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16 March 2020, 14:39

Lukashenko responds to Russia's decision to close border with Belarus

MINSK, 16 March (BelTA) – Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko met with Head of the Belarus President Administration Igor Sergeyenko and State Secretary of the Security Council Andrei Ravkov on 16 March, BelTA has learned.

Top on the agenda was Russia's decision to shut down its border with Belarus over coronavirus. Aleksandr Lukashenko noted that this decision is not of a great concern, but needs attention. “We should think of how to act adequately. It is weird that no one in the Russian government knows that there is no border between Belarus and Russia; this border is not delineated and demarcated. We have no border, therefore there is nothing to shut down. Maybe, they have already established this border. It is up to them,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

At the same time, the head of state pointed to the wording of Russia's decision: they did not announce border controls, they announced border closure. “Drawing from my experience, I would like to tell some hot heads in Russia to think before saying something. Indeed, it is easier to shut down something or to start a war than to find a way out of this situation. Borders will have to be re-opened one day. I know what it means: we have already been through it with Boris Yeltsin and Viktor Chernomyrdin (may they rest in peace; they are probably watching us doing these things)… They knew what it takes to do it. It is not easy. But I had to go through this period in my life, and I would not want it to happen again. But the people who came to power in Russia probably do not understand it,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

Russia said it is closing the border over coronavirus. However, the Belarusian president noted that it is impossible to fight such a disease this way. This is what virologists say. “If we follow the Russian logic, Russia should draw borders regionally to separate the Far East, Siberia, the Urals, the Caucasus, to draw the line somewhere in the north of the European part. Russia is huge, half the world. Why cut Belarus off from Russia without thinking about the consequences? I think that they are more concerned about how to fence off Moscow to make sure the government of the Russian Federation stays safe. What is going to happen? God forbid, something happens to Mishustin... Probably, this is the main reason and they have started from afar,” the head of state said. He stressed that viruses should be combated professionally and point-by-point.

Aleksandr Lukashenko also said that Russia offered to send 3,000 tests to detect coronavirus to Belarus. “We were confused over such kindness from Russia. They would fight over a spoonful of oil and now they offered this,” he said. It turned out that Russia noticed the successful experience of Belarusian medics in the western direction and decided to “sponsor”.

“They have admitted that we are doing this right. Russia should have helped us, both in terms of finances and human resources, on our Union State joint border near Brest rather than close its border with Belarus. We would have accepted this help and contained the disease on the border,” the president said.

Comparing the size of the two countries, the head of state said that it is Belarus that should be scared of the huge Russia spreading the virus to it. “Yesterday, the Russian prime minister said that they were on fire. They did not give all the information to the media. The situation is difficult there. We should be worried about the situation. Why are you afraid of Belarus? The situation here is under control and we take it very seriously. Let's do it together. No, they have closed the border. Well, this is their decision,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

He stressed that the main thing in the current situation is to prevent the virus from affecting people's life and the economy. “What is the Russian government thinking about it? A total of 110 million tonnes of cargo was transited over the year. Have they agreed to transport it via Ukraine? Ukraine closed its borders long ago. Are they going to do it through the Baltic states? They have closed their borders, as well. How are they going to transport these cargoes at all? Should we assume that the virus may be present in the oil or gas pipelines? Some 70 million tonnes of oil is transported vis the Druzhba oil pipeline. What were the people thinking about when they took such decisions?” the president wondered.

In his words, it is also unclear what to do with Belarusian and Russian nationals who work and study abroad. “How can they make such decisions? Without any consultations we have to accept this as an accomplished fact. I don't understand it. And the most interesting thing is the following: it is probably not up to the government to decide to close the border. This decision should be made by the president,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said. He said that he had not talked to the Russian leader yet, but a telephone conversation between the presidents had been planned. “What if they've already adopted a new constitution? Who knows,” the head of state asked ironically.

Aleksandr Lukashenko urged the Russian side and people living in both countries to avoid panic. “We don't need any excessive movements which could complicate the strained relations between the two states even more,” he said.

The president asked what is planned to be done in Belarus in this situation. He remarked that if the country retaliates, “freight vehicles will queue up till the Kremlin and people will be furious.” “We need to make conclusions and determine our further actions. Please make sure that our people are not affected. That is the only thing I want to ask you (I gave an instruction to the prime minister yesterday). We don't need to close borders with Poles, Russians, Ukrainians. If they want to do it, it is up to them. We don't need to do it because it is senseless. Especially where we don't have a border with Russia – this border was crossed and will be crossed by our people freely, and if, God forbid, any plague comes we will not defeat it by closing border. We should act like we are acting now: we test people if there is a slightest suspicion, we can put them in quarantine if necessary. Targeted approach is the key, we need to act professionally, not by closing borders,” the Belarusian leader is convinced.

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