MINSK, 16 February (BelTA) – The closure of border crossings in the western part of the country is an economic provocation and Belarus is prepared to respond to this, Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko said as he met with foreign and Belarusian journalists in Minsk on 16 February, BelTA has learned.
“You see what Poland and Lithuania are doing. There is a flurry of economic provocations on their part. They are putting the blame on me. So they closed the checkpoints. What does it mean? It means no trade, no economy. They are gradually conducting these provocations. They are simply provoking us. Well, it is not going to last. Now we are preparing a response. Decisions have been made. At first our response will be mild. If they don't understand, we will take tougher action. We have enough leverage for this,” the Belarusian leader said.
“But this all amounts to an escalation. We are forced to respond. The response will be symmetric, adequate. If it comes to taking asymmetric measures, we will go for it. This option is on the table. But we do not want this. We want to be friends with Poles, Lithuanians, like it has always been,” Aleksandr Lukashenko emphasized.
“We even turned a blind eye to the fact that they draw maps at school with the border near Minsk. They dream of their dominance “from sea to sea” - from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea,” the president added. However, in his view, neither Belarus, nor other states would agree to this.
The head of state noted that literally this morning he approved the proposals on response measures that had been submitted to him by the government and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“They closed the border crossings – it does not affect us in any way. They have once again shot themselves in the foot. We are under sanctions, we don't go to Europe anyway. Few of our people go there. For example, what if we ban Polish drivers from crossing our border? Thousands of cars, trucks enter our territory. What will happen if we close them?” the president asked.
Aleksandr Lukashenko believes that one of the reasons for such a move on the part of Poland and Lithuania was the introduction of the visa waiver by Belarus. “It has hit them very hard. The Lithuanians who return home from Belarus say: Is this really a dictatorship there? Products and fuel are cheaper there. It had a negative impact on the situation inside,” the head of state noted.
“It did not go down well with nationalists in Poland and Lithuania. So they began to shut down border crossings in order to create problems. For whom, for the Belarusians? No, for their own people. As they are doing this publicly, we have to respond publicly,” the president added.
The head of state emphasized that if the measures taken crippled Belarus' economy, the response would be tougher. “If the escalation continues, we will respond in a tougher way,” the Belarusian leader warned.