Updated at 18:18,16-07-2018

Lukashenka flirting with EU, but developing Belarus-Russia defense system (interview)

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In an interview with Russian state-controlled news agency TASS, Alyaksandr Lukashenka told its deputy chief Mikhail Gusman about Belarus relations with Russia and the EU, its role in the joint defense process and the Ukrainian conflict and revealed whether his youngest son Kolya wanted to become president.

Where is Kolya?

His height is 172 cm, and I cannot lead him by hand anymore. People say: Where is Kolya? Something wrong might have happened to him! But nothing happened, hes just attending school. It is rumoured that Kolya is Crown Prince, that Lukashenka wants him to be a successor Listen, this is nonsense. In Belarus, only a peson aged 35 can become president. Well, will I have to be president for another 20 years?! But I am afraid I will die shy of Kolyas becoming president!

I do not want him to be a successor. Something extraordinary is to occur in the country so that even my eldest son, a capable, smart and experienced man who is already in his early forties, would become president immediately after me. To reign and to serve are different things. I ask: Kolya, what will you do when you are a grown-up? He answers: I dont want my job to be like yours.

EU or Russia?

The West and Russia need Belarus and we need them, the Belarusian president stated. He called on some critics in Russia not to reproach Belarus for its relations with the European Union. Lukashenka said that during his meetings with EU and U.S. representatives he asked them not to force Belarus to choose between the West and Russia.

Do not ask us with whom we are the West or Russia. Do not put it this way, Lukashenka said.

He said that Western countries were hi-tech states. Economy is part of our countrys life. So is it possible for us not to have any relations with them? the Belarusian president wondered.

Relations with the European Union and the West are very important for us but they should be decent, Lukashenka stressed.

The Belarusian president said that in its time the West offered him to turn away from Russia in exchange of sanctions relief.

But we did not agree to that. So when I was confronted with that question, I said; I do not trade my friendship with the Russians. That was my response to the West, Lukashenka said.

Therefore, do not snub us for talking to the West. Do not push us in Russias direction. We have found ourselves at this crossroads at the twist of fate and we will live here, he summed up.

Army and defense

The Belarusian army has 75,000 troops, but now we are reducing their number to 55,000. For Belarus, the amount is huge. This most modern army in the former USSR, as NATO says, protects not only Belarus as part of the CIS, but also Russia. Russia has practically nothing in this direction.

We signed the agreement on joint air defense system, Russia asked for it. We have a joint air defense system, a joint group in the western direction, NATO is aware of this, and the Belarusian army is the basis of the group. That is, we carry out our main function safety, security together. The Belarusian army will not be able to face modern threats without Russia. At the same time, Russia will never do in the western direction without Belarus.

Ukrainian conflict

Lukashenka reminded that the Trilateral Contact Group of the Ukrainian settlement continues its work in the Belarusian capital city Minsk. You are welcome, should you need Minsk-3, -5 or -25. We are ready, he said.

From time to time I meet with its representatives and ask one and the same question: What else do you need to work smoothly, to make decisions? We are offering all the conditions to them to put out this conflict, Lukashenka said. This is our, inter-Slavic conflict.