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25 February 2024, 16:47

Lukashenko casts his vote in parliamentary, local elections: Key takeaways from media scrum

MINSK, 25 February (BelTA) – Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko cast his vote in the elections of deputies to the House of Representatives of the National Assembly and local councils at the polling station in the Belarusian State University of Physical Education. 

Together with the head of state, his son Nikolai also came to the polling station. By the way, this year he voted in the elections for the first time. 

After casting his vote, the president visited a cafeteria near the polling station and tasted various products from domestic manufacturers. 

But before that, the head of state, according to tradition, talked to media and took numerous questions related to both the situation in the country and the international agenda.

On voting criteria 

First of all, the journalists asked the head of state what he was guided when giving his vote for this or that candidate.

“I voted for professionalism and devotion. A difficult time is ahead for us. In the Parliament we need people who are professional, reliable and devoted to the Belarusian people," Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

The head of state expressed confidence that absolutely reliable, intelligent people who understand the tasks facing the country and the people will be elected.

On Parliament’s role and the government’s modernization in Belarus

Assessing the competition in the current elections, the president said that “the times when crowds were running in the elections are no longer in place.”

“People are beginning to realize that in Belarus, for example, the president is not a tsar, not God. It is a very hard job. Not everyone will dare to take up the burden of leading the country in the current situation. The same is true for the parliament,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said. “The role of the parliament will be increasing. Every month, every year. We are already transferring some powers to the parliament and other authorities. A certain restructuring is underway, generations are changing.”

The head of state mentioned the recent statement by head of the Central Election Commission Igor Karpenko who said that if someone wanted a show at the elections, they should seek it in the circus.



“This is an extremely serious event, especially now, when our government is going through modernization. They may criticize us for some kind of weak modernization. But we have always said that all processes everywhere should be evolutionary in nature. If we take drastic approaches, we can do it now, but then it is going to be a revolution. Belarus and Russia have had enough revolutions. What it can lead to? Ukraine can be cited as an example here. They reached the limit long time ago, but tried it again in 2014-2015 through Maidan. This is what those sharp turns led to. That is why we are acting without any hurry, modernizing our system. We need to make it balanced,” the president emphasized.



On a unique nature of Belarusian elections



“I will tell you absolutely sincere: nowhere in the world are elections as open and honest as in Belarus. This is a true holiday for us. It has always been so. In the Soviet times election campaigns were somehow artificial (I remember this): there was everything there – cafeterias, drinks and snacks, but yet they were somehow strained, had no soul. We do it in a great atmosphere. We pursue a sincere and honest policy and our elections are held in the same vein. We need no wars, no conflicts. We need a peaceful life. We will do everything for this,” the head of state said.

He recalled the axiom that there is no need to hold power with trembling hands. “No one will give this power away to anyone. Everything must be based on the trust of the people in the authorities. I believe that today the majority of people in our country trust the authorities. Although there is certain criticism. This is a usual thing,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.







On the consequences of the Western “democracy”

A journalist of the Turkish media noted, addressing his question to the president, that people vote freely in Belarus, but Western countries still consider elections in such countries as Belarus, Türkiye, Russia, Iran as undemocratic and use this as a weapon.

The president stressed that every country, be it Türkiye, Belarus, Russia or China, holds elections for its people. “We will do what benefits our people. The elections will show. Any elections, including our ‘undemocratic’ ones, will answer many questions,” he remarked.

The head of state emphasized a calm atmosphere during the elections in Belarus. There are no clashes, protests, or even attempts to do so. “You have not seen and will not see anything of the kind. Because we learn from our mistakes. We see our mistakes and draw the appropriate conclusions,” the Belarusian leader said.



As for the recognition of elections, for example, in Türkiye, Aleksandr Lukashenko asked the journalist a rhetorical question: “Do you really need this?” “Do you care if they recognize you or not? Well, if Türkiye starts a war in the Middle East and then against Israel (God forbid it, of course), this will be very much to their liking. Conflicts around the world in different places is what they want. Then there will be no talking about multipolarity, the unipolar world will remain, and the Americans, as it used to be, will be walking around the planet like gendarmes, with their sleeves rolled up (with their hands covered with blood). Turkish and Belarusian peoples as well as others do not need it. They [in the West] want to solve the issues like they do in Ukraine, using others,” the Belarusian leader said.

The head of state also drew attention to the situation in which “democratic” Ukraine found itself: “What has Ukraine achieved? This country has already become super ‘democratic’. Those mad heads, especially Europeans (it is clear what Americans want, but it is incomprehensible why Europeans support them), say that Ukraine is a true democracy. Do you need such democracy as in Ukraine? We do not. Nobody needs war. This is what their democracy has led to. They have long forgotten what democracy and freedom are. We all need to calm down and do our job. We need to do everything in the interests of our people.”

On upcoming presidential campaign 

In the context of the current election campaign, the Belarusian self-exiled opposition is beginning to spin the topic of whether or not Aleksandr Lukashenko will be running in the next presidential election. Taking the opportunity, the journalists asked the head of state about his plans in this regard. 

"I will. Relay this to them [self-exiled opposition]! The more difficult the situation becomes, the more actively they will work to rock our society and you (not a single person, a responsible president will abandon his people who followed him into battle and this is very important for me, believe me,). The harder they try, the more likely I will bid for re-election. Don't worry, we will do everything necessary for Belarus," the head of state said.

When asked a clarifying question whether these words can be perceived as an unequivocal statement and whether a new electoral cycle has already begun, the head of state stressed: "I have already spoken a lot about an electoral cycle and their efforts to rock the boat before the presidential election, which is the culmination of the electoral cycle. This is what the electoral cycle it. Officially or unofficially…  As the question so the answer. If you need specifics, I will be absolutely straightforward and sincere: I cannot say anything new yet."



"There is still a year ahead before the presidential election. A lot can change. Naturally, I and all of us, the society, will react to the changes that will take place in our society and the situation we will have before the vote in a year," Aleksandr Lukashenko added. 

The president said that now he is thinking about something else: about holding the Year of Quality. "So that you remember it even if the current president decides not to run. The last thing is remembered best. Therefore, this year will be important and this is something that I communicate to the society and the executive authorities that have worked honestly and will continue to work until the election," the Belarusian leader said.

On main qualities for the President of Belarus

“I know that many officials do not like me, because I strictly demand the fulfillment of our agreements and decisions taken by the president. If they are not implemented, then the whole structure of power will collapse and the society will drown. Yeah, I realize that. Probably, not all journalists like me because of my character and so on. But the good thing is that journalists, and then the society, thanks to journalists, begin to realize that everything that Lukashenko said or demanded turned out to be the right thing,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

The president cited the situation with the coronavirus as an example: the Belarusian approach was not immediately accepted, but then it turned out that the decisions of the head of state were the most optimal in the midst of the pandemic. The country did not impose a lockdown, did not shut down factories and enterprises. Such moves brought their desired effect. “The whole world was going in an absolutely different direction. Who turned out to be right in the end?” the Belarusian leader asked a rhetorical question.

“This is my job: to think and forecast using my experience and knowledge. If the president is unable to do this, he or she is not fit for the job. Therefore, this is the main quality of the president. Naturally, one must have a very strong sixth sense. Most importantly, one should always remember where he or she came from, be a down-to-earth person. One must also remember that 10 million people and three million more, who come here on holiday, are people whom you should truly care about. You should care about them the most once you are President,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

On absence of OSCE observers

When asked why Belarus decided not to invite OSCE observers to monitor the elections, Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko said: “As far as I know, we have not rejected any single request to monitor our elections. Had the OSCE [observers from this organization] wanted to come to us and made such a request, we would have considered it. Most likely, our response would have been positive. But they did not make such a request. Why would we beg them to come? These are our elections,” the head of state said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko recalled that OSCE observers came to previous elections with a pre-written report: “They had prepared a protocol, their findings, in advance. And they lost it. Our guys found it, took a photo and put it on my desk. Listen, they dismissed our elections two days before the main voting day, when early voting was underway. Why invite them here?” And after the elections, the head of state continued, the original version of the protocol was published.

“Well, what’s the point of inviting? That’s why neither the Russians nor we invite them. But had they wanted to monitor our elections and asked for an appropriate mandate, we would have considered it and, I’m sure, we would have given the greenlight to their request. It's not too late yet. The main thing is vote counting, they say. Let them come before evening. I will let them all into Belarus without visas. If they want, let them come after the elections. Seasoned people will be able to assess the situation properly and compare the election results with the post-election situation on the ground,” added Aleksandr Lukashenko.

On the impossibility for the Belarusian self-exiled opposition to implement scenarios to seize power

Answering the journalists' question, the head of state pointed out that the ultimate goal of the self-exiled opposition in any of their scenarios is the same - a coup d'état and seizure of power. “It does not matter whether it is going to be a long or short game, the goal is the same - Belarus must be turned in the opposite direction. In order to do so, they first need to overthrow the current government. It will be very difficult, I am sure of this. Especially after the single voting day, the elections. We will elect reliable, intelligent people who understand what tasks our people are facing. Therefore, none of the scenarios, even the most radical one, will not work in Belarus,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

The country has already drawn conclusions from the events of the past years, so there is absolutely no hope for them to implement their plans today, the president is convinced. “Nevertheless, they will be trying to undermine the situation here,” the head of state said. “They consider themselves strong and capable of big things. They view Belarus as a small dot on the map which needs to be erased in order to move closer to the east, to the resources, closer to Moscow. We understand this very well.”

According to the president, Belarus, together with Russia, is keeping in mind different scenarios and consider ways to counteract them. “We will always stay united with Russia. This is the only way we can resist any opponent,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said. “The world today is a force and understands only force. We cannot stay soft and keep fighting for democracy and some ephemeral freedom - you have seen what kind of ‘democracy’ they have.... We need to focus on our goals, our interests, be sincere and pursue a policy of justice. Then, it will be the unity of our people. Of course, we will have all kinds of critics. They are present in any society. All these scenarios are unrealizable. We all see it perfectly well. You do not even have to worry about anything in this respect.”



On keeping the public informed 

As for the recent increase in provocations and growing activity on the borders with Belarus on the part of its western neighbors, the journalists asked whether there was something that was not yet known to the general public. “In order for us to be able to produce counter measures, we need to keep people informed. Our society must be fully informed,” the head of state explained. 

He added that there was no aim to stir up tensions but, on the contrary, the authorities warn people to stay strong against provocations, to resist them. “If we hide something from you, we will not succeed [in terms of joint confrontation and preservation of peace and tranquility on the Belarusian land]. We inform you even about the most extreme scenarios,” the Belarusian leader said.

As an example, he cited a recent story when he spoke about the plans of the Belarusian self-exiled opposition to “defeat” Russia, to give the western territories of Belarus and Ukraine to Poland and to enlarge Belarus with Russian lands. “It was the talk between our self-exiled opposition and Americans and I took the quote directly from their conversation. I found it necessary to inform the society to show what they [self-exiled opposition] are worth of,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said. Another example was their plans to seize a separate small settlement, Kobrin and Malorita were named in particular. “Capture a small town, declare power, everyone will recognize this authority that will turn to NATO, and troops will be brought in,” the president spoke about the plans of the Belarusian self-exiled opposition. “This is not a bluff. Such plans are being discussed. We are informing you on all fronts.”

On peaceful settlement in Ukraine 

 One of the questions to the head of state was about the prospects for a peaceful settlement of the conflict in Ukraine and the emergence of new reasons for this. 

"There are more than enough reasons. You see how the events are developing for Ukraine. They are developing badly," the president said. It is not only about Avdeyevka, he noted."Everything with Avdeyevka would have been resolved long ago if the Russians had fought like in the Patriotic War by throwing in hundreds of thousands of people, disregarding the casualties. I know firsthand that the Russian military and President Putin workvery carefully," Aleksandr Lukashenko said. "He always tells me: 'I feel sorry for people. They could have done it faster, but a lot of people would have died." It's not about Avdeyevka or other places, it's about avoiding casualties."

"I see that the Russians are very serious about a peaceful settlement of this conflict, especially now. They don't want to throw people into hell," the president emphasized.

However, the opposing side, Ukraine and its allies, believes that since they are "big" and have a large GDP, they cannot lose the war, Aleksandr Lukashenko said. "Although this is not the way to assess the situation. You do not make the assessments using these indicators but the determination of the people, the availability of material resources and reserves," the head of state said. “Who has more? Russia does. They have resources under their feet. America and Europe have euros and dollars that they print. But it's all going to collapse. It's paper. Meanwhile Russia has its military-industrial complex running full steam. They produce a huge number of weapons."

In this regard, NATO should think about how Russia will then use the huge amount of the most advanced ammunition and other weapons that it is producing now, the Belarusian leader noted. "They should use their head. Stop now. It is possible to come to an agreement. Denazification, demilitarization and so on are just terms. Everything is decided at the negotiating table. This is still politics. But if the West continues to ‘help’ Ukraine the way they are doing now, then Ukraine's days are numbered. Vladimir Zelensky should understand this as the ABC," the head of state emphasized.

According to him, the Ukrainian military understand this. Moreover, they see how many troops are dying: "They throw untrained people into this slaughter. People understand that this is a one-way ticket. There are many reports of this kind."

If Ukrainians do not come to terms with Russia now, they will completely lose Ukraine," the president of Belarus said. “As soon as the front collapse or Ukrainian soldiers simply stop fighting, the Poles will seize the western part of Ukraine (which is unacceptable to us, we will be on the side of the Ukrainians on this), and Russia will take the southern part to Transnistria. What will be left of Ukraine? Kiev?”

Aleksandr Lukashenko is convinced that it is important to start negotiations now in order to save Ukraine. "And then... This has already been said. Many people know (in the West too) that the Russians agreed to let future generations decide on the future of the eastern lands. They would hold a referendum and decide whether they want to live in Ukraine or Russia,” the head of state said. “Crimea is Crimea. It is Russia's land, Russia's territory, so the Russians believe. The West agrees with that, too."

According to the president, there are a lot of reasons for negotiations now and it is important to move toward them.

Common security of Belarus, Russia

Journalists asked a lot of questions about the Belarusian-Russian relations. Answering them, Aleksandr Lukashenko noted that countries should do what they are doing now: "It is important to treat each other with respect. This is what we do.”

The head of state recalled that the relations between Belarus and Russia went through different stages, sometimes serious disagreements. But even before the start of the conflict in Ukraine the Belarusian president used to say that disputes and arguments might happen in economy and politics, but common security is of crucial importance. "The time will come when we will stand back to back and defend ourselves," Aleksandr Lukashenko warned.

However, in Russia, these words of the Belarusian leader were not taken seriously at the time: they said the country had enough long-range missiles to defend itself even without the support of Belarus. "It was said to my face. I took it calmly. As a historian, I am telling you that the most pressing issues were resolved here. Belarus was at the epicenter. What has changed? Nothing. Back then I warned Russian politicians about this. Maybe it was five, maybe seven years ago," Aleksandr Lukashenko added.

On the future of the Union State

Aleksandr Lukashenko noted that there are several international associations with different levels of integration in the post-Soviet space. The largest of them is the Commonwealth of Independent States. One of the fundamental aspects of the CIS is a free trade zone. The Eurasian Economic Union is already a more advanced structure. Belarus and Russia have opted for a deeper integration. “We remain committed to this project and are moving forward consistently,” noted Aleksandr Lukashenko.

At the same time, the president emphasized that Belarus and Russia must remain sovereign and independent states. They can create a unique and powerful association. “It would be wrong to say that ‘Belarusians are on their knees’, ‘Belarus buckles under to Russia and will become part of Russia’. Even you, working in Russia, would never vote for this,” the head of state said addressing a representative of the Russian media.

The head of state emphasized that the unification of the two states will be upheld neither in Russia nor in Belarus. Such a step will only make things worse. “We must proceed step by step, calmly, and evolutionarily address the problems facing us,” the Belarusian leader is convinced.

The president recalled that after the sanctions were imposed, many issues in Belarus-Russia relations disappeared. Belarus stepped up its presence in the market of the neighboring country where its products came in handy. “The world has changed, and we have become more relevant for each other. In other words, if there is a problem, we address it. There is no need to take the ball before the bound,” noted Aleksandr Lukashenko.

“If some people, especially in Russia, and also here in Belarus, think that the Union State implies that we will merge tomorrow, all the power will be in the Kremlin, and so on... Listen, I am an ‘outgoing’ president (I often say this), but I am absolutely sure that the attitude to this matter will not change no matter who will take over as the president. Two sovereign, independent states. We are smart, educated enough to create such an association of sovereign, independent states that will make us stronger. We must proceed calmly and resolve the issues that arise,” the president said. 



On Armenia’s decision to suspend its CSTO membership

When asked to comment on Armenia’s recent statements on CSTO membership, Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko said that he had discussed this matter with his colleagues. “We are absolutely calm about it. We discussed this problem with the presidents in Kazan. We are absolutely unfazed by it. It did not send anyone over the edge. If Armenia needs to be part of the CSTO, let it be, we have always supported and will support it as our ally. If they don’t want to be in the CSTO, the organization won’t collapse, it won’t be gone,” said the head of state.

At the same time, there have been no official notifications from Yerevan regarding its plans for the CSTO, the Belarusian leader remarked.

He noted that in line with Armenian laws, the issue of CSTO membership must be decided in parliament: “Pashinyan cannot make a decision whether to join or withdraw. The parliament is entitled to make such decisions. I think the majority of the Armenian MPs are sensible people. They don’t have any reason to harbour hard feelings against us, or the CSTO.”

According to the head of state, this topic has been discussed more than once, and it must be understood that Azerbaijan is not a stranger to any of CSTO member states. “There are many Muslim countries in the CSTO. You understand this too. This partly explains such a position. And, thirdly, did Armenia really want us to get involved in this war with Azerbaijan? In this case, this war would have been going on to this very day and thousands would have died,” said the Belarusian leader. “I believe that Azerbaijan and Armenia eventually arrived at the right solution to the issue, though through the war, unfortunately. Armenia (and they admitted it) occupied five or six regions of Azerbaijan,” the head of state said.

The president recalled that once he acted as a mediator between Baku and Yerevan in an attempt to peacefully resolve the territorial dispute, and for a number of years Azerbaijan’s President IlhamAliyev not only called for a peaceful resolution, but also offered financial support to the Armenian side: “I occurred to be a mediator - I shuttled between Baku and Yerevan and conveyed these signals. The proposal envisaged billions of dollars of investment in the Armenian economy. Azerbaijan is a rich country. There were a lot of proposals to resolve this issue peacefully,” the head of state said.

However, in previous years, the Armenian leadership did not agree to a peaceful settlement and problems were snowballing. “It all accumulated and fell on NikolVovayevich Pashinyan [Prime Minister of Armenia], on his government. He is hardly to blame for what happened. Yet, this problem had to be solved. Moreover, the Armenia-occupied regions of Azerbaijan were desolate, although this is a very beautiful place where people could have lived with comfort. More than a million Azerbaijani refugees were a huge burden on Azerbaijan; there were many other problems,” the head of state noted.

“Well, the war is over. What position were we supposed to take? The Armenians are our kin, people we care about. And is Azerbaijan a stranger? We were put in a bind. And there was no reason for the CSTO to get involved in this conflict. There was absolutely no slightest reason for us to do it,” Aleksandr Lukashenko emphasized.

He also drew attention to Armenia's contacts with France. “They communicated with Emmanuel Macron of France all the time. France pledged to help with air defense systems, with defense matters and economy. In general, they promised to take care of Yerevan’s needs. But they are not doing it. You see what is happening in France. Therefore, politicians in Yerevan need to wake up to reality and, to put it simply, try not to lose what they have,” the president of Belarus advised.

He cited Georgia as an example: “Thank God, they are mending relations with Russia, first of all, with us; their economy is recovering. They tried to get a free ride in the West. The Americans have already forgotten about Georgia. As soon as the Georgians started asserting that they were an independent country, the West began to put pressure on them, including and primarily the United States. You need to draw conclusions from it. No one in the West cares about them. They have thousands of problems of their own.”

“For example, today Biden supports Ukraine, Armenia, and so on. Tomorrow the government will change and Trump will say: “Listen, I don’t know you. My friends, this is the first time I’ve seen you!” the head of state remarked.

He once again urged to hold on to what one has: “It’s easy to leave, but it will be difficult to return. Again, Georgia is an example. It left the CIS and all structures. Is it better off without them? No. It is a good idea to return. But it's always more difficult to come back. It is not a good look and so on.”

Aleksandr Lukashenko advised the Armenian side not to rush to leave and not to make hasty decisions. “Take your time. Do not withdraw or freeze something. Well, if you don’t like something, just don’t come,” he said. “Time brings many changes. And the situation will change around Armenia, Azerbaijan. The global situation will change. Therefore, such compact, relatively small states as Armenia, Belarus and others do not need to make dramatic moves. We might fall through thin ice and no one will extend a helping hand, quite the opposite, they will push us further down so that we will drown there. Armenians should not rush. I believe that NikolVovayevich just got ahead of himself and made an emotional statement,” Aleksandr Lukashenko added. 

On best practices in Union State for EAEU to adopt

When answering the relevant question, the president said: “The EAEU should in turn adopt our best practices - open borders and complete freedom for the movement of people and workforce. We do not have any barriers here today. We are doing everything for the benefit of our people.”

“I think the EAEU should follow suit,” Aleksandr Lukashenko believes. “We have political, diplomatic and military components in the Union State, which the EAEU does not have,” he said.



"I think that these are the main issues that the EAEU should borrow from the Union State," the head of state summed up.

Another question was about with whom else should the EAEU conclude agreements on a free trade zone?

“As for the free trade zones and the EAEU, we consider all suggestions and proposals,” the head of state emphasized. - There are a lot of them. You see that Iran and the Arab countries are looking to have free trade zones with us in order to trade more freely. Therefore, we are open to this. Sometimes, we see some ambitions, absolutely fair ambitions...

"Let's say China. Why should they have a free trade zone if they have the SCO, a broader organization that might have a free trade zone like the EAEU does," Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

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