Belarusian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka rejected any suggestion that he should apologize for the harsh police crackdown and sweeping arrests that targeted protesters in the wake of last year’s disputed election.
In an interview broadcast September 30 on CNN, Lukashenka dismissed media and rights groups’ criticism about widespread human rights abuses in Belarus.
"No, I wouldn't like to use this opportunity [to apologize]. If I would, I would do it via Belarusian media. They are quite good, I hear.... And, in principle, I have nothing to apologize for," Lukashenka said.
Lukashenka has been isolated and shunned by much of the international community after he claimed reelection victory in August 2020, sparking months of unprecedented protests from Belarusians.
Crisis In Belarus
Read our ongoing coverage as Belarusian strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka ramps up pressure on NGOs and independent media as part of a brutal crackdown against protesters and the opposition following an August 2020 election widely considered fraudulent.
The demonstrations drew a brutal police crackdown, with thousands jailed, and widespread reports of police torture.
Amid the isolation, Lukashenka has pulled closer to Russia, seeking loans and military support from President Vladimir Putin.
Asked about reports from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch about police abuse and torture, Lukashenka claimed that Belarus does not have "a single detention center...like Guantanamo, or those bases that the United States and [the United Kingdom] created in Eastern Europe."
"As for our own detention centers, where we keep those accused or those under investigation, they are no worse than in Britain or the United States. I can guarantee you that," Lukashenka said.
Many from Belarus’s opposition have been arrested or forced to leave the country.
While Lukashenka speaks regularly to Belarusian state media, he rarely gives interviews to independent, or foreign media.
CNN said the full interview with Lukashenka would be broadcast on October 1.
Lukashenka's press service, meanwhile, issued another part of the interview on Telegram in which Lukashenka discussed further integration of Belarus and Russia as part of a long-stalled project called the Union State.
Lukashenka dismissed the suggestion that Belarus would be uniting with Russia as “absolute nonsense” and "a fiction of, as we say here, the collective West."
"We, along with Putin, the leadership of Russia and Belarus in general, are smart enough to create, in the framework of two independent, sovereign states, such a union that will be stronger than any unitary formation," Lukashenka said.