The preservation of peace and security in the region became one of the topics of the interview President Alexander Lukashenko gave to the TV and Radio Company Mir.
During the open and frank conversation, the Belarus President covered a wide range of matters like the recent talks of Alexander Lukashenko and Vladimir Putin, as well as the tragedy in St. Petersburg. At this point, as Alexander Lukashenko noted, all the bilateral problems between Belarus and Russia immediately seemed so small.
The main task of any state is to minimize the number of such terrorist acts.
Alexander Lukashenko, President of Belarus:
You know that there were many contradictions and problems in relations between Belarus and Russia on certain issues. It bothered me and President Putin. All this was unpleasant, especially between our two close countries. And we prepared for this meeting. But just as we were going to meet, news came about that terrorist act. All these problems, which we were preparing to discuss, suddenly seemed so small.
We understood the true value in this life.
What is oil, gas and so on, when suddenly, under your nose, a terrorist attack takes place and people die? These were people whom we need to protect. Security and defense issues were scheduled as the main ones in the negotiations with Putin. They came to the fore. Everything else, everyday issues, seemed so small and we devoted less time to the discussion of those matters. We primarily paid attention to this.
It was a lesson to us at the moment, and it should serve as a lesson to everyone.
The talks between the two presidents took place on 3 April. They were most constructive and detailed. Alexander Lukashenko and Vladimir Putin talked a few hours one on one and then were joined by their delegations. As a result, a decision was made to refinance Belarus' debts.
Also, the two countries settled all issues in the oil and gas sector.
In agriculture, we have virtually no problems. We clearly form programs for each year, including on the food supply - especially to the Russian Federation. For example, the Russian Federation today has a shortage of dairy products, about 7 million tons of milk. We supply there 4 million tons while another 3 is free in the market.
And I just told Putin: why did you close supplies of Belarusian products to the Russian market?
The same goes for meat products. Are we creating competition to your companies? Almost not, because the market is free.
The fact that we have lower prices and higher quality is not a reason to discriminate us in the market.
We have to work in Russia, make products that are clear from nitrates. It is necessary to process these products in modern milk- and meat-processing plants, and so on. We brought the processing of agricultural products up to the international standards and the European market opened for us. They came, checked and said: "Oh, God, we did not expect you to have such a level." We supply to Europe and Russians began to slow down. But we passed to another question in this connection.
I showed him who profits from those sanctioned products.
They say that we re-export agricultural products. But I asked them to figure out who imports these goods to Belarus and what can Belarus do in this situation.
So it is done not by Belarusians but by some criminals. Russian criminals.
I showed him the real situation and we in the near future will agree on a system of measures to prevent it. But do not discriminate us if Russian government members today possess vast latifundia and are also engaged in agriculture. And to reduce competition they start to discriminate Belarusians. It will not work.
With regard to industry, we should go in the direction of cooperation.
We must cooperate, we do not mind. But it should be decently, honestly.
If you wish to participate in the privatization, the price is known.
Pay the money and come, we do not mind. But most importantly don't lay off people, modernize these businesses and develop enterprises. We agreed on the supply of oil to Belarus in previous volumes, 24 million tons. It is true that today we are paying a decent price for gas. We found solutions on this issue.
Russia will compensate us for the difference in the current price and the actual price at the expense of re-export of oil.
They are giving us millions of tons of oil. "Sell and get the money back in the size of the customs duties." We thereby got lower prices for natural gas. Oil prices are now acceptable, here we have no problems and will not have. We are ending in the near future the modernization of our refineries (even though they are now at a very high level too). After we finish, there will be a 95% yield of light oil products.
Then the question of oil will disappear by itself. We will be able to buy oil from any market, process and get the corresponding profit. Russians understand it, too.
Security is topic number one. One of the questions was related to the joint strategic exercise Zapad [West] 2017. However, not all are satisfied by such an attitude of the two countries to defense matters. Recently, several US congressmen reported in the media that they are extremely dissatisfied with the allied relations between Minsk and Moscow.
Many focused somehow on the exercises Zapad 2017, which will be held on the territory of Belarus. Today I received a letter from a group of US congressmen.
Including the known senator McCain, who is looking for democracy here in Belarus.
They wrote about detentions in Belarus and so on. They also touch on our defense actions of Belarus and Russia. I will answer him. Let them, at first, look at the democracy in Western countries. More recently, we've seen bombing and tear gas, water cannons and clubs. In Brussels, London, Paris, and in Germany. Well, what's next? The bastion of democracy...
Look at what happened during the election of Donald Trump in the United States.
So I do suggest they first look at their "democracy." At least we don't poison anyone with tear gas. I understand their purpose. Now, these gentlemen address the question of the drills. For them, this is kind of danger.
Well, isn't it a danger for us that NATO has become more active near our borders?
Russians love saying that it is near their, Russian, borders. Well, if we mean Kaliningrad, then yes. But we must understand that this all happens primarily near the Belarusian borders. And it is necessary that Europeans, NATO and the United States understand that, as an answer, we once (thank God) set up a joint group here in Belarus and in western Russia. I will not talk about the actions of these groups, and so on, but this group is acting and it is ready to act in defense of our interests.
At the same time we are not going to attack anyone and we don't need that. And today we are not able to fight against the whole world. Both Putin and I understand this very well.
But we will not give up what belongs to us. Therefore, they need to understand us.
The TV company Mir broadcasts around the clock in four time zones in 13 countries. The potential audience is more than 130 million people.
The full interview with the President of Belarus will be broadcast on April 7.