MINSK, 9 September (BelTA) – In an interview with representatives of Russia's leading mass media outlets, Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko unveiled the details of the detention of a group of 33 people who had arrived from Russia, BelTA has learned.
The head of state explained to the reporters the reasons and circumstances of the arrest of the group of 33 men, the details of how the situation developed later and why a decision was made to release them.
According to the president, he was informed that a group of 33 people crossed the Belarus-Russia border. “We were going through an important period back then [the election campaign], we had to keep our finger on the pulse. There is an iron order in our country; our law enforcement, security services work in earnest,” he noted.
At first a decision was made to watch these people in order to find out why they came. “What if they were terrorists? We should not let terrorist attacks happen,” the head of state said. In his words, there were grounds to assume that they could pose a threat, after all, their actions aroused suspicion: at first they checked in one hotel, after that they moved to another one, they did not go to the airport and did not fly from Minsk to Istanbul, although they had tickets. Based on all these considerations, a decision was made to arrest these 33 people.
There were various reports as to who these people were. Some said that they were members of the Wagner private military company and were told to go from Minsk to Venezuela by Rosneft chief Igor Sechin in order to guard deposits. “Soon afterwards Sechin said: “there are no people of mine there. Tell Mr President that I was not going to send anyone to Venezuela and let them not point the finger at me.” It was followed by a merry-go-round,” the president said.
“What did I do? I gathered all law enforcement agencies, the prosecutor general and told them: call Russia and Ukraine, as it is stipulated by our legislation and the intergovernmental treaty. Let them send their prosecutors general. Three of you should discuss the situation and decide what to do with these guys. Was I not right? I would later decide where to send them. However, before that, I wanted the prosecutors general to come and sort things out,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.
However, the Russian prosecutor general did not come, while Ukraine demanded sending these people to them without providing any documents.
Upon the instruction of the president, the situation was overseen by Viktor Lukashenko, National Security Advisor to the President of the Republic of Belarus. He visited the detainees, apologized to them and upon their request sent them back, to the Belarus-Russia border.
Later on it was reported that the arrival of this group to Belarus was a planned provocation. “After that I received information that it had been done by Americans through Ukraine. But Ukrainians said: it is not us, it is America,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.
According to him, taking into consideration the actions of the Ukrainian side after Belarus' election, he tends to believe that it really was a provocation. He admitted that it was hard to believe in it in view of the help that Belarus had provided to Ukraine in recent years, including the country's welcoming attitude to Ukrainian refugees. “I had decreed that they all [the refugees] had equal conditions with Belarusians – free kindergartens, schools, healthcare services and jobs. 160,000! Some went back, but very few. A great number of them lives in Belarus today. And after all that, they started reprimanding me! Even Zelenskyy! He is a receptive person. He had a good attitude to me. And then this statement all of a sudden! Why? Americans wrote it,” he said.