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.
What did the presidents of Belarus and Russia discuss for many hours during negotiations in the Kremlin? On what does Aleksandr Lukashenko agree with France President Emmanuel Macron? What radical proposal concerning nuclear weapons did he make? What unbelievable threats were discussed during Aleksandr Lukashenko's meeting with Director of Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service Sergei Naryshkin? Why did the governor of a Russian region bring skis and ice hockey clubs to Minsk? Manufacturing cooperation, import substitution and microelectronics “to make aircraft and rockets fly”, fight for minds and hearts on the mass media front, security of the Union State, and a counterterrorist operation staged by the special services of Belarus and Russia are also in the new episode of BelTA's YouTube project President's Week.
A PARTNER WORTH A BILLION. What brings Minsk and Kaluga closer to each other?
Aleksandr Lukashenko began the extensive Russian week by meeting with Governor of Russia's Kaluga Oblast Vladislav Shapsha on 3 April. Considering frequent meetings and negotiations between the leaders of the two countries, this meeting may not be so significant for the Belarusian-Russian agenda since heads of Russian regions frequently drop by at the Palace of Independence.
However, it is quite possible that without such contacts neither the current level of integration nor sessions of the Supreme State Council of the Union State of Belarus and Russia in the Kremlin would have been possible. Aleksandr Lukashenko has repeatedly stressed and reminded that back in the day it was Belarus' interaction with Russian regions that had saved Belarus-Russia relations as a whole. Regardless of the political weather at the state level (and we remember that all kinds of things happened in the past) Russian regions have always been happy to buy quality and organic Belarusian foods, comparatively inexpensive and familiar machines, equipment, and vehicles, and happy to welcome skillful Belarusian construction workers. Not so long ago, in the time of the Soviet Union Belarusians themselves contributed heavily to the development of many Russian regions and settled down over there together with their families while keeping the warm and sincere attitude towards the country they grew up in.
“In recent years - and we state this openly - our countries, Russia and Belarus, have become much closer to each other. This is not only thanks to our relations at the highest political level, but, as always, thanks to our contacts with the regions of the Russian Federation. We have started working much more closely at the level of governments, enterprises and organizations, looking for ways out of the difficult situation around our countries together. This has united our nations even more (and we can see it) and made them stronger,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.
The dynamics of contacts with Kaluga Oblast is no exception here. The contacts did not stop for a single day, thanks to which certain headway has been secured. “I will not hide it - our goal is to surpass $1 billion in trade and achieve full balance. Minsk and Kaluga should make the most of their cooperation. As experience shows, our economies are complementary. Belarusian and Russian enterprises are naturally integrated into joint production chains,” the president noted.
According to him, this is taking on new significance as the two countries are working to promote industrial cooperation, introduce new high-tech technologies, and substitute import. There are many very serious examples when Russian companies, including those in Kaluga Oblast, were able to substitute a substantial part of the components they use in their manufacturing processes with the help of Belarusian partners.
The construction sector is the core of trade and economic cooperation between Belarus and Kaluga Oblast, the head of state noted. Belarusian construction workers build housing and social facilities in the Russian region. Belarus is also ready to satisfy Kaluga Oblast's demand for passenger, municipal and agricultural machines and vehicles.
The agricultural sector is also a priority in Kaluga Oblast. Like no other Belarus can give a hand in this field. Services of construction companies, technologies, elite seeds, highly-productive fodder and premixes from the Belarusian National Biotechnology Corporation – everything Russian friends may need.
On the other hand, Kaluga has logistical opportunities, which may be interesting for the Belarusian side because the sanctions-based confrontation initiated by the West has disrupted existing international logistics. “We have built a major logistics hub. Today cargoes from Kaluga Oblast are delivered to Chinese ports within two weeks. We have ties with Iran and India. We have suggested that the opportunities we have today be used for the needs of Belarusian manufacturers,” the governor said.
By the way, the delegation came to Minsk via a direct regular flight from the international airport of Kaluga after a lengthy break. Vladislav Shapsha requested support for the initiative. He said he would like a Belarusian air carrier to offer return flights to Kaluga and is confident it will be in demand.
The Kaluga Oblast delegation's visit had its own peculiarities. The visit included not only business talks but also events focusing on interaction in culture and sport. Kaluga's drama theater company has come to Minsk to offer their play in the Belarusian capital. A junior ice hockey team came to Minsk for a face-off against Belarusian junior ice hockey players. “We have brought skis and hockey sticks of Kaluga production for your skiers and hockey players. We will be glad if you like them. We use them on a regular basis,” Vladislav Shapsha said as he met with Aleksandr Lukashenko.
PRECISE INTELLIGENCE. What unbelievable threats did the president talk about?
Aleksandr Lukashenko met with Director of Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service Sergei Naryshkin in the Palace of Independence on 4 April. We believe that not so much the position is important here, but also the person of one of the high-ranking Russian politicians. Sergei Naryshkin had previously headed the State Duma, had been the head of the Russia President Administration, and had worked in the government. In a word, Sergei Naryshkin and Aleksandr Lukashenko have known each other for a long time. But the situation around the countries now dictates the need not only for friendly handshakes, but also for a serious conversation about the existing challenges and threats. And foreign intelligence here, as they say, is at the forefront.
Sergei Naryshkin came to Minsk to participate in a joint session of the boards of Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) and Belarus' State Security Committee (KGB). There are no secrets between the allies. Interaction only grows stronger, including the technological part. “Due to various events in the world and Russia's counterterrorist special military operation is quite an important reason. The operation forced us to take a look from all sides at all the divisions of the defense, security, and law enforcement bloc. As I often say, had this not happened, we would have had to come up with something else to spur ourselves into action. This is why we've started working actively. But the threats are very serious. Unbelievable at times,” the Belarusian leader said as he met with the SVR director.
Aleksandr Lukashenko noted that sometimes special services cannot keep up with everything, given the rapid advancement of various technical solutions. This can give rise to certain issues at times. He thanked the Russian side for assistance in re-equipping and equipping the Belarusian special service. “You have probably noticed that we have intensified intelligence data exchange lately. And the quality of information has improved. This is mostly due to the increased activity of the State Security Committee. Yet, it is also important that Russians, first of all you, help us a lot with technical intelligence. To be frank, today it is hardly possible to get accurate, reliable, meaningful information without technology,” the president said.
“But people should understand: we are not gods, we cannot foresee everything,” the Belarusian leader noted. “All sorts of bastards come to the surface in our country and yours and foreign terrorists lean on them. I cannot define them otherwise. This is not intelligence, not counterintelligence, these are simply our enemies. They [opponents and enemies abroad] find the right people in our camp, as they say, and lean on them,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.
The head of state recalled the recent detention of a terrorist who “worked under the guidance of the Security Service of Ukraine and carried out tasks at its behest and on its tip-off”. “The thing that angers me the most is that we have already detained more than 30 accomplices. Where did they come from? They are former and current bastards who live in our society (I can't call these scum otherwise), who help commit illegal actions, terrorist attacks on their own land, against their own compatriots,” the president said.
“Therefore, we have a lot of work to do. But I want to assure you that we are absolutely open for cooperation. You feel and see it. And we are grateful to you for the information that you provide, for putting us on high alert in time. I think that we have deeper cooperation ahead and you can count on us in those areas where we have strong competencies,” the head of state concluded.
In turn, Sergei Naryshkin thanked Aleksandr Lukashenko for the opportunity to have the meeting and stressed he was very glad to return to the hospitable Belarusian land. He said: “I would like to emphasize that our interaction stands on an equal footing, it is of equally mutual interest. We have certain strong sides, our Belarusian colleagues also have their strengths. In recent years, we have intensified cooperation significantly in order to identify and prevent all external threats to our countries, to the Union State of Belarus and Russia. We are determined to move along this path in order to help the political leadership of our countries, first of all, to take well-made, accurate strategic decisions based on the intelligence information that we obtain,” Sergei Naryshkin said.
KGB Chairman Ivan Tertel, who also took part in the meeting, told reporters about the possibility of a serious escalation of the situation in the region in the medium term. He primarily referred to threats of terrorist nature since entire camps and centers for training militants are located in the countries Belarus borders on. “This threat is on the rise. According to our estimates, we've made reports to the head of state, plans are in place to step up terrorist activities in our territory starting approximately from spring 2023,” he said.
UNION STATE POTENTIAL. What did Aleksandr Lukashenko and Vladimir Putin discuss in the Kremlin?
The Belarus president took part in a session of the Supreme State Council of the Union State of Belarus and Russia in the Kremlin on 6 April. Lengthy and fruitful negotiations of the Belarusian head of state and Vladimir Putin had taken place the day before.
Let us begin with the outcomes and certain key matters. Naturally, the Supreme State Council focused on progress in fulfilling the main guidelines on implementing provisions of the Union State Treaty in 2021-2023 and the 28 previously approved Union State programs. But one of the key novelties was the development of the Union State security concept. The security councils of the two countries were assigned to work on the task. Plans are in place to prepare the document for approval at a meeting of the Supreme State Council in 2024.
The Supreme State Council also considered a number of other matters, including humanitarian ones, and the ones related to the current activity of the integration association.
In general, State Secretary of the Union State of Belarus and Russia Dmitry Mezentsev noted that the meeting had confirmed the special tone, trust, allied nature of interaction, and the special nature of cooperation between the national leaders.
So, Aleksandr Lukashenko and Vladimir Putin met in Moscow on 5 April. The Belarusian head of state arrived at the Kremlin at about 20:00. By tradition journalists had been waiting for him at the entrance since the interest in statements of the Belarusian leader is always high. Quite high-profile statements are often made just like that - on the move.
This time there was no sensation. The president only fatherly asked the journalists if they had had anything to eat. After all, it was rather late already… Having heard in response that the Russian side always offers a good reception in the Kremlin, he said: “Well, thank God!”
As for the expected duration of the negotiations, Lukashenko predicted that it would not be long, but of course he did not know it for sure. Indeed, is it possible to count on a quick meeting of the two closest allies, even if the heads of state meet and call each other regularly? There is always much to discuss, especially as the international situation constantly throws up new challenges that must be resolved not otherwise than by joint efforts.
The leaders talked for more than six hours, including at a working dinner. They meeting ended only at 2:15 in the night.
During the part of the meeting that was open for mass media Aleksandr Lukashenko said: “We will overcome everything. To those, who hope or predicted that we would fall, I can say: we haven't fallen. No, things will not be easy. But when were they ever easy? We will endure and will accomplish everything even in microelectronics, which we discussed a year ago when we met in your office to discuss what we should do. It turns out we've found opportunities to keep working. Missiles fly and combat equipment moves in our country and your country. So we will overcome everything. We just need a bit of time. And tomorrow we will sum up our accomplishments. We've definitely earned the salaries we get paid.”
The president remarked that 80% of the Union State programs had been implemented. Frequent meetings with Vladimir Putin were necessary to prevent slowdowns in the execution of these programs. In turn, the Russian leader also stressed that a lot had been accomplished as a result of joint work.
Journalists asked Aleksandr Lukashenko about details of this meeting on 6 April, before the Supreme State Council session. The president said that he and his Russian counterpart had made decisions on all issues. This was also mentioned at the beginning of the meeting.
“Dear friends, you know that Vladimir Vladimirovich [Putin] and I held fundamental talks yesterday. We discussed some sensitive matters, as journalists say. There are always matters like this. We paid more attention to security issues, the development of the military industry and the defense of the Union State. Those negotiations were fruitful. We came to terms on all issues, and there were more than a dozen of them. Of course, we cannot go into detail. But I believe that you will hear and see everything in the near future,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.
Easy to get used to good things
Taking into account current circumstances, it is difficult to overestimate the significance of this unique interstate association – the Union State of Belarus and Russia. Judging from the combination of results accomplished over such a brief period the union is rightfully a leader among other integration associations. This is why it is not surprising that many achievements secured within the framework of the Union State of Belarus and Russia were borrowed by adjoining integration associations in the CIS space.
Aleksandr Lukashenko said: “As never before, today it is important for us to fully realize provisions of the treaty on establishing the commonwealth of Belarus and Russia, which was signed during these April days 27 years ago in 1996. This fundamental document became a starting point for further advancement of bilateral relations. And you may remember that I signed the treaty on our union and on the construction of the Union State with Vladimir Vladimirovich [Putin] already.”
The Belarusian leader noted that by persistently expanding the legal base of interaction, Belarus and Russia have opened up broad thoroughfares for invigorating business, cooperation of scientific circles and art collectives, partnership of youth associations. Freedom of movement of citizens and capital, equal opportunities for education and labor are seen as undeniable advantages of integration by ordinary Belarusians and Russians. Aleksandr Lukashenko said: “I mention that because people often tend to forget about it and believe it is only natural. They forget that no country enjoys in its relations as much as Russia and Belarus have. We freely travel, our people can choose the place to work, and all the relevant matters have been addressed.”
The number of trade transactions is a marker of the success of our economic cooperation. Over the past 27 years trade has increased by more than 4.5 times. Manufacturing cooperation is a key area in the bilateral relations. Today it is represented as ties between more than 8,000 Belarusian and Russian enterprises, hundreds of thousands of jobs.
Young but experienced
During the years of its existence the Union State has implemented more than 60 joint scientific and technical programs in various areas, including space exploration, information technologies, agriculture, production of materials and devices.
Aleksandr Lukashenko emphasized the development of cooperation between young scientists of the two countries. Addressing the Russian president, he said: “Young people have held a meeting. I mean what you told me in Minsk. Young scientists outlined a program of further development. They started with the student who had once posed a question to you. You called to say that we need to move in this direction. We held a meeting of young scientists at the Academy of Sciences and found a number of important points of contact for the future work.”
“Friends” that let you down
Many R&D products are successfully put into production, thus contributing to the implementation of the import substitution program and reducing dependence on Western technologies. In particular, Aleksandr Lukashenko recalled that he had previously discussed with Vladimir Putin an important issue of import substitution in microelectronics. The presidents revisited the matter during the talks in the Kremlin on 5 April. The president emphasized that he had recently studied this topic in detail during his visit to the Planar company in Minsk.
“We've found a way out even in this complicated matter. And in many other ones. This is why we will endure. It is different from creating a vehicle or a tractor. [Microelectronic] products are complicated things. We've learned how to make them, we have the competences. The Soviet Union did all of that. [During the post-Soviet period] we simply relied on the West. Now we recognize they are no friends of ours. We have to make these products ourselves,” the Belarus president remarked.
He stressed that Belarus and Russia had successfully withstood the first wave of massive economic attacks. There are many examples to prove it. The governments of Belarus and Russia have been working in the anti-crisis mode and have achieved noticeable results in adapting the economy to the new reality and building new trade and logistics routes.
Aleksandr Lukashenko stated that failed attempts at an economic blockade were followed by military blackmail in the form of a consistent buildup of NATO forces and assets near the Union State border, especially around Kaliningrad Oblast. “The economic blockade could not succeed. They simply wanted to pounce on us. If they had seriously thought about it, they would not have done it. Because our economy is self-sufficient, as a matter of principle. When economic leverage failed, they started purposeful military pressure. The rhetoric about prospects of a global military conflict is getting stronger,” the Belarusian leader remarked.
He stressed that in the context of the information, political, and economic warfare unleashed against Belarus and Russia and considering the international law crisis and the apparent inaction of international institutions the sides need to defend and promote national interests of Belarus and Russia in an even more coordinated and efficient manner. “In my address I said it plainly: if need be, we will use everything at our disposal to defend our states and our nations,” Aleksandr Lukashenko reminded. “And we are not blackmailing anyone. We will just do it.”
In turn, Vladimir Putin said that the development of a common industrial policy was in full swing. “Aleksandr Grigoryevich [Lukashenko] has been raising this question for many years. And we are moving towards implementing all these matters,” he said.
Union State antiterror
The president noted that the Union State had developed an effective system of defense and security, within the framework of which the Belarusian-Russian regional military force and the unified regional air defense system operate successfully. “Steps taken to strengthen border security have significantly increased the protection of the Union State from international terrorism, uncontrolled migration flows, weapons and ammunition smuggling, drug trafficking, and illegal economic activity,” the Belarusian leader stated.
Vladimir Putin said that Russia and Belarus decided to extend some military agreements and would continue to build up their cooperation in defense and security and to expand cooperation in the military and technical area. “It certainly meets the fundamental interests of our countries and peoples,” the Russian head of state said. “Aleksandr Grigoryevich [Lukashenko] raised the issue of extending some of our previous agreements. I fully and completely support this and for my part I ask our Security Council to work on everything that the president of Belarus has set today as a priority task in this area.”
In turn, during the session Aleksandr Lukashenko revealed interesting and sensational details of the joint efforts of Belarus' and Russia's special services to suppress terrorist activities. “I told the president [of Russia] yesterday that we've seen a surge of contraband weapons from Ukraine to Russia and to Belarus via Russia because our border with Ukraine is solidly locked. Weapons are being smuggled via Bryansk Oblast and other ones. Today we and [Director of the Federal Security Service of Russia] Aleksandr Vasilyevich Bortnikov finished an operation. We will inform the general public soon. You know, we've apprehended this terrorist who had infiltrated Belarus' territory and they wanted to extract him via Russia to another country,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.
According to the president, the KGB and the FSB carried out a joint operation. “They shut down the entire network. Russians are wrapping up other ends here, in Russia. So we will not be left in peace. But the most important thing is that there are stashes full of weapons and explosives in Belarus and Russia. They come and take them. In order to use them in situations like the recent one in St. Petersburg [a blogger and military reporter Vladlen Tatarsky was killed by an explosion in a café]. It is most unlikely that ordinary people ferry ammunition and explosives in their pockets across the border. There are already stashes here. We've found some like these in our country already. This is why we very seriously discussed security matters yesterday. I think we will handle it,” Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed.
He also noted that the two countries pursue a coordinated foreign policy in the international arena. “Our cooperation in foreign policy is an example for others to follow,” Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed.
The long game
During the session of the Supreme State Council of the Union State of Belarus and Russia the Belarus president once again reminded about the need to set up a serious Union State media holding company. “As for media resources, our specialists are also discussing this topic. Back in St. Petersburg Vladimir Vladimirovich [Putin] and I agreed that we need a serious Union State media holding company,” he said.
The Belarusian leader added: “Yes, it may be expensive to some degree but if we want to push our agenda, if we have something to talk about, then we have to create this media holding without attaching it to some other organizations. We've agreed on that. But it cannot be accomplished right away. Even more so because certain funding is needed.”
Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed: “In matters of information counteraction and in matters of formation of powerful ideological support for our Union State construction a lot has been accomplished by our citizens. Certainly, we have no right to lose the battle for minds and hearts of our citizens in battlefields of printed, television, radio, and digital mass media. Ideological confrontation between the West and the East continues unabated. It will continue for a long time even after cannon go silent.”
A radical proposal
Ahead of the Supreme State Council meeting reporters asked the Belarusian president to comment on French President Emmanuel Macron's statements made during his trip to China where he said that no country has the right to deploy nuclear weapons in the territory of another country.
Aleksandr Lukashenko responded by saying: “I agree with him. This is why Americans should remove all the nuclear weapons from five or six countries where they are deployed. And that's it. All in all, I am quite a radical about that. I believe that nuclear weapons should be dragged into one pile and should be destroyed literally within a certain period of time. That's it. It is easy to blab like this comrade of ours. Everyone can do it. This is why okay, let's do it. Let's pile everything together and destroy it. It is the best option. But for now we will act like them.”
Reporters also approached State Secretary of the Security Council of Belarus Aleksandr Volfovich with a question about nuclear weapons. Asked when Belarus will get nuclear warheads, Aleksandr Volfovich said: “When our leaders make the decision. The commander-in-chief of the Russian Federation and the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of Belarus. It is up to them to make the decision.”
“The number of warheads doesn't matter. What matters is how they will be used and whether they will be used correctly. And we know how to use them. And whether they will have to be used or not… I don't think things will go so far that they will need to be used. After all, warheads and other tactical or strategic nuclear munitions are primarily designed as a deterrent, designed to ensure security of both Russia and Belarus,” Aleksandr Volfovich said.
TRUE MEN! How did the president's ice hockey team become a champion once again?
On Saturday, 8 April in the Olympic Arena in Minsk the Belarus president's ice hockey team won another match against the Minsk Oblast team 6:4 (2:0, 1:1, 3:3) in the 16th edition of the national amateur ice hockey tournament for prizes of the Presidential Sports Club. The president's team also prevailed a week before as well – 6:1.
The Belarus president's team became the winner of the national amateur ice hockey tournament for prizes of the Presidential Sports Club for the 14th time.
The head of state personally contributed to the victory of his team. Thanks to his accurate passes, two of the six pucks flew into the opposing team's goal. A goal double closer to the end of the match was scored by Nikolai Lukashenko, who hit the goal with long-range shots.
Ice hockey - no matter professional or amateur - is also a holiday for the fans. During the breaks of the hockey match the audience saw performances by Belarusian pop singers. In addition, the most active fans took part in contests on the ice, the winners of which went away with prizes from the Presidential Sports Club. Other fans did not leave without gifts either: immediately after the end of the game they received dozens of toys from players of the president's team.
Children from Donbass also attended the final game - they are now on vacation in Belarus. On behalf of the head of state, more than 1,000 children from this region will enjoy recreation in the children's health camp Dubrava in Soligorsk District in April-May. 347 people came for the first shift. Those are mainly teenagers from Gorlovka and Mariupol: children from low-income, large families, single-parent families or families under guardianship. Children from an orphanage from the city of Antratsit are also among them. According to the accompanying adults, when the children arrived in Belarus, they had the simplest desires: to sleep in silence, swim in a swimming pool, chat with peers, and see Belarus, and in particular its capital, Minsk.