Belarus: Alexander Lukashenko: “You’re democratic bandits”

Alexander Lukashenko speaking to journalists after voting during parlamentary elections, Minsk, 23 September 2012.
Alexander Lukashenko speaking to journalists after voting during parlamentary elections, Minsk, 23 September 2012.
23 October 2012 – The Independent (London)

The President of Belarus has made the former Soviet state a pariah nation. In an rare interview, he assures Evgeny Lebedev, owner of the British daily The Independent, that his people prefer security to freedom.

It is said you can judge a man by the company he keeps. If so, Alexander Lukashenko – President of Belarus for the last 18 years – is sending out worrying signals.

Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian President whose regime has overseen the massacres of Houla and Daraya, is described as "wonderful" and "an absolute European, civilized man". Colonel Gaddafi is name-dropped, as is Saddam Hussein.

Sat amid the faux grandeur of his offices in Minsk, he recalled the cosy chats he once shared with the former Libyan autocrat – "I told him: 'Muammar, you need to sort things out with Europe yourself!' Then he told me about his relationship with Sarkozy" – and more darkly about how the West turned on his old Iraqi confidant.

"American envoys came to see me before the crisis in Iraq and asked me to say that there were nuclear weapons in Iraq. I refused. They even told me that things would go well for Belarus in terms of investments, etc. All I had to do was to support them.

"I told them that I couldn't do it because I knew that there were no nuclear weapons there. And, after talking to Hussein back then, I told them that Hussein was ready to come to an agreement with them regarding oil, if that's what they were after, and other things. Just don't bomb; don't destroy the country! He was ready to show – and showed – all these [alleged WMD] sites.

"Their answer was: 'We believe you, but the war machine's engine is already running too fast.' I swear to you that this conversation took place and that a man came to see me and we were discussing this matter in this very room."

With that he leant back and stared intently at me. An imitation fire flickered in the hearth, the plastic logs casting a febrile glow across the left-side of his face.

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