Updated at 19:56,22-01-2021

Savik Shuster: Lukashenka is not happy about Crimea precedent

Zmicier Lukashuk, Euroradio

Savik Shuster, host of a popular TV show in Kiev talks to Euroradio after interviewing Belarus leader on Crimea, Putin and the future of Ukraine.

Euroradio: In Ukraine, there are enough people and personalities that deserve to be featured in a TV show on current affairs. Why an interview with Aliaksandr Lukashenka, the head of the neighboring state?

Savik Shuster: First of all, the Belarus president has made several important statement with regard to the situation in Ukraine and the Crimean Autonomous Republic. Secondly, as far as I have gathered from his interviews to the press, he quite often has contacts with the president of the Russian Federation. Finally, Belarus is a neighboring country with very strong ties to Ukraine. I believe the audience in Ukraine, Ukrainian TV viewers will be very interested in hearing what Belarus president has to say about all this.

Euroradio: Why would the fact that President Lukashenka maintains contacts with President Putin be of interest to TV viewers in Ukraine?

Savik Shuster: This fact is of interest not only to Ukrainian but also international viewers. I mean everyone is now trying to figure out: what is on Vladimir Putin's mind? What is his strategy? Everyone is writing about it, guessing and sharing their understading and perception of the situation. I think that President Lukashenka is one of those people who are able to formulate quite precisely President Putin's strategy. Well, Lukashenka has said that Putin will not order his troops elsewhere than Crimea. Apparently, he is confident. I think that when he says so, he should be trusted. Not only Ukraine will trust him. Europe and America will trust him as well.

Savik Shuster: Lukashenka is not happy about Crimea precedent

Euroradio: In your opinion, how will this Lukashenka's confidence impact the political situation in Ukraine?

Savik Shuster: There is a very special feeling in Ukraine now - the feeling of war. Any spoken word that can bring calm is useful. People are very tense as nobody can predict what will happen tomorrow or the day after tomorrow. In this situaion, the words that can calm people - even if these words are pronounced by the president of the other country - are like a beam of hope.

Euroradio: Did you have to wait for a long time to get this interview?

Savik Shuster: Surprisingly, we got a reply very quickly. I should mention that I have known President Lukashenka for quite a long: we did interviews twice when I worked at NTV. He knows me well as a professional. This Monday we sent our interview request and got a positive reply in the evening of the same day.

Euroradio: Did you have to send your questions for preliminary clearance?

Savik Shuster: No, we just outlined the talking points. Well, the talking point is rather obvious. We turned out to be talking mostly about the situation in Crimea, Putin, Ukraine, Maidan protests…

Savik Shuster: Lukashenka is not happy about Crimea precedent

Euroradio: Did you ask tricky questions?

Savik Shuster: Judging by his facial expression and the way he looked at me, my questions were not unpleasant. You know, when you are talking about a war situation, all questions are somewhat unpleasant. But I did not spot uneasiness in his eyes. No, that was not the case.

Euroradio: Lukashenka spoke out in a somewhat negative way about Victor Yanukovich. Some time back, the Belarus leader fell out with his Ukrainian counterpart after the latter had not invited him to attend an anniversary of Chernobyl nuclear accident. Did you feel there was a connection between that episode and that negative description of Yanukovich?

Savik Shuster: He stressed: “He is my friend, but I talk about in a straightforward manner - the way I think.” I don't think this is somewhat connected with feeling offended. I think this is how he really assesses what Victor Yanukovich did.

Euroradio: Anyway, what's the position of Belarus leader on Crimea as of today?

Savik Shuster: He said: De facto, the Russian troops are there. Russia is introducing the Russian rouble, its laws. That means this is a de facto Russian territory. He mentioned that even ex-Ukraine presidents Kuchma and Kravchuk had noted that. He also said that by withdrawing its troops and the lack of resistance the current authorities in Kiev underlined the reality that Crimea was a territory of Russain Federation. He said this did not require any judicial recognition.

Euroradio: Would you share your impression on what is Aliaksandr Lukashenka's stance towards Russia's actions in Crimea?

Savik Shuster: Well, I find it very difficult to try and analyze President Lukashenka. But I had an impression that he did not like this precedent at all.

Euroradio: What impressions did you have about your interviewee? Can you make a comparison with your previous encounters?

Savik Shuster: He always had the traits of a leader. This is something that both his supporters and opponents are aware of. And he has preserved these qualities. Over all these years, he has naturally grown more experienced and knowledgable. This is normal as almost all people grow wiser with time.

Euroradio: Do you consider him an authoritarian leader?

Savik Shuster: He is an authoritarian leader without any doubt!

Euroradio: Can one compare him to Putin in this sense?

Savik Shuster: He did it himself! I asked: “What's your attitude to people describing you as a dictator?” He said: “I am not just a dictator. I am the last dictator!” And I told him: “Now, Vladimir Vladimirovich [Putin] is ahead of you in this regard." And he said: "Yes, that's what I told him as well.” More or less, that was the way he said.

Savik Shuster: Lukashenka is not happy about Crimea precedent

Euroradio: What's his attitude to the current authorities in Ukraine?

Savik Shuster: Totally pragmatic. He is ready and will cooperate with the authorities elected by the people of Ukraine and Alexander Turchinov, in particular. He has absolutely warm feelings towards the Ukrainian people.

Photo: telekritika.ua