Updated at 14:13,22-06-2018

Mikheil Saakashvili: I am grateful to Belarusian people, not Lukashenka


Ex-President of Georgia, and now – the head of the Odessa region and one of the most prominent figures in Ukrainian politics gave an exclusive interview to Belsat, where he spoke about the role of Belarus in the war in Ukraine, Belarusian prospects in Europe and Georgia’s gratitude to Lukashenka.

The conversation took place in Warsaw during a visit of Mikheil Saakashvili to the conference dedicated to the memory of the deceased Polish President Lech Kaczynski.

Soon Belarus may get a Russian military air base. What is the role played by Lukashenka in Putin’s war in Ukraine?

I do not feel that Lukashenka is conducting an anti-Ukrainian policy. As far as I know, he had a good relationship with Victor Yushchenko and the “orange” government, but for some reasons, he had a bad relationship with Viktor Yanukovych, they had a conflict. Lukashenka has always been good at taking the Russian heat, especially at the first stage of the war in Ukraine. It would be very dangerous if Belarus joined the conflict.

I believe that Russia is stuck in Ukraine because Ukrainian soldiers showed their heroic resistance, and I think one of the main reasons why Russia went to Syria is a desire to divert attention from Ukraine, where it did not have any progress.

In Syria, however, they also have no game. They will bomb the rebels, but Assad is likely to be overthrown. To avoid this, they need to introduce ground forces, then it will be a new Afghanistan. Aviation will let them win the war, especially after the plane was shot down by the Turks.

If oil prices remain at current levels, Putin will not be able to play. And it is impossible to defeat Ukraine, Ukraine may only defeat itself.

Why did you congratulate Lukashenka after the 2010 elections, when protest rally in Minsk was brutally dispersed?

For us the choice was very specific. Lukashenka was under great pressure from the Kremlin. It was not just pressure and blackmail: he was offered $2 billion for the very week Belarusian economy (in fact, it is also weak now) to recognize South Ossetia and Abkhazia. And he did not do it. I cannot forget it, it was very important for us, for such a small country as Georgia. It was a signal not to Lukashenka, but to the people. At the time, there were certain conventions, which I am not rejecting now.

I understand the problems related to the regime of Lukashenka, but when it was important for Ukraine that during the war in the east Belarus took a neutral position, Belarus did it.

Belarusians have tremendous potential to develop democracy, to live in freedom and have a future — I am absolutely convinced of this. After solving their problems, Belarus will move to Europe much faster than each of the countries in our region — just on the basis of geography, the nature of Belarusians and objective reality.

What reforms would you conduct in Belarus, if you could?

I have been living in Ukraine for a long time, and I identify myself with this country. But for Belarus, I have only warm feelings, and I cannot imagine myself in any role in the Belarusian government.