ROAR: Lukashenko criticizes Russia, “saves the world from headache over Bakiyev”

The Belarusian president, in an address to the parliament, has accused Russia of actions to undermine bilateral relations, but called on Moscow to get back to normal co-operation.

“I want no confrontation with the Russian Federation,” Aleksandr Lukashenko was quoted by media as saying. “This is the essence of my policy.”

He stressed that “it was not the Belarusian side that stopped implementing some joint agreements.” At the same time, he is ready “to forget everything, to turn the page and get back to where we were, being guided by our fundamental economic, psychological, and moral principles.”

“I believe that having lost Belarus, Russia will lose its attractive status for good,” Lukashenko said. “If Russia continues to treat our people as it does today, no one will ever believe Russia again.”

At the same time, he added that mistakes could be corrected and promised that “no anti-Russian hysteria will be ever allowed and that Russian people will be always most welcome in Belarus.”

The Belarusian leader earlier said he intended to talk to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to discuss trade issues. But if Russia continues blocking Belarusian products, Minsk will have to seek alternative international markets, he stressed.

Another Lukashenko statement about granting political asylum to the ousted Kyrgyz leader Kurmanbek Bakiyev was also treated by many observers as a continuation of his row with Russia.
Bakiyev and three other members of his family are now under protection in Belarus, Lukashenko said, adding that he had to take action because Russia and other countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States had been silent. But Belarus will not see “color” revolutions, he noted.

“Lukashenko has produced a list of claims, along with Kurmanbek Bakiyev, before the Kremlin,” Gazeta daily said. But many in Russia believe that the Belarusian leader is trying to explain the worsening social and economic situation in his country by Moscow’s actions, it added.
However, Russia’s position is caused by pragmatism, believes Aleksey Ostrovsky, chairman of the State Duma committee on affairs of the CIS and communications with compatriots. “The pragmatic approach of the Russian leadership means that the priority for them is supporting their own citizens rather than the incompetent actions of the Belarusian authorities,” he told Gazeta.
“In this connection, Russia has stopped allocating billions of dollars to the Belarusian economy without return, not noticing the slightest friendly actions from the republic’s authorities,” Ostrovsky said.

In the future, Russia will have to take into consideration Lukashenko’s statements “when Belarus asks for another loan, reducing the price of gas or other preferences,” the deputy noted. But he believes that the criticism against Russia will not influence building the union state of Russia and Belarus and the Customs Union of the two countries and Kazakhstan.
At the same time, Ostrovsky described Lukashenko as a pragmatic man “who traditionally makes such unfriendly statements, but is guided by commonsense in real politics and maintains partnership political and trade and economic relations with Russia. This time, Lukashenko will act in the same way,” the deputy predicted.

The Belarusian leader spoke for more than three hours and then answered deputies’ questions, Vremya Novostey daily said. He does not fear “that the hospitality offered to Bakiyev may lead to worsening ties with Russia before the presidential elections in Belarus scheduled for February 2011,” it noted.
Lukashenko more than once mention “color” revolutions in his address, which can be explained not only by the events in Kyrgyzstan, but also by his decision to run for president again, the paper said.
Another reason behind his move to grant refuge to Bakiyev is his focusing in the foreign policy on the CIS, the Collective Treaty Security Organization and other post-Soviet integration structures , the paper said, citing Belarusian political analyst Yaroslav Romanchuk.

“The relations between Minsk and Moscow have deteriorated recently,” the daily said. “The reduced economic support on the eve of presidential poll looks like the cessation of political support,” it said, adding that securing high standards of living has traditionally been one of Lukashenko’s “trump cards during any electoral campaign.”
But the statements were also timed to his meeting with Medvedev due in May, observers think. “Lukashenko wants to make the Russian leadership speak in a positive way about him as the main candidate in the election,” the paper quoted Belarusian political scientist Olga Abramova as saying. “His statements can be considered as the invitation for Moscow to deny suspicions that he has voiced,” she said.

Kommersant daily went further in its assessment of the Belarusian leader’s address. He did not list Russia among the priorities of Minsk’s foreign policy and accused it of “planned activities” to undermine Belarus and the foundation of the union state, it noted.
Lukashenko “directly hinted” at a possible connection between Russia, the US and Kazakhstan and the events in Kyrgyzstan, the paper said. But he did not limit himself to sharp criticism of Russia and the US, it added. “He came close to what looks like nuclear blackmail,” the paper stressed.

Despite demands from Moscow and Washington, Lukashenko said he would not get rid of highly enriched uranium, the daily said. The president returned in his speech to the topic he mentioned during his trip to the Gomel region last week.
Kommersant agrees that Lukashenko may be trying to force the Russian leadership to support his candidacy in the presidential election. But after his address “it is difficult to believe that his candidacy will be the Kremlin’s choice in that election,” it added.

Despite the criticism, Belarus is ready to resume full-fledged cooperation with Russia, Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily said. Lukashenko did not try to offend the Russian leadership, State Duma Deputy Konstantin Zatulin told the paper.
“It was rather an attempt to call for positive actions on the eve of the meeting with Medvedev,” the deputy said. “A different matter is that he forgets about the aim of his speech, as many orators do,” he noted.
As for Bakiyev’s arrival in Minsk, “Lukashenko saved the leaders of many countries from a headache,” Zatulin believes. This concerns Moscow too, because “one former Kyrgyz president, Askar Akayev, already lives in Russia,” he said.
“The US refused to receive Bakiyev, what did he have to do? Become a guerilla warrior?” the deputy noted, adding that “Lukashenko has found an alternative way suitable for everyone.”

Sergey Borisov,
Russian Opinion and Analysis Review, RT