Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has been under pressure recently as his country grapples with a major economic crisis that has led to a 36 percent currency devaluation and soaring inflation.
Despite these problems, however, there seems to be plenty of fight left in the Belarusian leader. At a televised press conference on June 17, he gave a defiant performance, during which he waxed lyrical for at least an hour on a number of topics while journalists reportedly failed to get a word (let alone a question) in edgewise
Here is a brief selection of the embattled president's spirited defense of his record in government:
On journalists and the Internet:
"[Some journalists] are now trying to discredit Belarus using slightly different methods, including trash that is called the Internet."
Lukashenka also reiterated his accusation that recent waves of panic buying by consumers had been fueled by journalists and media outlets.
"I'm not against the Internet. All I'm saying is that it has everything. You might find anything in there -- like in any garbage can. But it's also a great achievement of mankind and there's a lot of good stuff there -- even though criminals use it, too. Now the Americans are inventing something that will put the Internet beyond anyone's control. They've seen that the Internet is a good weapon for the achievement of their goals."
On Belarus's economic crisis:
"We will not retreat one iota from our economic model."
"Why haven't I chopped off heads [in the government]? I know who's to blame and who's not...If you're culpable, I cut you."
"There is no crisis -- only panic and anxiety."
On critics of his economic policies:
"Once upon a time they were thrown out of the government. Now these toads and snakes come out to criticize and advise."
On recent protests against gasoline restrictions:
"When I was informed [about the protest], I asked the interior minister a question: 'What sort of protest took place which snarled up traffic for hours?' He started to tell me. I said to him: 'One more protest like this and you're toast.' That was the sum total of my reaction to that event."
On "agro-towns" and milkmaids:
"It's important that there be hot water in the agro-towns -- so in the evening milkmaids can be washed when they come to their husbands' bed."
Lukashenka has previously claimed that he alone has worked to support agriculture and country dwellers by developing so-called "agro-towns."
On Russia and Russian economic pressure:
"Only a jerk could follow the [economic] course taken by Russia and other countries."
"You think it's easy for our industries to compete in the Russian market today? That's where we sell half of our products. Natural gas there costs $110, while here it is almost $300. How are we supposed to compete? And if we don't pay up they say: 'Stop! We're turning on the screws. The Belarusian miracle is over!' It looks like they don't enjoy our success. So they denigrate us. I can't even tell you how, but when the time comes, I will."
-- compiled and translated by Bohdan Andrusyshyn