosmonautics Day Aleksandr Lukashenko presented a Hero of Belarus Medal and a cosmonaut certificate to Marina Vasilevskaya. She was granted the high title in recognition of her bravery during the space flight and a significant personal contribution to space exploration.

Other participants of the space program also received government awards and presidential thanks: cosmonauts, organizers of the flight, including representatives of Russia. Belarus’ representatives were awarded during a solemn ceremony held in the Palace of Independence on 11 April.

KREMLIN NEGOTIATIONS. What did Lukashenko and Putin discuss, meet with, and call together?

In the afternoon on 11 April the Belarus president arrived in Moscow on a two-day working visit. Negotiations with President of Russia Vladimir Putin took place in the Kremlin in the evening. The talks lasted for about four hours. The heads of state continued communication the next day, on 12 April, including with cosmonauts: Belarus’ Marina Vasilevskaya and the Russian cosmonaut, Belarus’ native Oleg Novitsky. The meeting was prompted by their recent return from orbit as well as Cosmonautics Day. By the way, Marina Vasilevskaya went from Minsk to Moscow together with Aleksandr Lukashenko on the president’s plane.

It is worth noting that the Belarusian head of state was the first foreign leader Vladimir Putin had met with after recently winning a presidential election in Russia. Although the two leaders regularly communicate during personal meetings and via phone calls, they always have something to discuss at the top level due to the tightly packed bilateral agenda and due to the presence of common challenges and threats.

While one may keep wondering about the content and the length of negotiations of the heads of state, the eagerness of Russian reporters to “catch” Aleksandr Lukashenko somewhere for an interview comes as no surprise. Russian mass media’s interest in the Belarusian leader is traditionally high. Practice indicates that reporters are ready to push their luck by disregarding requests of Kremlin curators not to detain the high guest. Admittedly the Belarus president is always in the mood for talking and thus encourages the freedom of speech and involuntarily incentivizes the lack of restraint among reporters.

Every day upon arriving at the Kremlin and before meeting with the Russian leader Aleksandr Lukashenko answered questions of reporters sincerely and at length. He was asked about negotiations with Vladimir Putin, about the flight of the Belarusian cosmonaut, about economy, the Ukrainian agenda, and the possibility of a peaceful resolution.

The brief meeting with reporters on the first day began with the topic of space exploration. The Russian reporters congratulated the president on the successful flight of the Belarusian cosmonaut. “The space is yours, right?” the head of state was asked.

“Space is ours! Yours and ours! Thanks to you, it has become ours,” the president said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko noted that Belarusians flew into outer space in Soviet times as well. “This is why the fact that our girl flew into space... Well, we are training a few more girls. They say our girls are stronger. Therefore, we are ready to get incorporated into the Russian program and work together with you in space,” he said.

When asked about economic affairs and cooperation with Russia, the president outlined the key thing: “At a fundamental level since we are ‘aggressors’, then, frankly speaking, the conditions for commercial entities and for people should be equal. That’s what we need. Today you, Russians, have probably understood that Belarusians can do a lot. You haven’t seen it before.”

“Now you have seen that we cover the needs in electronics (a lot of it), agriculture, manufacturing sector, and machine tool building (Vladimir Vladimirovich [Putin] spoke about it not so long ago). I mean you have realized that in Belarus we have not only preserved the Soviet heritage of science, industry, and agriculture, but also modernized and improved them properly. Today Russia needs us very much just as we need Russia. Therefore, it is very important that we now equalize the conditions for people and our enterprises. This is the main question,” the president added.

Protocol statements made by Aleksandr Lukashenko and Vladimir Putin for mass media during meetings and negotiations in the Kremlin covered similar topics. The leaders discussed matters concerning the advancement of Belarus-Russia cooperation in various spheres. Their attention was focused on the regional situation and the international one, coordination of efforts to respond to existing challenges and threats. The presidents spoke in detail about matters of security and the situation concerning Ukraine.
On the second day the head of state shared some details of the talks with reporters. It turned out Vladimir Putin had invited him to even meet with members of Russia’s Security Council. “With the defense minister, the FSB director, and the Foreign Intelligence Service [director]. Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov was also present. And I maintain good relations with the heads of the parliament. This is why I could discuss the matters we had to talk about. It is very important in diplomatic relations,” the Belarusian leader said.

Results of cooperation and sanctions

Vladimir Putin remarked that Belarus-Russia economic relations develop successfully. “We posted good economic growth last year and we maintain momentum,” the Russian leader said. “We have made substantial progress in diversification, manufacturing cooperation and mutual complementarity. In general, we have made great strides in every aspect. And we are very happy about it.”

In turn, Aleksandr Lukashenko said that during negotiations with the Russian counterpart in the Kremlin he had discussed some matters of economic nature. “You backed me up on the idea that on 15 April our prime ministers will meet and take a look at the economic issues that need to be addressed. It is very important for us,” he said.

On the whole, Aleksandr Lukashenko described the economic situation against the backdrop of the sanctions-fueled pressure as tolerable: “We’ve overcome this economic pressure fueled by sanctions. Exactly like Russia has. Listen, we need to satisfy this huge Belarusian-Russian market in addition to friendly countries. We have plenty of the market for you and us. This is why we will endure. We have the market and resources. We understand what needs to be done.”

The president also thanked the Russian counterpart for support with shipments via Russian ports.

“Russian ports help us ship products. I mean it doesn’t happen that our goods are left on the shore of the ocean or a sea and we cannot move them,” the Belarusian head of state said. “We work in St. Petersburg, in Murmansk, and in the Far East.”

“In the north,” Vladimir Putin added.

The Belarusian head of state confirmed that indeed prospects of shipping goods via the Northern Sea Route look good.

Continuation of the space program with Russia

Aleksandr Lukashenko also thanked Vladimir Putin for supporting Belarus’ idea to send the first cosmonaut to the International Space Station. “It is clear that without your decision back then, the flight would not have happened,” he said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko remarked that the Russian space agency Roscosmos had declared readiness to work with Belarus to develop a full-fledged space program. “We want to launch a new satellite with a resolution of 25 centimeters together with Russians at some point next year or maybe in two years. It will be a big accomplishment. We are working on it. There is no doubt that we will do it. And we will work together in terms of the cosmonaut training program. We are ready to join your program, what Russian cosmonauts do. There is no need for a separate Belarusian program,” the president stated.

“We will work together,” Vladimir Putin promised. 

“You have made significant progress. We have applicants, including female ones, who are ready to fly. Roscosmos is fine with it. If you support us, then we will send the second girl who was a backup [of Belarus’ first cosmonaut]. She is ready. After all, a lot of money was spent on her training. If there is a desire and your will, then she is ready to continue working and continue her cosmonaut training,” Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed.

These rather brief statements were made on the first day. The heads of state talked about cooperation in space exploration in detail on Cosmonautics Day with heroes of the day.
“It is a routine thing for you but it is big news for us because our first female cosmonaut flew into outer space. The first cosmonaut of independent Belarus. And Oleg is also ours: he was born near Minsk. His mother lives there. We have met recently. This is symbolic. Therefore, I am very grateful to you,” Aleksandr Lukashenko told Vladimir Putin. “I thank you for Marina and thank you for Oleg being the commander of this flight. This is what our unity is about: he was born in Belarus, served in the Soviet Union as a pilot, a test pilot, and became a cosmonaut in Russia.”

“I think that we will see more joint flights of Russians and Belarusians moving forward,” the Belarus president was convinced.

Drive towards a peaceful resolution in Ukraine

Vladimir Putin stated that Aleksandr Lukashenko was certainly up-to-date on all the affairs concerning Ukraine but the Russian leader grabbed the opportunity to inform his Belarusian counterpart in detail.

“On the whole, you know that we’ve never rejected a peaceful resolution of disputes. Moreover, we have been inclined towards it,” the Russian leader noted. “As you know, they are now pushing for organizing some conference in Switzerland. We have not been invited to go there. Moreover, they believe that we have no place at the conference table. At the same time they also say that it is impossible to accomplish anything without us.”

“I’d like to emphasize once again that we are in favor [of a peaceful resolution]. But without forcing some schemes that have nothing to do with reality upon us,” the Russian president stressed.
Vladimir Putin also said he hopes that Belarus would continue assisting with these matters: “If need be, I will take the liberty of contacting you. We may continue consultations with you on the matter.”

Vladimir Putin talked a lot about peace talks during this meeting. While talking to reporters later on, the Belarus president noted that such things are done for a reason in diplomacy: “It seems to me that today is the time, primarily for Ukrainians and the West, to sit down at the negotiating table and finally come to an agreement. The principle is the following and Putin is right about it (he sticks to his previous statements): there are documents [previously agreed on during peace talks in Belarus and Türkiye] that have been initialed by both the Russian and Ukrainian sides. Let’s return to these documents and proceed from them. Or let’s stick to the principles that were laid out by those documents.”

In a protocol statement during the negotiations the Belarusian head of state remarked that the two leaders have always discussed the situation in Ukraine recently, including the possibility of a peaceful resolution of the conflict. “If they want to talk about peace in Ukraine in Switzerland (they call it a peace conference) without us, they are welcome. Our position is that they can only agree on ways to escalate the conflict. Without Russia what kind of peace process can there be? There can be no peace process,” Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed.

On the whole, the Belarus president backed the view of the Russian leadership and expressed confidence that everything is in place for negotiations on peace in Ukraine today: “Today everything is in place for sitting down and coming to an agreement. They don’t want to. It’s clear why they don’t want to. Should people overseas want to talk about peace, their voice will be heard in Ukraine. Therefore, Ukrainians, especially ordinary people, should know that this does not depend on us. To put it bluntly, the ball is in [their] court.”

Aleksandr Lukashenko said that it is also necessary to return to the document the parties had previously worked out during peace talks in Belarus and then in Istanbul. “Take the document that you once showed me and shared with me, put it on the table and work according to it. This is a sensible position. It offers an acceptable position for Ukraine as well. After all, they agreed [to sign it],” the Belarus president said.

“Of course,” Vladimir Putin confirmed.

“This is why in this case I absolutely support the peace process, which Russia has never rejected, including today. If we can play a role in this, you know our capabilities. We will always be there for you and act together with you and at the same frequency,” the Belarusian leader assured. “I think, Vladimir Vladimirovich [Putin], that your initiatives for a peaceful settlement of the conflict will find a response in Ukraine. Strange as it may seem, in the military.”

By the way, Aleksandr Lukashenko dropped a hint for Kiev and Vladimir Zelensky personally by saying it would be a good idea to hurry up with the peace talks because the formal term of office of the current Ukrainian president expires on the night of 21 May. “A situation may arise when Putin himself will ask: ‘Guys, who should we sign the peace treaty with? The Ukrainian president’s term of office has expired’,” the Belarus president noted.
Moreover, Vladimir Zelensky’s successor could easily scrape the agreements made by the illegitimate head of state if, of course, Western masters of the Kiev government will allow a peace treaty to be born at all.

No need for Belarus to join the war

There is no need for Belarus to participate in combat operations in Ukraine’s territory now or ever. Aleksandr Lukashenko made the statement in front of reporters in the Kremlin. It was not the first time the head of state had had to answer similar questions in the last few years. One can only marvel at his patience. But it was probably the time when it was necessary to explain one more time in detail for Russian ultra patriots (as Russian mass media call them) that by encouraging Belarus to join the war, they play into the hands of… NATO.

“There is no such need. And there will be no such need. I once said the day before that Russia needs the peaceful, quiet, calm Belarus that does its job,” the head of state said. “These calls urging Belarus to join the war in Ukraine play into the hands of NATO. They are doing everything to drag us into the war with Ukraine.”

The president explained that in this case the length of the front line will increase by thousands of kilometers considering the border of Belarus with Ukraine, Poland and the Baltic countries: “You and we will have to hold this front if we join the war. Will we able to do it? We won’t. I’m telling you: we won’t. Do we want trouble for ourselves? We don’t. That’s the second thing. But the most important thing is that not only Russia might need the peaceful Belarus. Ukraine may need it, too.”

At the same time, Belarus certainly takes measures to ensure security along the country’s borders in the direction of Ukraine and the west. Including by beefing up the defenses that cover Mozyr Oil Refinery to prevent individual hotheads abroad from even thinking about possible provocations.

“Plans to conquer Europe” and the situation at the western border

During the negotiations the Russian leader wondered about the state of affairs at Belarus’ western borders.

“The situation is difficult. It actually surprises me. What worries me the most is the policy of the Polish leadership. Why would they need this confrontation? The same about the Lithuanians, Latvians... Firstly, dozens of corpses are dumped across the border. Migrants who try to get there are getting dumped. They have built a fence. They throw them over the fence to our side of the border. Now that the snow is melted, we see corpses lying right there at the border,” the Belarusian leader said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko emphasized that all these things create tensions at the border. In addition, the Western neighbors are closing the border for Belarus and Russia, which also affects third countries.

Aleksandr Lukashenko also drew attention to military preparations on the other side of the border: “They are conducting military exercises. They plan to carry them out in May, too. We stand against each other at the border. Americans and Germans have been redeployed there. What is surprising is that they have not learned the lesson. They send battalions to Lithuania and Poland. Of course, we had to deploy our units face-to-face across the border. I don’t know why they [western neighbors] need this. We are not going to war with anyone.”

“They are screaming and shouting that Lukashenko and Putin will capture Europe tomorrow. We have never discussed plans to capture someone. We have enough of our own problems,” said the Belarusian head of state.

Vladimir Putin doubled down on that: “This is the nonsense the ruling circles need in order to explain and justify their funding of the war in Ukraine. That’s all.”

“And their own failures,” added Aleksandr Lukashenko.

“First of all, their spending. This is the main reason why they are amplifying this topic about some kind of aggressive policy by Russia,” noted Vladimir Putin.

A call to reindeer herders

The meeting in the Kremlin also had some unexpected moments. Upon the invitation of the Russian leader Aleksandr Lukashenko and the cosmonauts joined his phone call to the large family of the Pyaks. They have been reindeer herders for generations and live in the tundra of the Yamal Peninsula. Enksya and Zoya Pyak were celebrating the 50th anniversary of their marriage and the presidents took the opportunity to wish them a happy wedding anniversary.

“We have guests here. The first female cosmonaut of Belarus and the Belarusian president. Today we celebrate Cosmonautics Day. Together we wish a happy golden wedding anniversary to you. And to your whole big family. We wish you all the best and every success. I hope to see you again. I know that one of your grandchildren wants to watch the launch of a spacecraft. We will definitely make your grandson’s wish come true,” Vladimir Putin said and gave the floor to the Belarusian head of state.
“I also join the congratulations from the Russian president. Golden wedding. [Living in marriage for] 50 years is a rare thing. A good occasion. Vladimir Vladimirovich [Putin] told me in detail about your meeting at the VDNKh expo,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said. “For me it is very symbolic and important to talk to people who are far, far away and who are engaged in this kind and good business of reindeer breeding. Good luck to you! Strong health to you and your kids. I want you to live and particularly your kids and grandchildren without any problems. And I definitely want them to be reindeer herders. It is a rare profession. Thank you very much. I wish you success and happiness.”
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