Another important topic to which Alexander Lukashenko returned several times during the "big conversation". We started from it - the relations between Belarus and Russia at the present stage. And the latest reason to it was the introduction by Russia of a border zone regime. Formally, this is done as a reaction to the decision of Belarus to allow foreigners from 80 countries to stay in Belarus visa-free for five days if they enter Belarus through the Minsk national airport. That's what the President said about it.
Alexander Lukashenko, President of Belarus:
There are international treaties and agreements. And a certain minister, even an influential one, with one stroke puts an end to all agreements, issuing his order. Allegedly to protect the Russian borders. Yes, we must fight against terrorism. But if we take Belarus and Russia - who is “terroristically” more dangerous? The question is rhetorical. But we have not closed the border. And when people rushed from the Caucasus to Poland, remember? Poles called them. They got there, there were Chechens and others among them – but Poland did not let them in and all these poor people ended up in Belarus. A thousand people. We warmed them, we accepted them, housed, fed, washed in Brest. They gave birth there and gave my name to their children.
What is this border zone - 30 kilometers? Are they better in defending the border than we are? A thousand times worse. This, I believe, is a purely political attack. Here you are, the border zone in response to the fact that Lukashenko signed a decree on visa-free stay during five days for foreigners arriving through the national airport.
Did you know that Russia adopted this order a month earlier than our visa-free decision? They started to blame us, but they don't even bother to check the chronology. At the end of December 2016, they signed the order. And this visa regime will be introduced from July, we signed it in January, I signed the decree.
I think if the President is a border guard and his family, the children were border guards and the border is still poorly equipped or protected - it is humiliating. Our treatment of the border is exemplary; it is difficult to find places in Russia that are guarded at the same level. Especially since I know the Soviet border, now Russian.
Why is someone alarmed by us cancelling visas for some countries' citizens? We do not want them to have to ask permission whether they can come or not. So what? This is our business.
We believe that Belarus will get more from tourists’ stay here. They will pay money here for different things, after all. Moreover, we position ourselves as the center of civilization. How can this center be isolated?
But the main thing is that we let people come visa-free only through the airport.
How can this be a threat to Russia's national security?
Everything remained as before. There is a list of those whose stay in Belarus and Russia is not desirable. There is a Belarus-Russia Union State list of these people.
Russians can be sure that they can still come to Belarus as before. Here is my firm guarantee. Someone maybe wanted to provoke us so that we take retaliatory action and thus once again impose controls on the border with our brotherly nation and limit Russians' moving through our border, but we are not going to do that. They are not our enemies, not opponents; they are our brothers, our Russians. They will still be able to travel to freely.