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Opinions & Interviews

10 Mar 2011

Interview of President of the Republic of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko to The Washington Post (U.S.A.)

Interview of President of the Republic of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko to The Washington Post (U.S.A.)

Elizabeth Graham:  Good afternoon, Mr. President!

Alexander Lukashenko: Good afternoon!

Elizabeth Graham: Would you mind if I ask you questions directly just as I ask other leaders?

Alexander Lukashenko: You can even ask me questions not like other leaders, but the principle of integrity, honesty is the main principle, the one I respect in human relations.

Elizabeth Graham: The U.S. and E.U. have imposed travel sanctions on you and officials in your government after the events of the night of December 19. What impact will it have on Belarus? Wouldn’t you like to change your mind and act in a different way?

Alexander Lukashenko: First of all, in order to change my mind and act in a different way, we should, perhaps, God forbid of course, relive the events of the night of December 19. But I will disappoint you: if were to happen once again tomorrow or the night after, I would do exactly the same. That is, not beating up anyone, not killing, not raping. And I would protect the House of Government as it should be done according to the Constitution and the Law.

If you want to reproach me for having defended the Constitution and the Law, so write in the United States of America that The Washington Post reproaches the President of Belarus for acting strictly according to the Constitution and the Law.

Elizabeth Graham: As Secretary [of State Hillary Rodham] Clinton met with you only weeks before this happened. The United States was hoping you would open up, as you had been doing in a minor way. You had allowed opposition candidates to run in the election, so people were surprised when you completely changed course. Why did you do that?

Alexander Lukashenko: You know we also hoped, Ms. Elizabeth, we truly hoped that the Americans and Europeans were decent people who were keenly interested in seeing our country sovereign and independent and that you were able to develop decent relations with us. However, the events of December 19 convinced us that you hadn’t wanted that even before December 19.

Elizabeth Graham: Mr. President, the U.S. was always clear on its terms. It wants democracy and transparency; Washington hasn't changed its terms. …

Alexander Lukashenko: Elizabeth, we clearly and unambiguously responded to you that Belarus had absolutely no less democracy and freedom than the United States of America. Do you want me to prove that by way of example?

Elizabeth Graham: If you hold an election and seven out of the nine candidates running against you end up in jail, it is not a very good signal to the West that this is a democratic place. Plus, there were limits on the amount of money the candidates could raise and how much time they could spend on television. Thus I conclude that the elections were not democratic.

Alexander Lukashenko: Elizabeth, you may believe what you please, this is your right. In the United States of America should any US citizen commit a crime with an ex-presidential candidate by his side – they would be equally responsible, both an ex-candidate and a citizen. Why do you single out four or seven, as you have said, former ex-candidates, whose actions should be considered outside the framework of the criminal or other Belarusian laws. The law is the same for everyone, be it either a common citizen or an ex-candidate, who by the way is considered equal to any Belarusian citizen according to the Belarusian law.
When it comes to air time in the media and so on – then you contradict yourself. In your first question you mentioned to me that we have done enough in order to ensure that the election be conducted in an appropriate manner. By the way, neither American nor European officials or other persons expressed complaints to us. In fact you are the first person whom I’m meeting with, an American, who speaks of an undemocratic character of the election. No one had questioned the election. Because all presidential candidates had an opportunity to make statements in the Belarusian mass media, and please take into account that they had entirely invaded, flooded the air time through the Russian mass media. And all Russian mass media including electronic and printed are distributed here in Belarus. That means they all had enough airtime. This is not an issue. The question is, Elizabeth, with what they have come to the election and what they have said to the Belarusian people. Nothing except that Lukashenko should be killed, hanged, removed and so on.
But I would like to ask you, Elizabeth, a question, possibly a rhetorical one. What would your president or security services do if the unhappy minority, an insignificant minority, and there were about 3,000 of them, would have made it through to the White House and started to smash the White House in an attempt to take it over, what would your security services do?

Elizabeth Graham: If they really were breaking into government buildings, they might be fined or arrested, but not jailed for 15 years. Are you really going to put these people on trial?

Alexander Lukashenko: Do you have information that somebody was sentenced for 15 years?

Elizabeth Graham: It was reported that one young man who participated in the demonstration was convicted and sentenced to four years last week, and he was just an aide to a candidate. Reportedly, the sentences for others could be as long as 15 years. Is that correct?

Alexander Lukashenko: It could be so. Probably it could be so. This is the law. There are life imprisonment and death penalty for such actions in your country but we do not criticize you for that. This is your law.
Tell me please, dear representative of a democracy, why did you destroy Iraq? This is an international crime. Why are you not responsible for that? What kind of democracy can we talk about after that when thousands of not just Iraqi or other citizens were killed, but also thousands of Americans. They had kids, families…
And what is going on now in Iraq, in Afghanistan, where a “democratic” (I put it in inverted commas) country is playing a key role?
And how did you react to the fact that your colleague was raped recently right in the central square in Cairo?

Elizabeth Graham: It was terrible, but it was done by Egyptians.

Alexander Lukashenko: Yes, but you tap them on the shoulder, they are your friends. Why didn’t you take a firm stand? Where is your truth? 

Elizabeth Graham: What should we take the firm stand on? Do you mean former President Hosni Mubarak?

Alexander Lukashenko: Regarding murderers and rapists. You are afraid of it, because you have your interests in that country. And you ought to establish relations with those who will come to power in Egypt and in other Arab countries after the revolutions. You don’t care a damn about your colleague and the citizen of the United States having been raped there. This is your democracy and truth…
And if it were to happen in Belarus, you would lambast us worldwide. Maybe the troops would be brought in, or missiles would be launched to impose some kind of democracy.
Here, Elizabeth, is an American democracy, two-faced, maybe three-faced.

Elizabeth Graham: Would you ever grant amnesty to any of the people who were arrested that December night? I know that some of them have small children.

Alexander Lukashenko: That is my right.

Elizabeth Graham: Will you exercise it?

Alexander Lukashenko: When the time comes, I will tell you about that. There’s no need now. Now for all those against whom there’s evidence that they had smashed and damaged the governmental building, their cases are in the court. And the court only has the right to consider those cases. Like in the US. Imagine that Obama in the US would have meddled with the judiciary. He would not serve a second term in office as President. Then why do you push me to meddle or get involved in the affairs of judiciary?!

Elizabeth Graham: Are you thinking of changing Section 193 of the criminal code, which makes it so difficult for NGOs to register and thus to act without fear of prosecution?

Alexander Lukashenko: Is it possible for non-registered organizations to operate in your country? Is that a possibility in any country at all?

Elizabeth Graham: There is no problem to register any NGO in the US. And their activity is not fined.

Alexander Lukashenko: In this country, any organization may become registered without any problems if it does not breach laws and the Constitution. Without any problems whatsoever! And never to be punished! But if for American money, at the expense of American taxpayers, our “fifth column”, not opposition, act in the same manner, their life will get complicated.

Elizabeth Graham: What about the Belarusian Christian Democrats?

Alexander Lukashenko: Belarusian Christian Democrats perhaps won’t get registered in Belarus after the riots of December 19. They are not Christian democrats, they are thugs under the guise of Christian democrats.
By the way, we have six opposition parties registered against 10 million people.

Elizabeth Graham: You possess power and can control many spheres. Why don’t you eventually allow them to get registered?

Alexander Lukashenko: We have less strict controls than the United States. By far less strict. Point one.
Second. They must uphold the law in the registration process. And any party, any entity will be registered just as 2,500 entities which work today.

Elizabeth Graham: Why did you kick out the U.S. ambassador in 2008?

Alexander Lukashenko: But you kicked our ambassador out of US, so what?

Elizabeth Graham: Our ambassador was first.

Alexander Lukashenko: Why do we need an ambassador who organizes the “fifth column” actions?
Elizabeth, the ambassador’s mission is to improve relations between states, but not to make them worse!

Elizabeth Graham: Do you really believe this? 
Alexander Lukashenko: Elizabeth, I don’t think – I know! I am the President of the country and I know that!
And then, who is not allowing you to send your ambassador to Belarus?
Anyway, why should an American ambassador be in Belarus if you do not want to cooperate with our country? What will he do here? Bring money for the “fifth column”? We don’t need it.
If you want to cooperate with us as a democratic America, as the empire of the world, let us sit down together and cooperate. And then the questions of ambassadors and some organizations you speak about, won’t even exist.

Elizabeth Graham: How come the presidential candidates who were in jail (and one still is) are not allowed to see their lawyers? Why don’t you give order to give them access to lawyers?

Alexander Lukashenko: You know, we do not have to give orders for that. All that you say now is an outright lie! A lawyer is there to meet with his defendant.

Elizabeth Graham: But it is widely reported in the papers that the jailed defendants had no access to lawyers.

Alexander Lukashenko: Why are you telling me about newspapers?
Your newspaper The Washington Post, I will find right now The Washington Post, and show you what you have published. This is such a rotten lie that it angers even me, and I have seen a lot, it fills me with indignation...
So do not refer to the newspapers and do not talk about the facts that do not exist. Here, read what The Washington Post published. This is savagery ... It’s an editorial.

Elizabeth Graham: What is wrong with that?

Alexander Lukashenko: Everything is wrong.

Elizabeth Graham: You are not out on the streets. How do you know that it is lie?

Alexander Lukashenko: How do I know it's a lie?
Well, because I read and compare with the facts that we had. I was watching online what was happening at the House of Government. As you know, we have cameras installed all over the place and lined in to the monitors. I saw everything what was happening there. Like in the White House.
And then our not so friendly Euronews channel showed those pictures.

Elizabeth Graham: It seems you are controlling all the TV stations.

Alexander Lukashenko: You know, I wouldn’t have had time to do my job if I was controlling all the stations.

Elizabeth Graham: I do not mean you personally, but the government.

Alexander Lukashenko: Do you not control every single thing in America? Today in America I think you control even the movements of rats. And I don’t blame you for that. Do you know why? Because you want to make your people more secure. And you do the right thing.

Elizabeth Graham: We do not do that.

Alexander Lukashenko: Why do you keep thousands of prisoners at Guantanamo Base without trial or investigation? Release them!

Elizabeth Graham:   It is not the same. They are people who tried to blow up the World Trade center. 

Alexander Lukashenko: And why do you know that they tried to blow something up? Only court can establish that. That is not democratic.

Elizabeth Graham: Because I live in New York.

Alexander Lukashenko: So they printed it for you in the newspapers, you read it and you believe it. But in a democratic state only the court may do this, make such a conclusion. And not a journalist, even of such a high standing as you are.
What kind of democracy is that? You promised to close down that base as a vestige of the past. Why didn’t you do that?

Elizabeth Graham: Do you really think that we should close it?

Alexander Lukashenko: It must be closed immediately! Because that is, as you have told me, a bad message for the international community.

Elizabeth Graham: Many people would agree with you.

Alexander Lukashenko: You see how many facts I gave to prove how undemocratic your regime is. Just kidding.

Elizabeth Graham:  If you come to the US you would be surprised that we don’t control what the reporters write in our newspaper.

Alexander Lukashenko: Here we go again... You do such things using different methods. And you control everything. Why did you make such a fuss over Wikileaks, with Assange? It is you who are the democrats. Why do you want the person jailed? He published the facts, which were made known to him. Did he write lies? What are the lies? That is true. You don’t like it. You staged a campaign of harassment against that person to extradite him to the US and, as I read it in your newspapers, to sentence him to the death penalty.

Elizabeth Graham: This is not us. The US government does it.

Alexander Lukashenko: So you see how. And you blame me. So you’d better figure it out with your government and then go after me.

Elizabeth Graham: What do you think of recent events in Tunisia and Egypt?
Alexander Lukashenko: It will backfire for you. And it will be tough. This is the example of lack of principles and double standards of the US policy.
The situation will not become better in those countries.

Elizabeth Graham: How will it backfire for us?

Alexander Lukashenko: Let’s wait and see. You will see it soon. But you know it today better than I do.
That the entire Arab arc is becoming more radical (we see that the demonstrations have moved as far as India) will be a huge problem for Americans.
And you want to arrange as well a coup d’état in the middle of Europe – in Belarus. I think it’s better to cooperate with us than to turn us around.

Elizabeth Graham: What concerns your relations with Russia, are you still dependant on it given the hard time in the relations with the EU and the US? I know that earlier Russia supplied gas to Belarus, and you had an opportunity to resell it. What is the situation today after you have lost this opportunity? How is your economic situation?

Alexander Lukashenko: Elizabeth, if during my presidency, as you said, I’ve resold even one thousand cubic meters of the Russian gas – I am not the President.
You are reading the wrong newspapers again.

Elizabeth Graham: How is your fiscal situation? How can you assess your economic situation?

Alexander Lukashenko: We have growth in January and February of this year.

Elizabeth Graham: I heard you have a big current-accounts deficit.

Alexander Lukashenko: We had current account deficit as well. This issue is a dynamic one. There could be deficit as well as surplus… I don’t know what the United States would do if it could not print dollars. You are in a deeper debt hole than Belarus. So we have certain problems, but we also have positive tendencies – in January and February of this year GDP increased by 7 percent. Only China has such growth. We are going to get 10-11 percent growth this year.
Yes, we do have some misbalance with exports and imports because, as you can see, oil prices went up twice, and we import all of it from outside, including natural gas.

Elizabeth Graham: Do you import it from Russia?

Alexander Lukashenko: Well, yes. And this is our historical misfortune, that we are dependent on raw materials, and above all, almost 100 percent, on hydrocarbons from Russia.

Elizabeth Graham: Is Russia your main commodity import partner? 

Alexander Lukashenko: No. 47 percent – to Russia, and the rest to the European Union and other countries. Earlier we used to export 85 percent to Russia. So we are trying to diversify our exports.

Elizabeth Graham: You have problems in the relations with the U.S. and the E.U. - what is your game plan? Is there a third way? You have Iran, Venezuela and China as allies. You give the impression that you are very smart person. You must have a plan of further development.

Alexander Lukashenko: Elizabeth, we are trying to work around the world, we knock at every door, but we enter the door which is opened to us. For example, we would like very much to cooperate with the United States of America. If our trade turnover were between five and ten billion dollars, that would be very good for our economy.

Elizabeth Graham: There are terms. You know them.  The democracy, freedom of the press and free trade unions. They have not been altered. In December Mrs. Clinton told you that. The US has not changed its attitude. The terms have not changed.  The U.S. is interested in developing relations with Belarus, but there should be transparency.

Alexander Lukashenko: If you are interested to cooperate, let us look for the ways to do it, and not deliver us your interpretation of democracy and its conditions. Democracy is a universal thing. We understand it as the power of the people. It does not play well for the Americans that you invented your understanding of democracy, and go with it door-to-door. At that, you have one democracy for Russia and Belarus, another democracy for the European Union, a third democracy for China, a fourth democracy for Iran, Venezuela. And you have the fifth democracy, as it turned out today, for Israel, and the sixth – for the Arab arc. This is your democracy.
This is just in passing. I do not knock so hard at your American door. We do not need too much.

Elizabeth Graham: It is wrong

Alexander Lukashenko: Maybe wrong. But we live in a democratic society, do we not, and everyone has the right for his own point of view. If I’m wrong, try to dissuade me, but don’t rattle the saber and other sanctions. But I don’t speak about that. When we knocked at the door of Venezuela, Venezuela opened the door. China opened the door, giving us a 15-billion loan for economic development. India opened the door to us. All Eastern, African, Latin American countries, Brazil, Russia and so on. Those are all wrong countries. From your point of view, they are all the wrong countries. America only is the right one. Well, we’ll work for the time being with those wrong countries to ensure the welfare of our people.

Elizabeth Graham: What is your further economic plan?

Alexander Lukashenko: Our economic plan is an annual growth of 10-11 percent of GDP and the elimination of the imbalance of payments, what you have just said. And we will solve that problem.

Elizabeth Graham: The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) claimed that your December election was flawed. Will you fix this in a future election?

Alexander Lukashenko: I can allow myself everything, but will the nation? I am not to do make the law for myself. And this law is no worse than that in Russia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, with which you get along very well. Make them change their law. As for the vote count and voting, you know, let us wish that America had such conditions. We don’t vote by mail. People come to the polling station in person and vote. And you can do it by mail. And you keep out observers, and if you let them in, they can stand only on the doorway for a short time and then get out. And we don’t blame you for that. If you prefer it, please, live with it. And we do not yell altogether that we don’t like it. And instead of tending to your own problems, you start making a fuss when a door creaked somewhere in the world in the wrong way. What for?

Elizabeth Graham: What is your impression of President Obama?

Alexander Lukashenko: Good point, but you do not make it work.

Elizabeth Graham: Who is "you?"

Alexander Lukashenko: Well, I don’t know who? The opposition, I guess.

Elizabeth Graham: You mean Republicans?

Alexander Lukashenko: And not just the Republicans. I mean businessmen, and some law enforcement services. I don’t think Obama would like to repeat Kennedy’s fate.

Elizabeth Graham: Why did you bring that up?

Alexander Lukashenko: Because if Obama implements his course, actually the correct course he announced, and acts very radically, for the sake of the majority, the other radical groups (you can’t challenge it or exclude it) can repeat a similar scenario, and they may not like it. You faced it more than once concerning politicians.

Elizabeth Graham: What about the Russian Prime Minister Putin? How do you interact? Do you have good relations? May he become Russia’s President again?

Alexander Lukashenko: First of all, the Russian president will be the person elected by the Russian people.

Elizabeth Graham: Of course

Alexander Lukashenko: This is the first point. Secondly, about our relationship. We get on very well with Putin. We have more than ten years of working together. And I advise you not to demonize Putin.

Elizabeth Graham: It seemed that you tried to reset your relations last year.

Alexander Lukashenko: You try and have always tried to reset your relations to your advantage. I wouldn’t advise this language to talk with Russia and Putin, in particular.

Elizabeth Graham: I just quote the Vice President. He said that, not me. I mean the government.

Alexander Lukashenko: That is what they said. But hear what Putin said. He is a very obliging person. If he makes a promise, he will do it. Therefore, try to make a deal with him. Carry on if you want to get his promise. If he says yes, I will do it, he won’t ever fail to do that unlike America or Europe.

Elizabeth Graham: May he become president again?

Alexander Lukashenko: If he wants that, it’s quite possible, because in today’s Russia that is one of leading politicians whose rating leaves behind everyone. That is why it’s quite likely if he wants that.

Elizabeth Graham: Everyone discusses whether he will run in election.

Alexander Lukashenko: If he wants to run, he will do it. I think they will come to terms.

Elizabeth Graham: You joked about being the last dictator in Europe.

Alexander Lukashenko: But that is the way you put it, I just quoted you.

Elizabeth Graham: No

Alexander Lukashenko: Madeleine Albright said it once. When I say “you” I mean you as a US representative.

Elizabeth Graham:  Is that how you see yourself?

Alexander Lukashenko: Well, that is her way of thinking, and she was kind of a smart politician and says such stupid things now. The stupid thing is that Belarus and Lukashenko don’t have such resources to be a dictator, and the country to dictate to the whole world. We are not the United States and we are very well aware of that. That is why, Elizabeth, we don’t lay claims to your role of dictator in the world. You do it, everyone will answer to the Lord for his own.

Elizabeth Graham: Have you ever been in the United States?

Alexander Lukashenko: Sure. I’ve been there a lot of times. Something like five times. Mainly at international conferences. And once I came to your country and visited several destinations from east to west. Then you decided it was harmful for the US and denied entrance to the United States.
Elizabeth, but I am no enemy of the US. I don't belong to Al-Qaeda. What’s this democracy if you build iron curtains?

Elizabeth Graham: Mr. President, you are tough and smart person. Do you understand what the US wants?

Alexander Lukashenko: Elizabeth, I know what the US wants from us, but I’d like the US and you to know what we want from the US.

Elizabeth Graham: I read newspapers. I think that you will agree with me. I also talked to some people in the United States. It seems to me that in 2008 you opened the door a little bit, didn’t you?

Alexander Lukashenko: Look, did anybody hold you up at the border on your way here and hamper your entrance?

Elizabeth Graham: The people who met me treated me well.

Alexander Lukashenko: We welcome all in such a manner, Elizabeth. We are an utterly open country. We cannot close it because we are not America. We are a country with an open economy. And if we close our economy, close ourselves for people, then they will close themselves for us in the same way.

Elizabeth Graham: Would you like to live in the USSR?

Alexander Lukashenko: Well why do I have to want something that is never to come true? But everything there’s in my life...

Elizabeth Graham: And back then?

Alexander Lukashenko: You know I am not the man to walk backwards. I am an advocate of moving ahead.

Elizabeth Graham: It seems that you said that the demise of the Soviet Union was a mistake for the US.

Alexander Lukashenko: Yes, that is because the United States doesn’t have any checks and balances today. And this is a universal form of keeping the balance in the world. And if, for instance, there was Soviet Union you would not have made the mistake in Iraq…

Elizabeth Graham: Maybe. Of course, the Soviet Union had control over Iraq, didn’t it?

Alexander Lukashenko: Just the way you controlled Iran, then Iraq and then Afghanistan. I don’t mean to say that the Soviet government acted very properly and correctly, the way the Americans did. There was everything in this life.

Elizabeth Graham: Does the future of your country look promising for you? 

Alexander Lukashenko: Yes, otherwise I would not have become President. The country and the people don’t need a president who is drawing a black-colored future in his imagination for his country and his people.

Elizabeth Graham: When you saw the change of power in Egypt and Tunisia, didn’t you think the same could happen in Belarus?

Alexander Lukashenko: You know, firstly I didn’t get that idea. Secondly, I don’t want this to happen either in Belarus or even in the United States, but America has many more reasons for that than Belarus. Fifty million people with no medical insurance is way too many.

Elizabeth Graham: Didn’t you think this could happen here, with me?

Alexander Lukashenko: With you?

Elizabeth Graham: Regarding you

Alexander Lukashenko: Why regarding me, but not you or Obama?
Elizabeth Graham: We conduct elections because people vote. We can change political figures. For instance, last autumn the elections in Congress took place and its composition changed. In the United States people can change the government.

Alexander Lukashenko: You know, … also conducted elections. This is first. And secondly, when we grow up to the level of your democracy then maybe we’ll have an American democracy and political system. Maybe we will have this in our country.

Elizabeth Graham: Why can’t you make a change now?

Alexander Lukashenko: To change political figures, Elizabeth, this is not the same like changing a political system of the country and policy of your country. The decorations in your country are changing, but the policy remains the same – a dictatorship. And what is the best here, it’s difficult to say. You need to change the political figures or, after all, change political course in the international arena. I think, the second point is more important and you ought to do this. And you will have to take it on.

Elizabeth Graham: It seems that there is something that we will have to do. Regarding the freedom of mass media, why don’t you allow them to work freely in Belarus? What would happen if they do?

Alexander Lukashenko: Are you not independent?

Elizabeth Graham: I talk about local media - TV channels, newspapers.

Alexander Lukashenko: So, please, come down to the ground floor of my residence where you can buy any opposition newspaper.

Elizabeth Graham: But the oppositional press is state-owned, not private.

Alexander Lukashenko: I’m speaking about media, even not opposition media. I’m speaking about pro-American hostile media. Yes, I’m talking about it. You are paying them money. They reprint what you are publishing in the Washington Post and other your papers. They publish it. And our people read it. And I propose you to buy those newspapers right now in my residence. If you want, we will give you a favor by buying those newspapers and bringing them to you.

Elizabeth Graham: I can’t read in Russian

Alexander Lukashenko: We’ll translate everything to you. We’ll translate the most disgusting things reprinted from the Washington Post.

Elizabeth Graham: It is a pleasure to hear this. But the Internet belongs to the government.

Alexander Lukashenko: No. What is the difference whom it belongs to? If you could open your webpage and read it. Nothing belongs to the government there.

Elizabeth Graham: It seems that I read that only one website belongs to the government.

Alexander Lukashenko: No. I don’t know. We have a lot of websites. The President has his own website.

Elizabeth Graham I thought the access to the Internet is controlled by the state.

Alexander Lukashenko: We can’t control the access to Internet. How can’t you understand? We are on the crossroads.

Elizabeth Graham: Look like Egyptians did. They closed access to the Internet.

Alexander Lukashenko: And we cannot. And what about Americans? Can’t they cut access to the Internet.

Elizabeth Graham: We don’t do this.

Alexander Lukashenko: And we don’t do this either. Any claims?

Elizabeth Graham: I don’t have any claims, but many people say that you don’t have free mass media. You say otherwise.

Alexander Lukashenko: Go have a look. I do allow you. Do as you please.

Elizabeth Graham: Are you going to think about having rule of law here and making the gestures that the U.S. wants in order to resume relations?

Alexander Lukashenko: Elizabeth! I have just said that I do not walk backwards. And I am not going back to any years. I am not going to play any political games with Americans or Europeans.
Because both your politicians and western figures were too dishonest. Everything they promised, they cheated us. If you would like to cooperate with us on a normal footing, we are on the stand-by to cooperate, if you do not want to, we will do fine without you.

Elizabeth Graham: Mr. President, maybe there is something you want to say. I would like to thank you. Didn’t I ask something I should have to? What would you like to say yourself? 

Alexander Lukashenko: You know, Elizabeth, you have already asked a lot, and maybe I did not answer your questions in a broad manner, but I think what I said is enough to give you an impression about the directions of my policy and about our country. My only request for you is not to demonize myself or Belarus. We are normal people. By no means worse than the Americans. And the situation in our country and the life in our country are absolutely quiet. Where everyone can pray to his or her God, exercise his or her national and political interests and build up his or her life freely. We are a stable and peaceful country and people appreciate it. And we would like to have good relations with the United States if you would. But we will not let anyone put up some unrealistic goals and conditions to us. Americans included. Perhaps the reason is that during World War Two, when we were on the same side with you, we sacrificed a third of our population on the altar of victory over fascism. And you should respect us for that at least.

Elizabeth Graham: Have you decided when the next elections will take place?

Alexander Lukashenko: The next election is parliamentary and it will occur in 2012. The presidential election will occur in five years. Come to our elections. Consider that I’ve invited you without any visas. And I do not put any conditions to you. I do not keep myself away from American journalists, as you did by banning entry to America for our journalists. Just because they have their point of view?

Elizabeth Graham: I didn’t know, I haven’t thought about it.

Alexander Lukashenko: You see and now you reproach us for the lack of democracy. Why did you ban my sons from entering America? They are not gangsters; nor do they belong to al-Qaeda.

Elizabeth Graham: This is why sanctions exist.

Alexander Lukashenko: Why did you punish my children? Punish me, what do my sons have to do with it? Why do you close the entry for douzens of innocent people, having nothing to do with the elections or December 19? Why?

Elizabeth Graham: I don’t know

Alexander Lukashenko: You don’t know. And we have such issues to the Government of America. Many, many more questions. And second - why have you violated our agreement of 1994, when we unconditionally gave away nuclear weapons to whom you liked. You promised that you would never apply economic sanctions. Why do you use them? Who will you believe after that? Your president signed the agreement, why did you apply economic sanctions?

Elizabeth Graham: I don’t know, but I think there is a simple way out.

Alexander Lukashenko: Very simple – do as promised. For the starters.
Elizabeth Graham: Why wouldn’t your government and the representatives of the US government meet together and discuss the issue? After you release people from jail, the sanctions will be lifted. There will be transparency and freedom of mass media. The sides will become closer.

Alexander Lukashenko: That's a great idea. And run it through the Washington Post, your, Elizabeth, point of view that the two Governments, as you said, I quote you "... need to sit down and negotiate ..." but not to build an iron curtain. We made a lot of steps towards you, starting from nuclear weapons. And there are some steps that I simply can not tell publicly. You have deceived us. Therefore, we do not believe you.

Elizabeth Graham: You have made some steps in 2008, then went backwards. You allowed candidates to run in the election. Not everyone was happy with that. You allowed them to hold meetings. At least, in some degree.

Alexander Lukashenko: Not to some extent, but sometimes in violation of the Law. They did everything they wanted.

Elizabeth Graham: What we saw in the press was that the president permitted other candidates to participate in the election.

Alexander Lukashenko: I was the same candidate as they were. And the Central Election Commission only allows or denies according to the Law. And everyone who wanted to participate in the presidential elections did participate.

Elizabeth Graham: You have made several steps towards the West and opened your doors for the EU and the US to some extent. 

Alexander Lukashenko: We are open to you and Europe just as well. It’s you who is shutting down from us. Why are you persistently shifting not just emphasis but putting everything upside down?
Is it us denying your entrance to Belarus, no. It’s you banning us from entering America.
We don’t threaten economic sanctions. It’s you threatening economic sanctions. It’s you reproaching us for the co-operation with Venezuela, Iran, China, Russia. And what’s left there for us to do?

Elizabeth Graham: You arrested 40 people. Are they still in prison? Do they await prosecution?

Alexander Lukashenko: Yes, hundreds of people await in Guantanamo.

Elizabeth Graham: People in Guantanamo are not the leaders of democratic or republican parties.

Alexander Lukashenko: And in this country 45 people are not in charge. What’s the point, there’s one law for the Democratic party in your country, for the Republicans just another, and for other people a third law? We have the same law for everyone.

Elizabeth Graham: Yes, we have the third law for the terrorists blowing up big buildings. It is not the same.

Alexander Lukashenko: Elizabeth, we have the same laws applicable to those who smash buildings and those who blast things. Everyone’s responsible under the one law. I wouldn’t like some building exploded in Belarus over time like the Trade Center was blasted in New York. It all starts from such pogroms.

Elizabeth Graham: Those were the representatives of Saudi Arabia

Alexander Lukashenko: We've had representatives from the neighboring countries, American and western money to cater for the “fifth column” in our country.

Elizabeth Graham: Do you mean Poland?

Alexander Lukashenko: Both Poland and Germany, all that was done, the schemes, money, etc., that was created there, out there. And then you brought the democracy to us. America was not far away from Poland and Germany. You gave them the money.

Elizabeth Graham: I understand

Alexander Lukashenko: Why did you do that? You have just suffered recently.

Elizabeth Graham: Maybe our interview should come to end?

Alexander Lukashenko: That’s your right. You ask, I answer.

Elizabeth Graham: I am grateful to you that you have spent much time with me.

Alexander Lukashenko: But you wanted sincerity and openness. I answered your questions sincerely and openly. Don’t be offended.

Elizabeth Graham: Did you really mean it when you said that you didn't care about the U.S. and the E.U. sanctions?

Alexander Lukashenko: Absolutely. Because it’s an improper conduct on your part. I am worried about everything happening around my country. But what I meant was, if you want to put me or my people on the knees, you won’t make it happen.

Elizabeth Graham: Do you really think they are trying to do this?

Alexander Lukashenko: And do you think that you want to do something different? You 've tried to do that for many years in a row. It’s not only what I think, the entire population thinks practically in the same way.

Elizabeth Graham: I still think you should let those people out of jail. Don’t you feel sorry for them?

Alexander Lukashenko: Come to the court room, act as a lawyer. I feel sorry. They are poor people who succumbed to your propaganda, who took your money and have to work that money off now. That’s why I feel sorry for them.

Elizabeth Graham: Do you blame us?

Alexander Lukashenko: Who else? If you give the money, who do I have to blame? May be China?

Elizabeth Graham: I don’t think so

Alexander Lukashenko: I reckon too, that those to blame are those who give the money and push them towards it.

Elizabeth, do you want me to tell you the most important thing? We won’t let you create the “fifth column” in Belarus.

Elizabeth Graham: Do you think the United States want to do that?

Alexander Lukashenko: First of all, the United States tries to do it, sometimes making by the hands of others. The opposition – for God's sake. But not the “Fifth Column”.

Elizabeth Graham: To undermine your power?

Alexander Lukashenko: No. It is not my power to undermine the constitutional order, which exists in Belarus. Forget about my personal power. I've had enough of it. But I will not have the country toppled and swept by those events, which are taking place all over the world in these days.

Elizabeth Graham: Do you mean Egypt?

Alexander Lukashenko: I mean not only Egypt.

Elizabeth Graham: Do you mean Libya, Yemen?

Alexander Lukashenko: They too.

Elizabeth Graham: Terrible story. I think you won’t have such problems.

Elizabeth Graham: It was a pleasure to meet you. Thank you.

Alexander Lukashenko: Everything will be fine. And pass to the Americans that ... Tell Americans that we treat them very well, they are loved and respected and we will never allow to build an iron curtain so that they could not come to us. We'll await you as our best friends. At our place. Come to us with good. 

Elizabeth Graham: Thank you very much, Mr. President.

Alexander Lukashenko: Thank you. All the best. Goodbye.

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Great Patriotic War monuments in Belarus