Mr Lukashenko, can you give us an update on the condition of one of your rival candidates, Vladimir Neklayev, who was severely beaten. Where is he now? The pictures of his injuries have been seen worldwide. Do you want Belarus to be judged by these pictures or do you plan to change something?
I do not live in a Belarus of virtual images. That is the first thing. Secondly, the elections were not marred in the way you say. All that happened after the elections. As for Mr Neklayev, we have a very good health system, not worse that what you have in France. They take charge of all health problems, including those suffered by former presidential candidates. I am not a doctor so I cannot comment on this kind of questions. Now if you are talking about these clashes that they organized and where they recruited hot-headed teenagers. I guess you saw these pictures too, not just the ones of the candidate with the black-eye. I imagine you also read the comments by his campaign manager, who did not blame the police for what happened. That is their business to sort things out between themselves. There is no need to drag us into this.
Hundreds of people have been detained, several of them beaten. Seven presidential candidates have been arrested. Is not this disproportionate? Why such a heavy-handed reaction? Are you scared of the opposition?
You know I am not afraid of any European organizations. I have been re-elected as the president of Belarus. I have to serve my people and secure peace and security for this nation. Everything that happened yesterday was recorded by the press including foreign journalists and including Euronews. If you are honest, please show what has happened. These were riots. The organizers and participants should be held responsible. And they will be held accountable but not to me — I do not need that, I am not bloodthirsty. They will answer before the people of Belarus in accordance with our laws. If anything like that happened in France people responsible will be held accountable. But I must tell you we did not use tear gas against them as they did in France and we did not use water cannons either. So we are still a long way from your version of democracy.
What is your account of what happened? Did these people break the law?
“Not only did they break the law. Despite everything they gathered in Minsk’s central square and blocked traffic. They marched towards government headquarters and vandalized them. They smashed windows. Ask to show these pictures, ask your journalists who are currently filming me to give you the pictures of the storm of the House of the Government. That was the issue. Of course, the police were obliged to take necessary measures to restore order. They detained the rioters and the organizers. But it is not eight or nine candidates being detained, I would say it is between two and three. If Euronews was an honest channel, you would show what happened in Belarus, what these people did.”
International observers say the heavy-handed breakup of the protests and the questions which cloud the vote count are the reasons why they have not recognized the elections as free and democratic. Does that annoy you?
“That is not correct. Everything the observers wrote in their report pointed to a considerable step forward compared to the 2006 election. It is a massive step and this can form the basis to build our relations with Europe. There are those who want to interpret the situation in Belarus in an impartial way. So I am not annoyed as you suggested. That is the first point. Secondly, the elections were organized for our country, not for the OSCE mission. We invited all those who wanted to attend. If they have seen or heard something, whatever that might be, that means there is something to see and to listen to. Therefore it does not really concern me. I believe that all our problems with France and the EU will be resolved shortly. Everything will pass; it is an external influence. All I ask is that you be more objective. Euronews journalists should not work in a non-objective manner. Up till now, you have not been neutral in your coverage of what has been happening in Belarus.”
Has the Russian president congratulated you on your victory?
You know, I spent half of the day at the press conference. I will check my mail as soon as we finish here. I have already had phone calls from President Nazarbayev and Hugo Chavez from Venezuela. Some other heads of state have also sent me messages of congratulations but I have no information on who it was as I have spent half of the day at the press conference. I will check my mail immediately after the interview.