A rally in support of President Alexander Lukashenko was held near the House of Government on Independence Square on 16 August, 2020. Alexander Lukashenko got up to the podium to speak at 2 pm.
Lukashenko stated that there were 50 thousand people present. The Ministry of Internal Affairs reported that at the beginning of the rally there were over 65 thousand people. Olga Chemodanova, an official spokeswoman of the Ministry of the Internal Affairs, told Sputnik.by: “This was the number of people at the beginning of the rally. By the end of it, there were many more.”
The president started his speech by thanking the audience for coming. People greeted him and shouted: “We love you!”
He continued: “I didn’t want to call you all here today. You have many things to do. You’re gathering crops, you’re getting kids ready for school. I remember the ’90s. Back then there were workers with pots and kettles standing in this square and asking for food.
I saw this from that window. That’s when I swore to help you, and that’s when I promised myself not to allow any revolution to happen in Belarus. I don’t support revolutions. I don’t support rallies. And it’s not my fault that I had to call you out here for a rally today.”
Attendees replied: “Thank you!”
“Rallies and revolutions destroyed the great empire given to us by God (*Lukashenko is referring to the USSR). Before it was destroyed, everything was decided by them. Now we’re like a bloody stump of that great empire.”
Lukashenko recalled what people asked him to do in the past:
“You asked for a $20 monthly salary. You asked me not to privatize plants and factories. You asked me not to take the land away from the farmers. You asked me to keep healthcare and education free of charge. You asked me to help soldiers and officers to regain pride in who they are. You asked me, an inexperienced person, to save the nation from the fall. We did it. We did something that millions of people before us were unable to do. We built an independent sovereign state. The time chose us and we did it! I want to ask you: what do you want now?”
“Do you want freedom?”
“Then say what you want!”
“Do you want a change?”
“What changes do you want? What should we change?”
People continued shouting: “For Batska!” and “Great job, Batska!” (*Batska means ‘father’ in Belarusian).
“We don’t want to be the back door for Europe”
Lukashenko continued: “Do you want easy money? You all know that there’s no easy money! You have to earn money every day! You don’t get it by standing in the square and rallying. You earn money when you work in the fields, at the plants and factories. Someone wants new elections.
Look out your windows and you’ll see that there are tanks and military planes ready to fly here just 15 minutes away from our borders. You know why? The NATO army is waiting for a reason to come here. We see more and more countries getting their armies close to the western border of our country: Lithuania, Latvia, Poland. Unfortunately, even our dear Ukraine and its officials call for us to hold new elections.”
“If we do what they are asking, we will lose what we’ve built and will never get back to stability. We will die as a state, as people, as a nation!
“Our soldiers should be training and should be near the western border to demonstrate our power. Instead, we have to keep them in our streets and in the squares to calm them down! (*Lukashenko is referring to the opposition protests). Do you soldiers think that’s okay?
“The western countries suggested we make a chain of people standing in line from Vilnius and all the way to Kyiv (*Lukashenko is referring to the solidarity chain, also known as human chain and chain of freedom).
We would have to have 300,000 people stand in this chain. This chain is a buffer zone that we destroyed back in the ’90s! That’s the reason the Western countries hate us so much. We don’t want to become a buffer zone between the East and the West! We don’t want to become the back door for Europe.”
“Yeah!” members of the crowd yelled.
“They suggest we should have a new government. They’ve even created a few new governments abroad already. They can’t decide who exactly should come to rule us. But we remember history. There have been many governments here. And now some of the representatives of this government are in the United States. We don’t need foreign governments; we need one of our own!”
“For Batska! For Batska! For Batska!”
“They suggest a new government. They suggest NATO soldiers. Black, yellow, and white hair people! (*refers to the color of skin) They want us to be their slaves! Don’t you see that?”
“If someone wants that, they can do it without me! I will never destroy our state. I will never destroy what we have built with our hands. It won’t happen!”
“Together with Batska! Together with Batska!” the people continued to shout.
“Like you, I have children and grandchildren. I want them to live as we have lived for the past 26 years, on their own land in their own state! From bad to worse, well, better, but on their own land!”
“There’s no way that 80% of the votes could have been rigged”
“Now I’ll tell you something that I didn’t prepare for this rally. But I should tell you this because you’ve come a long way to get here – you came here from Bragin and Malorita (*Villages and small towns in Belarus 4 hours away from Minsk). You came from the North, from the East, and from the West of the country. It may be that I won’t have another opportunity to tell you this: yes, our policy and approach may be tough.
Yes, some people don’t like it. They said that the government should not act like this! However, we agreed that this government would rule in the mid-’90s when we accepted the new Constitution. Back then, you asked me to get things in order. That’s exactly what I did! You asked me to deal with corruption and financial moguls. Where are these financial moguls now? You asked me to get rid of the gangs on the streets of Minsk. I did this for you!”
“Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!”
Alexander Lukashenko reminded the rally attendants that it took him six months to get rid of “people who killed our people.” He said that riot police, state police, and soldiers found and wiped out 32 gangs.
“With the power and strong will, parents of the kids who are rallying today took up arms and wiped out 32 gangs in Minsk. There were a few of us and a lot of them!”
“Great job, Batska!” people replied.
He then stated that Belarusians may not be rich, but they have more than $20 a month that he promised years ago. “We live as we can; at least we own the land we live on.”
“You asked that we teach children, you asked that we treat the sick. We teach and we treat! Our healthcare is no worse than others, as recent events showed.” (He refers to the official statistics on spread and death rate from COVID-19 in Belarus from March to August.)
Lukashenko encouraged teachers, doctors, and “intellectual society” to check the statistics. He highlighted that all plants and factories worked during the pandemic.
“They rebuke me by saying I took the wrong approach. Well, look at them. They do not adhere to social distancing rules,” he said, blaming people who rally against him, claiming that they “don’t care to wear masks and keep the distance.” He then said, “They blamed me, said I was going crazy taking care so that no one would get sick.”
The president stated that this “beautiful country will remain mine even if I die.” “We’ve built a beautiful country together, even though it was difficult to do. Who do you want to give it away to? If someone wants to give it away, I won’t let it happen even if I die.”
Lukashenko went on to claim that the elections went well. “I stand before you as I would before God. The elections are over and went well. There’s no way that 80% of the results could have been rigged.”
He said that if there are new elections in Belarus, only “bandits and criminals” will participate in them. Also, regarding his response to the protests, he stated that it wasn’t him or people near him who started the violence, but claimed they had to be stopped.
“If we didn’t stop them, you would not be here. You would be working hard for them, and they would be dividing our country.”
He encouraged people not to offend teachers, because they have to get ready for the school year; not to offend doctors because COVID is still here; not to offend journalists of the state mass media.
“Calm down. Don’t encourage people toward violent confrontation. Don’t bring shame to this country. It’s peaceful, it’s prosperous, and it’s calm. The whole world envies us. That’s the reason we don’t have friends and supporters. Everyone wants us to get on our knees. We won’t do it! I’m a realist, listen to me, they will not let us live well. Even if they go quiet now, they will get out like rats. The men in grey suits tell them what to do.
They see the western borders of our Belarus here in Minsk, just like in 1939, and not in Brest where they are. This will not happen. We will not all become Brest Fortress. We won’t give the country away. Belarusians, use your heads before it’s too late—today, because tomorrow other people will do the thinking for us. That’s why it’s important that you’ve come to support me and protect the whole country,” Lukashenko said, encouraging people not to regret the time they spent getting to Minsk.
He said that “by doing this you’ve shown who the ruler of this country is.”
“We’ve heard their voices, and we know that they are the minority. They must accept the opinion of the overwhelming majority, our opinion. They shout at me to ‘Go away!’ No problem.”
People started to shout out “No!”
“Listen to me, my dear people. I stand here before you not because I can’t let go of the power. I’ve given 26 years and all my youth to serve you and my motherland. Presidents come and go. Let riot police leave, dissolve the army, and stand in the square? What for? Who will we wait for there?”
“It will be the beginning of the end”
Lukashenko warned: “If you lose Lukashenko, you will lose the first president, and it will be the beginning of the end.”
“I’m addressing them, and you make sure that they don’t start this fire burning because if they burn this down, we will never be able to rebuild our future. You will be poor, you will beg for money and food. I’ve warned you before that the elections would be an interesting time. It’s like I knew it would happen.
“Take care of Belarus. Take care of it, because it doesn’t belong to us anymore. It belongs to our children and our grandchildren. I’ve called on you to protect the country, to support the people who fight for you. That’s for your future,” said Lukashenko.
“So much trash is around. They blame me and say I should be ashamed. ‘Lukashenko has died,’ they said. But I am alive and I will live. Remember, I’ve never betrayed you and I never will!”
“Thank you very much for showing that you are the masters of this country. You, people from Bragin, Volkovysk, Vitebsk. You are the masters of this country and this capital city. They will remember our rally here for a long time. Thank you very much! I stand here before you on my knees for the first time in my life. You’ve earned this,” said the president.
The president thanked blue-collar workers, farmers, and other citizens for their support. The people responded with applause.
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The text is translated by Tatiana Volkova