On 1 March, Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko is meeting with the members of the public, experts, Belarusian and foreign journalists.
The big conversation is an open dialogue where journalists can ask the president questions on topical issues.
Relations with Russia, foreign and domestic policies, economic situation, criticism in mass media, communication between officials and journalists, problems of security and peace are just some of them.
BelarusFeed picked out top quotes of the head of state to give you a brief overview of the meeting.
Despite the rapid development of media space, we see a deficit of content that would enjoy the absolute trust of the audience.”
According to the president, one of the reasons behind it is fake new and the lack of opinion leaders.
“Tensions are not subsiding. When it comes to big-time politics, this kind of bogus stories is getting particularly dangerous.
Such stories should be challenged by reliable publications and journalists. There are not so many of them, but we still have them.”
Another hot topic of the meeting is the unification of Russia and Belarus that have been in the headlines for some time and still is on everybody’s lips.
“The Russian president has no intentions to absorb Belarus or make it a part of Russia. I have never heard of these plans or such sentiment.
Speaking of how Belarusians may react to the inclusion of Belarus into Russia the president said: “Russians are ready to unite, but 98% of Belarusians will vote against unification.”
He also pointed out at a series of constraints and barriers between two countries that need to be addressed.
“If we do not remove pressing issues in the Belarusian-Russian relations, we will not be able to talk about any big goals, any unification.
We need to address fundamental matters first. Yet, the Russian authorities, and first of all the government are not ready to go this way,” Alexander Lukashenko said.
The president stressed that the union can and will exist only when people and enterprises work in equal conditions.
“We don’t need anything cheap. We don’t want to live off Russians. We would like to work together with you in the same economic and trade space on equal terms.”
Lukashenko states that he is likely to run for re-election. The date of the parliamentary and presidential elections will be announced in March-April.
I swear to you: even if the situation is really bad, I will never manipulate public opinion in order to find the right time to make a bid for power.
Two election campaigns – the parliamentary and presidential – will be held in Belarus within the coming two years.
“I promise you that I will not be president for life. I promise that I will not hold on to power for the sake of my children and will not pass it on to them. I have no intention to do that.”
Tax maneuver and gas prices
Belarus’ president believes that the impact of the tax maneuver in Russia’s oil industry on the Belarusian economy is exaggerated. Recall that Russia’s tax maneuver in the oil industry will cost Belarus about $400 million this year.
With the GDP at more than $50 billion I think we will survive it somehow, he said.
As to gas prices, the president expressed his concern about Russia’s unwillingness to negotiate long-term gas prices.
More on the topic:
“We’ve come to terms on natural gas this year. Next year we are going to have another ‘fight’ similar to the tax maneuver.
Russia has made no move so far regardless of our attempts (to start talks). They don’t even want to negotiate it.”
Belarus needs a national idea the entire country will support.
“We’ve been unable to clearly formulate a national idea so far. An idea the entire nation will embrace.
Everything I’ve been offered (patriotism, sovereignty, independence) was something too worn out, something that doesn’t fit us.”
“Our language is what makes us different from Russians and other ones, it is an attribute of every nation,” the president said and added that Belarusian is his native language as well as the Russian language.
In response to the proposal to have legislation in two languages, he said: “Everyone speaks and understands Russian in Belarus. Should we publish laws in two languages? It could be done but at an extra expense.”