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 bonus can pensioners expect? What is Belarus ready to do to stop people's suffering in Donetsk? How did the Union State of Belarus and Russia become a bastion of freedom and truth in the CIS space? What proud accomplishments have been secured in cooperation with St. Petersburg? What else does Moscow have to do to catch up with St. Petersburg?
A city full of smiling people, the team of the genuine president and a prayerful attitude to people's memory and nature are also in the new episode of BelTA's YouTube project President's Week.
A NOTICEABLE BONUS. How much will be added to wallets of Belarusian pensioners in May?
Support for pensioners still remains in the center of attention of the state and the president himself. It is a matter of social justice. Aleksandr Lukashenko mentioned it in his recent address to the nation and the parliament: “We call people the most important value for a reason. Observation of rights of Belarus citizens is an unshakable postulate in our state.”
As a matter of principle, the president talks about pensioners rather frequently and always reminds current members of the government and high-ranking officials that sooner or later all of them will be ordinary citizens. If they forget needs of those, who faithfully worked for the benefit of the Motherland, then they will have no one to blame once they become pensioners.
After pensions were raised in late 2022, Aleksandr Lukashenko told a government conference: “As we promised, let's support our people. We have supported pensioners. We will also support them three times next year. They are not rich.”
As they said, a man's word is his bond. On 17 April Aleksandr Lukashenko signed another presidential decree on raising pensions. According to the document, retirement pensions will be indexed on 1 May. The pensions will grow by 5% on the average as a result.
A total of Br1.5 billion will be allocated for the payment of pensions in May, of which Br78 million will be additional expenses due to the increase in pensions according to the decree. There are 2.3 million recipients of retirement pensions in Belarus. The average retirement pension of a non-employed pensioner will be Br705 in May 2023, 21% up from May 2022.
The increase in pensions will vary from pensioner to pensioner. The exact sum will depend on the length of service and the size of the salary, which were taken into account for calculating the pension initially, as well as on additional bonuses to the main pension.
By the way, the presidential decree provides for raising not only retirement pensions but long-service pensions, disability pensions, and loss of breadwinner pensions. Pensioners, people with disabilities, and children are all the categories, who no doubt have the right to expect support. As we can see, the state provides such support.
KINDRED PEOPLE. What did Lukashenko discuss with the DPR head Pushilin?
The situation around Belarus has been quite complicated for the last few years. A lot has been said about the reasons behind what is going on at various levels but one thing remains constant: Aleksandr Lukashenko's and the country's leadership's dedication to peaceful resolution of all differences of opinion and the readiness to do their utmost for it. While making diplomatic statements or sometimes direct and sincere statements, Aleksandr Lukashenko does not forget the key thing: whatever our attitude to ongoing events can be, but the conflict in Ukraine affects people, who are kindred to us and on both sides at that.
During a government conference held in October 2022 to discuss military security the head of state said: “As far as our participation in the special military operation in Ukraine is concerned, we are participating in it. We don't hide it. But we don't kill anyone. We don't send our military personnel anywhere. We don't violate our commitments. Yes, we offer medical aid to people. We've treated people if necessary. Yes, we feed people. And not only Russians. Most of all, we feed those refugees, those beggars, those poor people, who come to Belarus from Ukraine 400-500 people per day. How can't we feed them or treat them? This is our participation in this military operation. There is and there will be no other kind.”
There is and there will be no other kind! The key phrase amid past and present speculations about Minsk's official recognition or non-recognition of various territories. And the Ukrainian government has even decided to recall the Ukrainian ambassador to Belarus for consultations.
While they are busy labeling Belarus as a co-aggressor, the country's president and the head of the region, which Ukraine considers its own territory, are busy working out ways to make the life of ordinary people easier. This is how Aleksandr Lukashenko raised the issue at the beginning of the meeting.
What can Belarus do for Donetsk?
“I would like to hear firsthand about the situation in the Donetsk People's Republic. How are things at the front? Because this is the so-called central section, the most difficult one. The combat is very intense there. Both to the north and to the south. And towards Donetsk. Shelling. It's hard for people. In this situation, what can Belarus do for Donetsk, how can we help?" Aleksandr Lukashenko outlined the topics for discussion.
“There is a lot of work ahead. Lots of things need to be restored: industrial enterprises, agriculture. After all, people will live there. It's 100%. People need to be fed. Therefore, we are ready to provide the relevant assistance and support so that people who are our kin folk finally stop suffering. This is why I expect a frank conversation with you. Let's exchange our opinions,” the president said.
In turn, Denis Pushilin noted he felt traditional hospitable welcome in Belarus.
“I think, Denis Vladimirovich [Pushilin], you already know Belarus relatively well. Therefore, I am glad that you now have a good opinion about Belarus,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said in response.
Time to make long-term plans
Denis Pushilin talked to reporters about reasons for coming to Minsk and about results of the meeting with the Belarus president: “Now is the time for thinking about the horizons that will open before us in a year, in two years, after the end of the special military operation. And, certainly, we need to explore the things in advance. This is why I've brought a number of advisers and ministers who will work on the matter I've discussed with Aleksandr Grigoryevich [Lukashenko] in more practical terms.”
Describing the overall situation in the region, he said that there are indeed a number of difficulties. Shelling is ongoing, including on residential areas, including Donetsk itself. “But it is not only shelling that characterizes the current situation in the republic. No doubt, we have a large number of residents. Certainly, we have no right not to think in other categories, in terms of peaceful construction. There is no doubt that the war will end after all the goals of the special military operation are achieved. I would like this to happen as soon as possible. But right now we need to map out the plans, to place accents on how Donbass will develop further,” he said.
In his words, all of these topics were discussed at the meeting with the Belarusian president. “We also talked about the military situation, about what is actually happening. But we also talked about the next stage – post-war recovery. This is about creation. It was important for us to identify points of contact, mutually beneficial points of interaction. In fact, we have them,” Denis Pushilin said.
Cooperation with Belarus in agriculture and manufacturing sector will be important for the region, he said. In particular, there is interest in shipments of spare parts and the organization of maintenance for the BelAZ haul trucks that are already in service in the Donbass and also in the supply of new units of Belarusian equipment. MAZ products will also be in demand. In turn, the DPR can supply kaolin clay to Belarus. “In other words, we focused on mutually beneficial cooperation. There is something we can work on,” the DPR acting head emphasized.
IMPRESSIVE RESULTS. What is so special in relations between Belarus and St. Petersburg?
On Thursday, 20 April Aleksandr Lukashenko met with St. Petersburg Governor Aleksandr Beglov. They greeted each other very warmly and like good friends in the Palace of Independence. Trade and economic cooperation is not the only reason although it is also extremely important. Belarus and St. Petersburg have maintained interpersonal ties for a long time. By the way, Aleksandr Beglov's arrival in Minsk was prompted by St. Petersburg Days in the Belarusian capital city. An entire range of business and cultural events took place within the framework of the St. Petersburg Days.
A special personal attitude
Aleksandr Lukashenko has always underlined his love for St. Petersburg. His impressive speech during the plenary session of the 6th Forum of Regions of Belarus and Russia in St. Petersburg in July 2019 comes to mind.
The speech by the Belarusian head of state was preceded by a speech by President of Russia Vladimir Putin. Aleksandr Lukashenko noted: “If my speech somehow resembles the Russian president's talking points, it is not plagiarism. It means that we sometimes think in the same manner. I am genuinely glad to meet with you in the cultural capital of Russia, in the glorious city of Leningrad [former name of St. Petersburg] that I love.”
“This is another coincidence, Aleksandr Grigoryevich [Lukashenko],” the Russian leader noted.
The audience greeted this dialogue with applause.
Aleksandr Lukashenko remarked he had mentioned his love of St. Petersburg not for the sake of complimenting the Russian president, who had been born in this city. The Belarusian head of state remarked that residents of Belarus and Leningrad residents suffered more than others during the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945. “We endured all the hardships of this war. And the revived St. Petersburg simply strikes me. You did great by reviving this city and by continuing its powerful growth. This is why I treat this holy city with such respect, kindness, and love,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.
During the meeting with the St. Petersburg governor on 20 April Aleksandr Lukashenko could not pass on the chance to mention his special attitude to the city. “We in Belarus have a very warm regard for people from Leningrad Oblast who came here after the war and made a great contribution to rebuilding Belarus, especially restoring its science and education system,” he stressed.
A bastion of freedom and truth
The president took the opportunity to thank the delegation of St. Petersburg and Leningrad Oblast for coming to Belarus in March to attend the opening of a museum in the run-up to the 80th anniversary of the Khatyn tragedy. The president highlighted the importance of common efforts to preserve the historical truth: “We see that today the Nazis, fascists and other scum, destructive forces are trying to rewrite history, challenge our common contribution to the Great Victory and justify their criminal actions committed back then and today. Through the conflict in Ukraine, they are dragging us all into the Third World War. They failed then and I am sure that they will fail now.” “We have a lot of work to do to strengthen the union of Belarus and Russia, which today is a stronghold of freedom and truth in the CIS and beyond. Of course, Russian regions make a huge contribution to making our alliance stronger. I often say: had we not built close ties with the regions of Russia back in the day, we would not have had this level of relations today,” the head of state pointed out.
Naturally, trade and economic cooperation as well as joint projects were also discussed during the meeting. Aleksandr Lukashenko remarked that results of Belarus' cooperation with St. Petersburg in 2022 were impressive. Trade rose by almost half a billion dollars and reached a record high of $2.2 billion. “Not every state can boast of such a trade as ours,” the president said. This year the upward trend continues. In January-February 2023 trade expanded by 1.4 times, with Belarus' export up by 1.7 times. “This is primarily due to our very close and engaged cooperation with St. Petersburg. I know that you also have a great interest in Belarus. Rest assured: we will do our utmost to implement everything we have agreed on,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said. The president lauded the St Petersburg leadership for the approach to solving the tasks set: if they take up an issue, they solve it big, efficiently and, most importantly, on time. “I want to assure you that Belarus will have the same approach to cooperation with St. Petersburg,” Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed.
Belarusian vehicles, machines, and equipment in St. Petersburg
Aleksandr Lukashenko thanked St. Petersburg for the opportunity for Belarusian enterprises to participate in a large-scale transport modernization program launched in the city. “Trust me we will do everything to ensure that St. Petersburg residents, who are our kin folk, receive the most modern and high-quality product from Belarus,” the head of state assured. According to him, in 2022 more than 1,000 MAZ buses entered service in St. Petersburg. Deliveries of Belkommunmash trolleybuses continue. St. Petersburg has plans to purchase buses of the largest capacity. “It is the right thing to do. We are also going this way. I think that we will be of interest to you in this regard,” the president noted. “We welcome St. Petersburg's plans to use electrobuses. Minsk has gained serious experience in the operation of these vehicles. We are ready to share our experience if you are interested,” Aleksandr Lukashenko continued. Belarusian municipal vehicles proved their worth in the streets of St. Petersburg last winter. In this regard, the Belarusian president recalled the case when the Russian president decided to show the leaders of foreign countries his hometown. “Nobody had expected it. I was amazed at the cleanliness and tidiness of St. Petersburg, at least the places that I visited. I thought that Minsk was the cleanest city. Upon returning home I had a substantive conversation with the Minsk mayor and suggested he go to St. Petersburg to learn how to keep the city clean. Although for some reason I was criticized for these words by some media outlets in Russia. It puzzled me. But I said what I'd seen.”
Continuing the conversation about possible areas of cooperation, the head of state mentioned the program to upgrade lifts in St. Petersburg. Aleksandr Lukashenko assured that the Belarusian company Mogilevliftmash will meet St. Petersburg's demand, even despite its heavy workload and the number of orders from other customers of lift equipment.
Everything according to government standards
The matter of food security is always present in the bilateral dialogue. Food accounts for 40% and more of Belarus' export to St. Petersburg. “We value this very much, Aleksandr Dmitriyevich [Beglov],” the president emphasized. “I often say to the Russian president: in our cooperation with St. Petersburg everything turns out right, with Moscow - alas, not very much (but we ourselves are to blame in many respects). We would like to work with the two capitals of Russia. But we have a very warm, good relationship with St. Petersburg in this regard, and this is visible in practice.”
The head of state placed special emphasis on the quality of Belarusian food, which is ensured, among other things, thanks to the government standards preserved since Soviet times. “Today we are getting a decent return on this. Last year our trade in food exceeded $8 billion. No industry brought us as much income as this one. And it happened thanks to quality. In Russia, our food products have proven themselves,” he said.
PORTals for merchandise
Logistics and efforts to overcome the artificial barriers the West has created as part of the sanctions-fuelled war have been high on the agenda of Belarus-Russia cooperation recently. Russian ports have become extremely in demand for exporting Belarusian goods and joint products while the development of the relevant infrastructure has been discussed many times at the presidential level, too.
Aleksandr Lukashenko made a few comments about the construction of ports in Bronka and Murmansk for transporting Belarusian cargoes: “You know, we are now working hard to build logistics through your city. We are building a logistics infrastructure. We have started building ports in your city and in Murmansk. The port in Bronka is already operational. We intend to expand it. We have no questions here.” “We will develop cooperation with St. Petersburg very seriously,” the Belarusian leader added. A project to develop container transportation through the port of Bronka is in progress in St. Petersburg. There are plans to redirect about 7 million tonnes of Belarusian freight through ports of the city. The total capacity of Bronka will be more than 20 million tonnes of cargoes per year (almost 10 million tonnes now). Projects are also being prepared to modernize the railways leading to the port.
They also talked about the possibilities of increasing tourist flows. “Maybe we should start with the organization of the most convenient transport service. In the future we will create joint tourism products and combine visits to St. Petersburg and Belarus,” Aleksandr Lukashenko suggested. “In general, there is something to work on in all areas: humanitarian, industry, agriculture,” the head of state stressed.
A city of smiling people
In turn, during the meeting with the president Aleksandr Beglov shared impressions of his stay in Minsk. “The most important thing - I've walked along the streets a bit - is the people. You know, people are smiling. It is a city of smiling people. Neat, clean, and smiling ones. It made me so happy! Although there are a lot of difficulties which are hard to overcome. But people are smiling. That is good. The first sign is smiling people. This brightens up the mood immediately. Public transport runs well, on schedule. Commuters track it with the help of electronic displays. This is good, too. I would like to congratulate all Minsk citizens for such good organization and cleanliness,” Aleksandr Beglov said. He also praised the traditional quality of Belarusian food and cleanliness in the city. In his words, the tasks and assignments set by the presidents of Belarus and Russia have been fulfilled. “I want to confirm your words that there is practically not a single point where we haven't found any solutions. There were complications and difficulties connected with global turbulence. Nevertheless, I would like to note that our Belarusian comrades have fulfilled all their obligations,” the St. Petersburg governor stressed.
A remarkable and genuine president!
After meeting with Aleksandr Lukashenko the St. Petersburg governor talked to reporters. Aleksandr Beglov said: “It is very comfortable and good for us. And we feel like in a brotherly home here. You have a remarkable president! A genuine one!”
He cited a concrete example to describe how cooperation with Belarus is evolving and mentioned the Belarusian president has a good and strong team. The governor said: “When we were deciding on buying buses, they [the Belarusian automobile manufacturer MAZ] were participating in an expo and I simply came to the expo to look around. I entered one of the buses and said: it would be a good idea to make this for the driver, a little door here, and make this for moms with prams. They told me: okay. And when we started the [bus purchase] tender, all the suggestions had already been implemented. Now one can put not only a pram with a kid there. One can put a bicycle there. Convenient, good. And the most important thing Belarusian manufacturers have been able to accomplish is transition to gas engine fuel. It was one of our conditions because St. Petersburg is a large metropolitan city. They did it. They just went ahead and did it!”
Moreover, the sides agreed that all the municipal vehicles, which will be made and shipped to St. Petersburg, will also be powered by gas engine fuel.
The purchase of large-capacity buses in Belarus was also discussed during the meeting with the president. Aleksandr Beglov said that MAZ had won a tender for the delivery of 270 articulated large-capacity buses. “Here you go! Well done!” the governor said.
CHERRY ON THE CAKE THROUGH COMMON LABOR. Why did Lukashenko come to the Khatyn memorial on subbotniks for two years in a row?
On 22 April, the day of the nationwide subbotnik Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko worked to beautify the World War Two memorial complex Khatyn. As part of his team the head of state was busy planting trees in the territory of the complex. A small oak tree grove has been planted there: as many as 80 oak trees have been planted on the occasion of the 80th anniversary of the tragedy. Representatives of worker collectives, activists of the public association Belarusian Republican Youth Union (BRSM) came to Khatyn to participate in the nationwide subbotnik (voluntary labor day). They took care of cleaning up and landscape gardening, of adding more soil and flattening it out.
Before getting down to work Aleksandr Lukashenko together with the director of the memorial complex Artur Zelsky was made familiar with the beautification of the complex. As he examined the territory, the president said: “It is necessary to do something every year. To add some cherry on the cake every year.” A restored church in the territory of the complex has become one of such “cherries”, he remarked.
Artur Zelsky noted: “The church fits these surroundings surprisingly well. As if it was always there. Besides, it has the style of the 18th century without overdoing it. What was done here in 2022 can be compared only to the creation of the memorial itself. A new life was breathed into the memorial. It is entirely your accomplishment.” In his words, over 10,000 people have visited the memorial complex within one month.
The head of state stressed: “The Brest Fortress and Khatyn are internationally famous places. This is why we certainly have to keep up the highest standards there.”
Aleksandr Lukashenko explained why it is necessary to plant greenery in the memorial complex. “It was a beautiful village. Particularly here when it was swamped with greenery and flowers in spring… Apple trees in blossom.”
He emphasized that all the trees planted last year had taken root. The thoughts of those who did this work may have had something to do with it. “Everything in nature feels things and is interconnected. We simply haven't learned it yet. It seems to me we know nothing at all about nature. This is why we'd better pray for it,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.
On the whole, he is convinced that by beautifying the memorial complex participants of the subbotnik are doing the right thing. By the way, there is still plenty of space there for anyone, who feels like it, to go there with the family and plant a tree of their own in this memorable and significant place.
Aleksandr Lukashenko has been helping beautify the World War Two memorial complex Khatyn for two years in a row during subbotniks. A month ago he and his sons visited the complex on the 80th anniversary of the Khatyn tragedy.
A museum was built ahead of the anniversary. Large-scale restoration work was performed. “The most important thing is the exposition that will be there. I want people to feel pain in their hearts even before they set foot here,” Aleksandr Lukashenko gave the instruction as he visited Khatyn in April 2022. Young Belarusians actively contributed to implementing the head of state's initiative. As a result, the restoration of the memorial complex was declared an all-Belarusian youth construction project, which brought together families and worker collectives from all over the country.
The museum is full of exhibits and modern interactive technologies that allow telling visitors about the dreadful events of the past as realistically as possible. Terrible crimes committed by the Nazi and their aiders and abettors in the Belarusian land are behind every wall, every photo in the museum.
In his speech during the Khatyn commemoration event a month ago Aleksandr Lukashenko said: “Once again I want to repeat to all of you and to those who will hear me: come here more often, bring your children with you, your own children, children of your neighbors, of other people. If we forget the road to Khatyn, everything will happen again. We must avoid it. Life is most precious.”
Back then he also visited the church, which had been rebuilt in the territory of the memorial complex in the image of the church that previously existed in the village and was destroyed during the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945. The head of state lit a candle in the temple.