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18 March 2024, 00:24

Personnel decisions, search for more oil, divine aid, Constitution anniversary in President’s Week

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.

Aleksandr Lukashenko’s past work week has been full of various events: decisions to appoint personnel, a conference on subsurface resources, a meeting with top priests of the Belarusian Orthodox Church, and a large-scale event dedicated to the 30th anniversary of Belarus’ Constitution.

On Saturday, 16 March the head of state talked to President of Russia Vladimir Putin over the phone. The presidents discussed topical matters concerning bilateral relations and the situation in the region. By the way, 17 March is the final day of the presidential election campaign in Russia. Polling stations were also open for Russians in Belarus’ territory, in Minsk and in all the oblast capitals. Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Russia to Belarus Boris Gryzlov thanked Belarusian authorities for assistance with organizing the election, including taking care of security matters.

What is a weak grip on power fraught with? Will the Belarusian company Atlant get better? When will roads be repaired after winter? How much oil do Belarusian lands contain? Why did Aleksandr Lukashenko criticize officials? What is the primary task of the Church? And does the president believe in divine assistance?

The promises that have been fulfilled over the course of 30 years, the country’s future, the new generation’s rise to power, state ideology, civil society, and many other things are also covered by the new episode of BelTA’s special project President’s Week.

SANCTIONS ARE NOT THE PROBLEM. What does Lukashenko want newly appointed officials to do?

Aleksandr Lukashenko started the work week by dealing with personnel appointments on 11 March. On that day he appointed heads of municipal government agencies, major enterprises, deputy ministers in a number of agencies.

A number of personnel decisions are traditionally made in a routine manner but the head of state talks to other executives personally before signing the relevant documents. This time the new heads of Korelichi District and Berezino District Andrei Gordei and Andrei Sokolovsky went to the president’s office in addition to First Deputy Chairman of the Minsk Oblast Executive Committee Vasily Sysoyev, the directors general of ZAO Atlant and OAO BelAZ Dmitry Kharitonchik and Sergei Lesin, and Director General of UP Belspetsvneshtechnika Igor Velentei.

Moreover, this week Aleksandr Lukashenko also formalized the previously made decision to appoint Aleksandr Yegorov Deputy Head of the Belarus President Administration.

Better jobs for incompetent officials

When discussing personnel issues, Aleksandr Lukashenko addressed First Deputy Head of the Belarus President Administration Maksim Ryzhenkov who was introducing candidates for positions in municipal government agencies. The president asked why their predecessors had to be replaced.

In particular, the conversation touched upon Gennady Shatuyev, who had been relieved of his post as Chairman of the Korelichi District Executive Committee. A decrease in the social and economic performance of the district was the reason. At the same time, the official was offered a job as an assistant to the first deputy chairman of the Grodno Oblast Executive Committee, who oversees agriculture and rural development.

“How come? If this person failed at his job, if he actually failed it, to put it mildly, why would we promote him to the level of the oblast government?” the president asked with criticism. “Sort this out. It shouldn't be like this. People see this and will make their evaluations. People will see his transfer to Grodno as a promotion. If a person works to the best of the ability, if they do their utmost, if they deserve it, that’s a different matter. But I doubt it.”

“We should look into such things very seriously. We need to be consistent, so that people will understand why we do what we do,” Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed.

A difficult period and the need to organize people

Authorizing the appointment of new heads of municipal government agencies, the president warned that things will not be easy this year and later on. Not only executives are supposed to accomplish common tasks starting with the development of the country as a whole and ending with beautification on the ground. This is why the head of state urged government officials to put more efforts into explaining to people how complicated the time is and why the contribution of every individual is important.

“And sanctions are not the problem although they are a factor. We are being choked from all the sides and rather a lot. The fact that our people have not felt it is an accomplishment of the authorities as well,” the president said. “People need to be told and explained that they have to do what they have to do. No one will do it for them.”

According to Aleksandr Lukashenko, the authorities should organize people, create conditions and opportunities for them to participate in the beautification of the areas where they live. Municipal authorities, including district administrations, district road maintenance departments, should get involved in this work if the maintenance of backyards and back alleys is used as an example. “You have to organize people. The Year of Quality starts from everyone’s courtyard,” the head of state emphasized.

He also reminded about his instruction to plant verdant hedges along motorways so that people would not have to spend a lot of time cutting down grass with trimmers. It is surprising that Minsk Oblast lags behind in this matter although the practice originated there. This is why Aleksandr Lukashenko gave instructions to pass on his demand to the head of the Minsk Oblast administration.

“Men, please take up the cleanup task very seriously. Make people, teach them, demand that people take care of their land plots. If they do not understand and do not maintain the plot, it means that this plot should be handed over to someone else. We need a serious and strict attitude to the matter. Land plots, homestead plots and other plots should not stay idle. There should be no weeds there. A village should look like a village, even if three people live there,” the president said. “It is the job of the head of the district administration. The head of the oblast administration has to oversee it. Otherwise, we will not accomplish anything this year. I say it publicly so that you would understand that things will not be easy. Demands will only get higher.”

The president considers the relaxed atmosphere among officials to be a dangerous drawback of the current situation: “The most dangerous thing is that we have relaxed. If the authorities feel relaxed, their days are numbered. Therefore, I want to give you a boost and make you fulfill your duties.”

Pothole repairs

The head of state gave instructions to fix potholes and restore roads where it is necessary by 9 May. “You have March and April. All the roads must be restored by 9 May. It is the government’s task. Tell the prime minister personally to get down to it together with the deputy prime minister,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko drew special attention to the quality of road repairs and maintenance. It is imperative that contractors should be held responsible for it.

The state of affairs at Atlant Company

Atlant Company is a special enterprise. It is known for manufacturing refrigerators and washing machines. On the one hand, consumers use these products every day and subconsciously evaluate the quality of all the Belarusian industrial goods in this manner. On the other hand, Aleksandr Lukashenko has to regularly pay attention to this enterprise directly. The plant is located in Minsk just across the road from the Palace of Independence where the head of state often works.

Aleksandr Lukashenko charged Atlant’s newly appointed director Dmitry Kharitonchik with improving the company’s performance indicators.

“Atlant is not doing fine. Did I get it right?” Aleksandr Lukashenko asked Dmitry Kharitonchik.

Dmitry Kharitonchik remarked that the company is going through a certain decline in comparison with an upward trend in 2021-2022. He attributed it to changes in the market situation.

“Dmitry, tell me honestly: did you decide to take up the post yourself or are you just being pushed into this position?” the president asked.

“Absolutely not. I started my working career at a plant. I worked at BelAZ for more than 12 years back in the day. This is why this is an absolutely conscious choice of mine,” Dmitry Kharitonchik said.

“I will be only happy, because when I come to the Palace of Independence, leave the palace, I look at Atlant and I realize that there are problems over there. And some people are not happy. This is why we need to make it a real enterprise,” Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed. “Your refrigerators and washing machines are quite good. These products should be promoted so that they would sell and our people would buy them.”

According to Dmitry Kharitonchik, there are almost no complaints about Atlant goods. “Of course, we need to seriously work on reducing the price and the prime costs. It is simply unavoidable in a competitive environment,” he added.

BelAZ development pace

Sergei Lesin was appointed BelAZ Director General. By the way, he had previously worked as a deputy director general. Aleksandr Lukashenko was primarily interested in whether the company is likely to experience a decline this year.

“We are taking measures to maintain momentum that we gained during the previous three years,” Sergei Lesin said.

“The pace was quite good in that period,” the president remarked.

The BelAZ CEO said: “Now we are going to focus on making underground mining equipment. We are moving prototypes [of underground mining trucks] from Mogilev to the main production site to speed up this work. We are making good progress on wagons this year: 800 wagons are supposed to be exported. There are plans to diversify assortment at our main production site. We intend to make a heavy hydraulic excavator, a heavy 70-tonne road scraper. These are vehicles that have no analogues either in China or in Russia. In other words, by expanding the lineup, we intend to preserve volumes if the market for mining trucks shrinks.”

“But, Sergei Ivanovich [Lesin], this should not be a thing of a distant future. You are saying the right things: it is necessary to transfer prototypes to the parent enterprise, make and sell products. But don’t forget about quality. We can quickly start producing all of it only to run all over the world trying to put things right later on,” the head of state cautioned.

TO SEEK AND WORK HARD. What returns does the president expect from domestic subsurface resources?

It is necessary to intensively and effectively exploit deposits, extract and process mineral resources. The head of state identified the task during a government conference held on 12 March to discuss the state and development of the country’s mining industry, geological exploration work, including work targeting hydrocarbon raw materials.

On the whole, about 50 kinds of mineral resources have been discovered in Belarus. The country is in Europe’s top 10 in terms of their availability. However, Aleksandr Lukashenko is against self-complacency. This is why he hosted the conference to review what the problems are and where it is necessary to step up efforts. One way or another, domestic mineral resources and raw materials play a major role in ensuring the sovereignty and stable development of the economy.

To put it simply, the president gave instructions to, firstly, utilize the available resources in full and to the benefit of the state. Secondly, better search for the things that the Belarusian land has yet to reveal. For instance, oil. Belarus used to extract about 8 million tonnes per annum as part of the USSR. Now Belarus extracts only about 2 million tonnes.

However, not only natural resources were on the agenda. Since heads of all the regions were present, participants of the conference discussed the situation in agribusiness, the work of retailers with a focus on services available in small communities and to rural Belarusians, pothole repairs, and beautification.

What Lukashenko doesn’t believe in?

The first thing the president pointed out at the beginning of the meeting is how much oil is extracted in Belarus. After all, a difference of 6 million tonnes per annum in comparison with Soviet times is massive.

“What is the problem? I am getting explanations that the oil reserves have been depleted. I don’t believe it,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

It was noted that Belorusneft enjoys a monopoly in the country’s oil industry. The company truly works quite well and boasts advanced competences. However, an alternative evaluation of the state of affairs in this field was necessary. Particularly with regard to prospecting for new commercial oil reserves.

Specialists note that reserves and the potential are available and the annual increase in discovered reserves confirms it. No, not all the reserves are easy to recover or economically expedient to extract taking into account the geological conditions of where this oil is. Extracting this oil to the detriment of the company is not the idea. The main task is to work better. It is necessary to thoughtfully look for new oil deposits wherever possible and allocate the necessary resources. All the more so because neighboring countries, in particular, Russia explore and extract oil in similar conditions after all. It is important for everyone to work hard and to do one’s best for it.

The head of state said: “I am told that as of today the commercial reserves of Belarusian oil make up about 45 million tonnes. In 2016-2023 the reserves grew by 14 million tonnes, including by 2.5 million tonnes in 2023 alone. It is a record high of the last 40 years. It means there is something there.”

“I repeat once again: go and look for what the country needs,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

“State treasury” of subsurface resources

Speaking about the development of the country’s stock of mineral resources, the head of state mentioned both positive examples and a number of uncovered shortcomings that corresponding officials have to address.

Aleksandr Lukashenko criticized the development of mineral deposits in the country due to the lack of unified oversight. “At present many agencies have the right to exploit subsurface resources. And naturally each of them caters only to its own interests,” the head of state remarked.

For instance, road construction workers need sand. So, they extract only sand from an open pit. Civil engineering companies need road metal. Energy companies need peat. But it is unclear who evaluates the situation and decides whether it is necessary to extract accompanying mineral resources if, for instance, there is basalt under peat. “Why doesn’t the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Ministry play its oversight role? I know that you were given the relevant instruction more than a year ago. What has changed since then?” Aleksandr Lukashenko asked officials.

The matter is already being addressed. In late 2022 the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Ministry was granted additional functions to coordinate the extraction and processing of mineral resources, develop and improve technologies for enriching the extracted resources. Prime Minister Roman Golovchenko explained that now the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Ministry has to act as a state treasury of mineral resources: “In addition to keeping records, prospecting for them, and making maps it has to see to it that these resources are used commercially.”

Aleksandr Lukashenko also drew attention to violations being detected in the operation and recultivation of open pits. In his words, participants of the process are mired in bureaucracy, endless reconciliations, expert evaluations where those are not necessary or not. It is detrimental to business.

The use of easily available resources

Belarus cannot help but import mineral resources and raw materials because the country is definitely not on the short list of states that possess the entire Mendeleev’s table under their ground. This is why the strict demand of the head of state to effectively develop and utilize at least what the country has is not surprising. Certainly, the relevant work is in progress but the head of state is satisfied neither with the pace nor with the results.

The president drew attention to the insufficient utilization of the production capacity for extracting and mining Belarusian raw materials. The government registered the following utilization rates in 2018-2023: glass and molding sands - 39%, refractory clays - 47%, chalk, marl, clay and tripoli for cement - 53%, dolomite - 38%, facing stone - 44%.

“We have to utilize virtually 100% for every resource if we have created these capacities. We are underperforming by half!” the president criticized. “Meanwhile, despite the availability of sufficient raw materials in the country, over the past year we imported almost 300,000 tonnes of pebble stones, gravel, crushed stone. The things that we have. More than $18 million was spent. 50,000 tonnes of natural sands was purchased for almost $5 million. These are huge numbers.”

“Prices for mineral resources grow higher year after year. Instead of taking measures and making use of what is literally under our feet, we pay without complaints,” Aleksandr Lukashenko pointed out. The head of state gave instructions to immediately fix the situation across the board.

Three whales in the country’s development

“Our common goal is not only to make products while using as many domestic raw materials as possible. There are three whales, three growth drivers that will enable us to continue developing. Those are effectiveness, import substitution, and export,” the president said.

The head of state drew attention to the need to prevent unwarranted brokerage and import of the kinds of products that are already made in Belarus.

Aleksandr Lukashenko urged to step up the quality of work: “Let’s agree that all the approaches to quality of work should be revised in the Year of Quality. If there are systemic problems that require my interference, tell me about them. Decisions will be made right away.”

“There are no topics of secondary importance in economy and there can be none because the country’s sovereignty and the nation’s wellbeing depend on the stability of the economy. It is the most important thing,” the president concluded.

BY THE GRACE OF GOD! What does Lukashenko think the general public wants?

On 14 March the head of state met with members of the Synod of the Belarusian Orthodox Church.

Upon arriving in the Minsk Eparchy administration, Aleksandr Lukashenko and Metropolitan Veniamin went to All Belarusian Saints’ Cathedral where he lit a candle. The metropolitan invited the president to the library where various rare books were demonstrated. After that the head of state visited the office where the late Metropolitan Filaret, Honorary Patriarchal Exarch of All Belarus used to work. The eparchy administration keeps his office just the way it was.

“Well done for preserving everything! Thank you very much for it!” the head of state said. He also recalled his meetings with Metropolitan Filaret with warmth.

In his speech during the meeting with the Synod Aleksandr Lukashenko underlined that instead of the key role the Belarusian Orthodox Church plays a special role in the multifaith Belarusian state. He urged everyone to join in a sincere and substantial dialogue. Although in Belarus the church is separated from the state, the church is inseparable from the country and the people. This is why these two institutions should work together and help each other while operating on its own level. Collaboration may be the best word to describe the essence of this interaction.

Solid foundations have been laid in the country for cooperation between the Belarusian Orthodox Church and the authorities, the state as a whole. “It could not be otherwise. The history of Eastern Orthodox Christianity in Belarusian lands is inextricably linked with the history of establishment of our statehood,” the president said. 

What does the church lack? What else does the state have to do? Are there any places where the situation has gone out of control? What practical steps are priests ready to take in order to mend infirmities of the society? Is the church ready to change without betraying its spiritual ideals and values? These are the questions Aleksandr Lukashenko asked. He mentioned the need to approach in a businesslike manner the matters that need to be addressed today.

Belarus’ key accomplishment

It is common knowledge that Belarusian lands are located at a junction of civilizations and have been an arena of military clashes many times. In such conditions it was extremely difficult for a nation to form and declare itself, not to mention to create a state. “The Belarusians have managed to do it. Largely thanks to the spiritual core of our ancestors. This is why the state and the Orthodox Church have many points of contact,” Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed.

He noted with regret that the Eastern Orthodox Christianity around the world is now going through difficult times. “We have to admit it. It hurts to watch a religious confrontation unfolding in brotherly Ukraine: seizure of churches, criminal prosecution of the clergy, struggle for the main shrine of our Orthodoxy - the Kiev Pechersk Lavra.”

“A tragedy is also unfolding in the Holy Land that is sacred to all world religions. Unfortunately, we see attempts to drag as many countries and nations into this conflict as possible,” said Aleksandr Lukashenko.

“All the bloodiest wars in the world started from religious disagreements. The religious card is still played by ideologists of color revolutions and mutinies. In such conditions, it is important to safeguard equal rights and maintain a dialogue between representatives of all faiths. After all, [the late] Patriarchal Exarch Filaret noted that interfaith harmony is the main achievement of Belarus,” the president said.

Alien ideas and values

Fortunately, the complicated political situation outside Belarus has not affected the traditions of good neighborliness and religious tolerance of Belarusians. Ethnic and religious relations in the country are stable and steady. At the same time, the Belarusian society is experiencing unprecedented pressure at the level of ideas and values, the president said.

“On the one hand, this is due to the unprecedented pace of technological development. First of all, I mean the adoption of artificial intelligence, modern means of communication, and the rest,” Aleksandr Lukashenko explained. “On the other hand, we are being forced to embrace the ideas of permissiveness, consumerism, child-free practices, LGBT and other ideas that are manifestly destructive and ruinous for the society and the state."

The society is failing to work out generally accepted norms of behavior in a timely manner. It is more and more difficult for a person to make the right moral choice, the head of state noted.

The way to God and reciprocal steps of the church

Dwelling upon the topic of moral choice, Aleksandr Lukashenko pointed out that many people are looking for and fail to find answers to the eternal questions: who I am, why I am, what my purpose is in general. “Regretfully, people increasingly rarely turn to church for answers to these questions,” he remarked. “The church expects people to come to God on their own. But it seems to me that this is a reciprocal process, and the church should take a step to meet ordinary people halfway.”

“It is important to learn to preach the word of God in a way that it is understandable for everyone. The society needs live pastoral guidance,” Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed. At the same time, the state highly appreciates the universally recognized authority of Orthodox Christian hierarchs, whose words are heeded by millions of Belarusians.

The head of state responded in the same manner to a number of practical matters raised during the meeting. For instance, a request was made for assistance with repossessing the building that adjoins the Vitebsk eparchy and had been previously owned by the church. Metropolitan Veniamin explained: “We would like the Vitebsk seminary to use part of the building and use the other part as a spiritual and enlightenment center. So that people could attend the relevant events over there. It is our question and request.”

In response the head of state said: “It is not a new question. We are talking about a school or a gymnasium. I remember it. On the whole, I am in favor of education. Particularly church education. It is very potent. I have always supported it and will continue supporting it. Because it is very good education. There is also good nurture in addition to education. Our temporal schools sometimes lack it.”

Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed that using the building is the key. He noted that there are plenty of inactive temples in the country: “They don’t attract crowds of people like they did in the past. I think about ways of making people come to you and making you come to the people. About ways to bring people to the temple. It is the question. It is a problem. Let’s not hide it. It is necessary to work harder on it.”

Church and politics

The president noted that the meeting had been significant in modern geopolitical conditions and in the run-up to important political events inside the country.

Aleksandr Lukashenko said: “We remember how in 2020 some clergymen went into politics, to put it mildly. Unfortunately, some Orthodox priests did it, too. I’d like to say that the state has special institutions and trained personnel for it. It is the church’s job to set moral Christian compass.”

He suggested focusing on the following matters: whether everything is being done to prevent people with ill thoughts from entering Belarusian temples, from changing the way of life, and from dictating how Belarusians should live.

It is necessary to talk to people, explain the situation that is evolving around the country to them. Priests should play this role, too, the president believes.

“The situation is not easy. We need to talk to people and convey all this to them. And more than that. We need to touch their hearts. Apart from the church, hardly anyone can do this,” the head of state said.

Summing up results of the meeting, he thanked members of the Synod for the conversation and noted that he did not see any insurmountable problems among the raised issues. Speaking about the situation in the world, Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed that “they want to set fire, create chaos everywhere. Because they don’t want a multipolar world. They want to run the world like they used to. I mean Americans. We will have to go this way. But we will break through.”

“God willing!” one of the participants in the meeting added.

“Yes, God willing. If we behave decently, maybe he [God] will see it and help us in some way. But, on the other hand, God helps those who help themselves,” Aleksandr Lukashenko concluded.

MATURE NATION. What does Belarus’ Constitution embody and what are country’s real accomplishments?

On 15 March Belarusians celebrated a state holiday – Constitution Day. Following the established tradition, Aleksandr Lukashenko sent a congratulatory address to fellow Belarusians. He stressed that the Basic Law had become a document that is truly shaped by the people and determines the course of history to a large degree. Belarus’ Constitution has turned 30 this year.

To celebrate the occasion, Aleksandr Lukashenko hosted a large-scale event in the Palace of Independence. Judges of the Constitutional Court, people who have contributed to the formation of sovereign Belarus, representatives of political parties and public organizations, MPs and scholars have been invited to attend it.

The Constitution’s adoption began a new chapter in the history of sovereign and politically independent Belarus. It laid the legal foundations for the development of the state and the society.

"Think about it: 30 years. In the history of the world, of mankind, it is just a brief moment. For us, for those who have been building our country all these years, it is a whole life. A complex and contradictory life that sometimes bordered on the verge of possibilities but, without a doubt, an interesting life that has been fully given to the beloved country. On this path the Constitution of Belarus has become our guiding star, a state-forming document that is truly shaped by the people,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said at the meeting. “We have something to recall. We have something to say to those, who have been growing up all this time and stand next to us today, sharing the responsibility for the future of Belarus.”

The head of state made an extensive speech, during which he dwelled on historical origins of the country’s modern Constitution, results of Belarus’ development as a sovereign state. Future prospects were also mentioned: how confident can Belarusians be about the future?

Other participants of the meeting talked about the formation of the ideology of the Belarusian state, matters of state development and societal development, what the civil society has to do to enhance democratic foundations, the role of young Belarusians in preserving and multiplying traditions of the country. In turn, Aleksandr Lukashenko candidly shared his views on the mentioned topics.

Belarusians as an absolutely mature nation

The president pointed out that the Basic Law had not been born on barren and empty soil. “I have a great respect for the continuity and have always said that without traditions there is no nation, no state. It is a matter of the continuity of the people’s history and the preservation of the cultural code,” Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed. “It is a matter of our sacred connection with previous generations and those who will come after us.”

"Belarus may be a young state, but Belarusians are an absolutely mature nation. It is impossible to challenge this status. It is equally impossible to challenge the fact that our Constitution embodies achievements of many eras,” the president stated. “On the one hand, this document is almost as old as sovereign Belarus. On the other hand, it is the result of centuries-old experience in the development of legal traditions and state-building on the Belarusian land.”

First of all, the president recalled traditions of the Polotsk Popular Assembly. Belarus’ Constitution contains a part of it. The head of state drew the historical parallels between the ancient popular assembly and the Belarusian People’s Congress. The powers similar to those of popular assemblies have been constitutionally vested in delegates of the Belarusian People’s Congress. “We did it with consent of the people - by an absolute majority vote. In fact, we have created a mechanism that will not allow the authorities to break away from the people in the future,” the Belarusian leader pointed out.

The president also noted that statutes of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania were progressive for that period. Belarusian lands were an important part of the duchy. “But those documents went down in history as laws that reflect interests of exclusively rich and noble people. They worsened social inequality even further. Of course, not in form but in fact,” he remarked. “I’d rather not talk about the Constitution of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth that had no space at all for guarantees of rights of our nation. And the period when our lands were part of the Russian Empire left a negligible trace in Belarusian standards of jurisprudence.”

According to Aleksandr Lukashenko, the Constitution of sovereign Belarus is a successor of the Constitution of the Socialist Soviet Republic of Byelorussia. It was a revolutionary, progressive, and most importantly just document. 

“Back in 1919 natural riches of the native land were recognized the property of the entire nation for the first time in world history. It was the Soviet Constitution that outlawed the exploitation of people by other people (for the first time in history, too) and by doing so granted protection to the life and dignity of people regardless of their ethnic origin, social status, and faith,” the head of state stressed.

Difficult 1990s and the nation’s choice in favor of strong government

Speaking about the Constitution of 1994 adopted by the Supreme Council, Aleksandr Lukashenko that the Constitution had borrowed practices from the world’s leading countries. “If you remember, back then we were chasing after the world’s leading countries while copying them. Decades later we realized that we hadn’t had to chase after them. We saw the true face of these countries, their genuine ‘democracy’. Only a blind man cannot see it,” the president said.

The current Constitution is a document that reflects the country’s national interests. But in the 1990s Belarusians had to build a balanced and effective power vertical virtually from scratch. “Not right away. Not without emotions. And not without attempts of foreign ‘helpers’ to take the process under control,” Aleksandr Lukashenko remarked. 

He recalled what was going on when novelties of the 1994 Constitution were being written and discussed: “Tussle for government jobs was also in progress. Think about it. A parliamentary republic. There is no country yet. I mean there is no national development ideology. No goals of this development have been identified. There is no government system. Mechanisms of interaction of various bodies have not been worked out. And 360 members of the parliament, including myself, for all intents and purposes rule the country in these conditions. The responsibility was absolutely diluted. I saw it from the inside.”

“While the population was totally poor, we had natural resources and an impressive manufacturing potential. And convenient conditions were created for Western companies, not ours to privatize these treasures: the country was in chaos, Belarusians didn’t have time yet to think about national interests, about the essence of sovereignty. People didn’t think in those terms yet. Some thought about ways to feed their kids. Others thought about preserving their jobs,” Aleksandr Lukashenko pointed out.

In these conditions residents of the country decided in favor of a strong government. Once again the president expressed his gratitude to the Belarusian people “who believed in us, romantics, who supported us at the referendums. In the end the people stopped the scenario of the permanent destruction of the nation and national statehood.”

“We have always consulted with people. And the nation responded to the challenges the country faced by going to referendums and casting votes during elections. The nation responded with an absolute majority vote. And while observing the law. Everything has been more than democratic,” Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed. “Agenda-driven politicians tried to impose a scheme of systemic chaos and actual anarchy in the form of a parliamentary republic upon the society. But the nation made its choice in favor of a strong government.”

Opponents also failed to split the nation on the basis of language and ethnicity, to cut off Belarusians from their roots by discrediting the Soviet past and accomplishments of the heroic generation of winners, to sever friendly and tight integration ties, primarily with Russia.

Real accomplishments of sovereign Belarus

Aleksandr Lukashenko pointed out that only lazy foreigners pass up on the opportunity to call him a dictator and an authoritarian president. However, totally different things matter for the Belarusian head of state: “Fine. I don’t care about name calling. Our ultimate results are important. We have not squandered the nation’s riches. We have preserved sovereignty, security, and peace in the native land. Prosperity of our citizens is on the rise. We have achieved peace, calm, and quiet for ordinary people.”

The head of state stressed that in Belarus everything what was promised 30 years ago is delivered because people in charge are held responsible.

“We have constitutionally enshrined the right of everyone to a decent standard of living. These are not declarations, but our real policy and real achievements,” Aleksandr Lukashenko stated and mentioned a number of concrete facts.

Over the 30 years population income has increased by more than nine times (in comparison with the mid-1990s) and wages have increased by 12 times. Hyperinflation is a thing of the past. Housing availability to citizens has increased significantly. Belarus has one of the lowest poverty rates. A high level of human development has been secured. The country smartly invests in innovations and future technologies. The state debt does not exceed 32% of the GDP. The country’s agricultural sector is modern and highly productive, which makes Belarus one of the top 5 exporters of dairy products and a world leader in meat production per capita. Almost 65% of Belarusian industrial products are exported.

“This dynamics of development of sovereign Belarus hardly meets plans and expectations of those, who describe our country as ‘insufficiently democratic.’ We have come to realize what they perceive as democracy. We remember what it means to be a ‘democratic’ country in the eyes of the West. Like we were in the early 1990s - a weak, poor, humiliated country. Or like some of our neighbors who protest in squares and streets, change governments like gloves, and live according to signals from Washington… If we have to choose between the benevolent attitude of Western European politicians and the quality of life of Belarusians, our national dignity and sovereignty, then the choice is obvious,” the head of state noted.

A confident look into the future

While summing up results, it is more important to see the perspective, the head of state noted. He is convinced that Belarus’ Constitution gives an opportunity to live a decent life, develop, feel secure, realize one’s boldest plans and endeavors in the native land. “This is how things should happen in a modern and truly democratic state. And the key thing is we’ve done everything for our kids to be able to surpass these achievements and successes. We will continue helping. Now it is up to new generations,” Aleksandr Lukashenko stated.

Despite today’s hardships and all the tribulations the head of state confessed he has ample grounds for looking into the future with confidence: “This confidence is inspired by our teamwork on the latest constitutional amendments, by our recent vigorous election campaign, by our sensible perception of international political shocks and military conflicts.”

All the Belarusians will have to work together to continue a more meaningful conversation about the new tasks the time poses before the country and its people. One way or another all of them focus on matters concerning the preservation of Belarusian values, cultural and spiritual priorities, choice of development goals of the state amid new geopolitical risks. It will be necessary to discuss all of it within the framework of the Belarusian People’s Congress that has been formed in accordance with the updated Constitution. “In short, we have a lot of things to do. A great deal,” Aleksandr Lukashenko noted.

The rise of a new generation to power

During the meeting Aleksandr Lukashenko mentioned it is necessary to carefully build a system in Belarus to allow a new generation to rise to power. “Not for the sake of transitioning power from Lukashenko to Petrov, to Sidorov… No. For the sake of allowing a new generation to rise to power,” he clarified.

And these new people are already emerging among top officials of ministries and government agencies, among MPs. Those are people, who have proven themselves as patriots able to hold on to the country and continue perfecting it. “I very strongly hope that they… No, I don’t want them to preserve Belarus the way it is now. And there is no need to preserve it in this state. It will evolve into a different country anyway and will get better. But I strongly hope that these will be accurate, smart people, whose decisions to perfect the country will be prompted by life. It is the most important principle. The evolutionary principle is,” the head of state stressed.

Aleksandr Lukashenko shared his own experience of resolving complicated emerging problems: “I always stepped on sinful earth and thought what we would accomplish if we made this or that step. If you don’t know what to do, you should go to people. They will give you a hint.”

The Belarusian People’s Congress’s authority over the president

The head of state emphasized that conflicts in the government system must not be tolerated taking into account the fact that the Belarusian People’s Congress will enjoy constitutional authority in the future.

“The Belarusian People’s Congress will exercise serious popular constitutional control over all processes in the country. The president, no matter what kind of president he will be, will have to reckon with the decisions made by the Belarusian People’s Congress. My task now is to prevent this conflict. Such conflicts have been common in the course of history. But we must not allow it. I am sure that with your help, with the help of educated and advanced people, we will be able to do it. We need to hold the country together,” the Belarusian leader said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko noted that acting as a collective mind the Belarusian People’s Congress will choose the best development option: “One person, no matter who he is, with current great powers... Who knows whether he will cope or not. Therefore, without interfering with the president the Belarusian People’s Congress should carefully find its place in our social structure. You and I have to do it. This is why we will talk about it at the next Belarusian People’s Congress.”

The civil society

In response to a speech about the development of Belarus’ civil society, Aleksandr Lukashenko recalled that the notion of civil society had been heavily influenced by the Western understanding of it. “You understand who they saw as part of the civil society. Back in the day I strongly suggested that we make up our minds. Civil society is a normal concept. But the main thing is what we mean by it. At the moment we have made up our minds. And we have given an opportunity to representatives of the civil society to be active builders of our state and the entire social structure of our country,” he said.

The head of state recalled that debates about the matter had been particularly heated during the development of amendments to the Constitution. “But I am starting to think more and more often whether we have put this issue to rest or not? I don't think we have. We don’t have to. New actors of the civil society may appear. And then again if we proceed from life, which is totally my principle: what makes us put this issue to rest today? This is why let’s leave it open for now. Time will come when we finally make up our minds if we have to,” the Belarusian leader stated.

The state ideology the entire nation should embrace

The president backed the opinion that the country needs to work out a state ideology. This matter will also be discussed at the top level during the forthcoming Belarusian People’s Congress. But the matter should not be rushed in order to avoid mistakes, Aleksandr Lukashenko cautioned.

“This state ideology should inspire the entire nation. There will be no elites, peasants, and workers if the entire nation embraces the ideology,” the head of state stressed.

He agreed that if 2020 had not happened, it would have been necessary to invent it with all its hardships and challenges: “I often talk about it. We saw a lot. The year held up a mirror for us. But are we ready to say that we have ideas for this ideology? I don’t know. You have to convince me of that first and foremost. If I am convinced, then I am ready to go ahead and organize the process.”

Divine assistance in 2020 and the current dangerous situation

Recalling events of the not-so-distant past, Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed that Belarus had avoided a terrible fate, including a war, thanks to divine providence. “God helped us in 2020 [when a coup attempt failed]. If we hadn't held out then, a war would have broken out here. They [the opponents] would have dragged NATO troops here. Imagine Russia's reaction to the deployment of NATO troops near its border, near Smolensk. It would have been a nuclear war,” the president said. “We survived. God helped us. The president running around with an assault rifle together with his child didn’t. No. God protected us.”

“Today the situation is even more dangerous. It’s more dangerous because we can’t see it. We can’t see half of it. I cannot either although I have a lot of information. Therefore, we need to be careful. We are walking on thin ice. An extra wrong step and we will go under. No one will save us. And we will not be able to protect ourselves and save ourselves. The sharks around us are so big that they will eat us before we know it,” the Belarusian leader warned.

“There are many haters. That’s why time has chosen us. Let us hold on for the sake of saving our country. I want to say it again: I will not betray or change the course left or right. We will decide on all matters together with you. I promise you that,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

He stressed that the government in Belarus is strong and nobody holds on to this power with a loose grip. Continuing the line of thought, the president mentioned recent elections of members of various councils of deputies and some complaints from the opposition. “Some say that some things were wrong at some polling station. That Lukashenko’s ardent supporters were elected as a result. What did you want then? You taught us how to do it. You forced us to act harshly, build a power vertical and place strong people around it. What else did you want? You forced ‘democracy’ upon us but failed to follow down this path. Today we are already convinced of it,” Aleksandr Lukashenko told the opposition.

Outreach to young Belarusians and ways to combat fakes

Aleksandr Lukashenko also made a few remarks about interaction with young citizens. The head of state stressed that primarily honesty and directness are needed in this matter. “This is the kind of young people we have. Time will tell whether they are the good kind or the bad kind. Time can tell everything. Let’s see how things pan out. It is also a fact that we don’t have another kind of young people and we have to work with this one,” the head of state stated. “It is necessary to give an objective real evaluation to young people and their actions. Without offending and without contrasting them with ourselves. We were not easy-going when we were young either.”

“It is necessary to speak sincerely and frankly. There is no need to lie: ‘You are such saints!’ We weren’t and we are not saints. And they are not saints either. We should talk about it as well. If they commit errors, we also should talk about it openly. There is no need to hide anything. It is the key principle,” the president said.

Speaking about threats relating to the Internet and artificial intelligence, the president stressed that the corresponding challenges are genuine. It is necessary to fight them but it is very difficult to win this fight. Nevertheless, Aleksandr Lukashenko offered an effective recipe: live communication with people.

“It is necessary to work out a mechanism for living in this society, in this situation. And later on we will see how things will turn out. We need this unity more than ever in order to endure,” the Belarusian leader stressed.

Speaking about further development of the country, the president pointed out that it is necessary to act carefully: “Make a step and look around. Nobody forces you to run. Today is not the time we had 30 years ago when people asked us. Today our nation has forgotten those times a bit. And young people don’t remember how people were ready to work day after day for $30 a month but there were no jobs. And today you can go ahead and work and you will earn good money. Not everyone wants that now.”

A gift for the president

Chairman of the Constitutional Court Piotr Miklashevich presented a gift-wrapped copy of the scientific and practical commentary to the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus to the head of state. This document had been prepared to fulfill the president’s instruction of 1 April 2022 by a team of highly qualified lawyers in a bid to explain meanings and content of the Constitution’s principles and norms, to ensure the right understanding and steadfast compliance with the Constitution.

Piotr Miklashevich explained: “The collective of authors did considerable work in order to explain constitutional provisions that determine how the state operates, how our society, all the citizens of the country live and develop in an understandable manner while preserving legal exactness.”

In response Aleksandr Lukashenko noted: “If all of us always fulfilled the president’s instructions like that, we would be twice as rich. But the hard part is getting started. Let us agree that our scientists, practitioners, and judges of the Constitutional Court are an example for all civil servants. To be honest, I have already looked closely at this important document, read it and realized that to some extent all of it had been processed by the heart. Just like it did for everyone, who has worked on amendments and additions to our Constitution.”
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