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Defiant Lukashenka Warns Russia, West Against Pressuring Belarus

Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka listens to questions during his seven-hour press conference in Minsk on January 29.
Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka listens to questions during his seven-hour press conference in Minsk on January 29.

Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has displayed defiance toward Russia and the West, warning them in a marathon news conference that he would bow to no one's will.

Speaking for more than seven hours in an annual news conference on January 29, Lukashenka warned the "Kremlin" and "the West" that "you can't bend me over."

Lukashenka made clear he would seek another term in a November election after nearly 21 years in power, saying "the only reason for an incumbent president not to run is idiocy, stupidity, or illness, and I have none of these."

In a blunt message to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Lukashenka said Belarus has never been and will never be part of the "Russian world."

Kremlin critics have accused Putin of trying to reimpose hegemony and limit the sovereignty of neighbors under the guise of defense of the "Russian world."

Lukashenka's remarks were the latest in a series of warnings to Russia, which has unsettled neighbors by annexing Crimea and backing rebels in eastern Ukraine.

But he said Moscow is only partly to blame for Ukraine's loss of Crimea, telling Ukrainians, "you didn't fight for it, and that means it's not yours."

Lukashenka suggested Russia has a special responsibility to stop the conflict between pro-Russian separatists and government forces in eastern Ukraine.

He said that his only wish is that "Europe...the United States, Russia -- which is involved in this [Ukraine] crisis to an extreme degree -- and Belarus do their best" to end the fighting.

Lukashenka said there is a possibility that the conflict in Ukraine could "spread into the territories of Russia and Belarus."

He added that Belarus will "never fight with the West to please Russia."

Lukashenka said "there are people who say that historically a country called Belarus never existed. Well it does now, so what?"

He warned that "no matter who comes to fight against Belarus with a sword will be hit by the sword," but added that "God forbids fighting with Russians, which would be a catastrophe of global proportions."

Lukashenka said, "There are enough fools in Russia [who] have started calling me a Qaddafi" -- a reference to Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi -- "who say they will impale me or something.... But it is not clear yet who will, in fact, impale whom."

The Belarusian leader said, "If I fail to provide this country with security, I could be hanged. Be it upside-down or on a rope, as you wish."

Lukashenka said his country "does not rule out" leaving the Moscow-led Eurasian Economic Union (EES) if agreements by other member countries are not kept.

According to Lukashenka, "trade wars" within the new trade bloc are unacceptable and he pointed to an ongoing standoff between Moscow and Minsk over agricultural exports.

Lukashenka emphasized that Belarus and fellow EES member Kazakhstan have always pushed to preserve the "purely economic" status of the grouping, implying he opposes attempts by Russia to use it for political purposes.

He added that Belarus and Kazakhstan had rejected the idea of a common visa regime for EES members for that reason.

Belarus and Russia have close military ties and are partners in several groupings including a bilateral "union state."

Moscow's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine and its support for the separatists, which Kyiv and NATO say extends to sending troops and weapons, has alarmed Russia's neighbors.

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    RFE/RL's Belarus Service

    RFE/RL's Belarus Service is one of the leading providers of news and analysis to Belarusian audiences in their own language. It is a bulwark against pervasive Russian propaganda and defies the government’s virtual monopoly on domestic broadcast media.