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Belarus has many friends and does not accept Western interference, says new ambassador – 11/06/2021 – World

Belarus’s new ambassador to Brazil, diplomat Serguei Lukashevich, 44, rejects his country, ruled by dictator Aleksandr Lukachenko for 27 years, as an international pariah.

“The world is a big place, we have many friends and partners,” he says, in an email interview to Folha.

Appointed in late September to the post, Lukashevich says his country is open to relations with the world, but that he will not accept international pressure. “We are ready to cooperate, but not to submit. We do not allow Western states to determine our domestic policy,” he says.

Pressure on Belarus, considered the last dictatorship in Europe, has intensified since last year, when Lukachenko won elections considered fraudulent by much of the international community. Opposition demonstrations followed, harshly repressed by the regime.

Regarding the relationship with Brazil, the new ambassador says that it is doing very well, especially in the economic field. “Brazil maintains the position of Belarus’ main economic partner in Latin America. We are very interested in consolidating this trend,” he says.

Out there

He also claims that Lukachenko and President Jair Bolsonaro “are similar in their concern for the well-being of their peoples and the prosperity of their countries.”

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As mr. analyze current relations between Belarus and Brazil? Our countries maintain friendly relations and work for the well-being of the Brazilian and Belarusian peoples through the development of bilateral trade, as well as cooperation in politics, education, science, sport and culture.

Brazil maintains the position of Belarus’ main economic partner in Latin America. Belarusian potassium fertilizers have supported the growth of Brazilian agriculture for many years, in crops such as soybeans, corn, coffee and sugarcane. In 2021, Belarus also purchased two Brazilian Embraer aircraft. The purchase of two more is being considered for next year. In the first eight months of 2021, the volume of business between Belarus and Brazil grew 129.4% compared to the same period last year.

Can sanctions against Belarus hinder the relationship with Brazil? The pressure of sanctions imposed by the European Union and the USA creates difficulties in the development of economic relations between our countries. Belarusian companies are doing everything necessary to fulfill their contractual obligations. The main “victim” of sanctions in the sphere of the fertilizer trade will not be Belarus, but world food security, as well as Brazilian agriculture. The harsh and illogical sanctions policy is related to commercial interests: crop failures due to Belarus’ undersupply of potash fertilizers in several countries will facilitate sales of expensive European and American agricultural products in these markets.

As mr. do you see Aleksandr Lukachenko’s relationship with Jair Bolsonaro? As, unfortunately, there were no personal contacts between Presidents Lukachenko and Bolsonaro, it is quite difficult to talk about the relationship between them at this point. However, the two presidents are similar in their concern for the well-being of their peoples and the prosperity of their countries.

China, land in the middle

Mr. Do you think the way Belarus is portrayed by the Brazilian press is correct? Many Brazilian media often present information about Belarus unilaterally, using and sometimes simply reprinting reports from European news agencies. In this context, unfortunately, many Brazilian journalists have forgotten the basic principle: diversity of opinion is desirable, based on which the reader can make his own assessment of events. In this regard, I am grateful to Folha for this opportunity to talk.

By the way, the closest Folha correspondent, which covers events in our country, is in Brussels, about 2,000 km from Belarus. If a Belarus correspondent starts covering deforestation in the Amazon from his China office, the report will be far from reality. But we’re happy to help provide reliable information: our ports and email addresses are open, as are our social media on Facebook and Twitter [a Folha enviou sua correspondente em Bruxelas à Belarus em agosto de 2020 para reportar do país os protestos contra a ditadura de Lukachenko.]

Lukachenko’s election in 2020 was not recognized by the European Union, the US and several countries, as it was considered fraudulent and conducted in an atmosphere of intimidation to the opposition. As mr. see this fact? Belarus invited observers from the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe), the CIS (Community of Independent States), the Union of Russia and Belarus, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the OTSC (Collective Security Treaty Organization).

We do not deviate a single step from our guarantees and commitments, including those of the OSCE. Odihr’s decision [órgão de direitos humanos da OSCE] not sending an observation mission was disappointing for us. Perhaps they have not come precisely to deny the opposition’s violent actions against the current government? However, all other observers did not see any violations in the electoral process, which is why President Lukachenko was congratulated by the leaders of Russia, China, Turkey, Vietnam, Venezuela etc. In Belarus, elections are held for the people of Belarus, not for approval by the US or the EU or any other party.

Belarus is, in many ways, considered an international pariah, for arresting opponents, censoring media and cracking down on demonstrations. What do you have to say about this? Belarus is a responsible member of the international community. We are the only country in the former Soviet Union that has no territorial claims to its neighbors, no latent or overt military conflict, population starvation or corruption. We have a 100% literacy rate. Our UN resolutions are supported by most countries. Therefore, we must not copy the clichés of the EU and the US, which write a lot of negative and unfounded things not only about my country, but also about other states, including Brazil. EU and US politicians have a short memory: everyone has forgotten that, thanks to the negotiating platform in Minsk, the escalation of the military conflict in Donbass, Ukraine, was avoided. The world is a big place, we have many friends and partners.

Lukachenko has been in power for 27 years. Would it not be healthy to have an alternation of power? Do you know the beauty of life on Earth? Its diversity. Every political system has its stages of formation, development and growth. The people of our country have never been in favor of revolutionary change; we are in favor of evolution and growth. It must be remembered that our independence began in 1991, almost yesterday by historical standards. But reform processes are already underway in Belarus.

The Constitution is being amended, the deeper separation of powers between the Powers is in progress. President Lukachenko has repeatedly stated that he is not clinging to power. Another question is whether someone from the outside wants to impose their opinions on us, to tell us what to do. History knows many examples of such imposition and how it ends: the most recent example is Afghanistan. Where are these “teachers of the right life” now? If we’re talking about political longevity, there are many examples: Angela Merkel has ruled Germany for 16 years, the father of the Swedish development model, Prime Minister Tage Erlander, ruled for 23 years [entre 1946 e 1969].

In May, Belarus forced a Ryanair airline flight to land in Minsk, so opponent Roman Protasevich and his girlfriend were arrested. The act was classified as State terrorism by several countries. As mr. explain it? Which international body responsible for aviation safety made this definition? What is the basis for these claims? Icao [Organização da Aviação Civil Internacional] is still investigating the situation. Don’t you find it strange that EU and US politicians have taken on the role of the UN Security Council and are “hanging tags”?

Just hours after the plane’s commander made the independent decision to land in Minsk, due to a report of an explosive device on board, the EU and the US named Belarus guilty and imposed an embargo on flights and sanctions against the airline. Belarusian national Belavia, not involved in the case, in violation of the Chicago Convention on Air Transport. If its version were true, Icao would have confirmed it long ago.

What is your opinion on the fact that your fellow ambassadors have left office in protest against the government’s authoritarianism, in the case of the former representative in Argentina, Vladzimir Astapenka? An ambassador is a representative of the president in another country. There is a pluralism of opinion in Belarus, but there are public bodies in which the official line must be followed. If the ambassador doesn’t agree with the president’s policy, he has to resign. This attitude works in the world of diplomacy in all countries.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Belarus intimidates and harass the media. Several websites and newspapers had to close. Why is there this kind of repression? In Belarus it is not prohibited to be in opposition to the government. But it is necessary to distinguish disagreement with official policy from the appeal to defeat the constitutional order. Those who ask for sanctions against Belarus or a coup d’état are responsible according to the law. The events in Belarus in August 2020 were not typical for our peaceful and calm country, mainly because street protests were controlled from abroad by opposition media, social media and Telegram channels. No country would tolerate a situation where protesters were led by organizations from neighboring or distant countries. I think that the Brazilian leadership would not sit idly by in such a situation either.

​Does Belarus intend to one day join the EU? Or do you understand that your interest is in an ever closer relationship with Russia? Belarus has no enemies, we have friends and partners. If someone allows himself to interfere in Belarus’ internal affairs, we don’t keep silent and we react immediately. This is currently happening in Belarus-European and Belarus-US relations. We are ready to cooperate but not to submit. We do not allow Western states to determine our domestic policy.

Each country must determine which alliance has the best advantages for its citizens. We are neighbors of the EU and we are interested in stable relations with this bloc. Today, the level of integration with our strategic partner and ally Russia is very high. It’s a market for our products ($13.5 billion a year). Belarus has preferential energy prices due to its integration with Russia. We have a common labor market and free movement and residence for citizens of both countries. We have always had a special partnership with Russia.

X-ray | Sergei Lukashevich, 44

Born in Kuntsevshchina, Belarus, he holds a degree in international relations from Belarus State University with a specialization in world economics and international economic relations. Diplomat since 2000, he worked in Belarusian embassies in Uzbekistan and Argentina. He served as adviser to the embassy in Brazil from 2014 to 2016 and was in charge of business in Spain in 2020. Since September, he has been Belarus’ ambassador to Brazil.

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