Alexander Lukashenko and Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei discussed the relationship between Belarus and Poland during a meeting on optimizing the network of Belarusian foreign missions, his press service reports.
“In truth, our political contacts with this country have never been perfect. But by our very nature and mentality, we put up with individual attacks and accusations against us for a long time, tried to find a compromise, showed flexibility and understanding. We proceeded from the fact that one can’t choose its neighbours. And all of them are really important for us,” said Lukashenko.
He said that “these constructive approaches in Warsaw are perceived as weakness.”
“The readiness of the Polish side, declared back in June last year, to meet us halfway in a number of areas was replaced by accusations of election fraud, support for our current fugitives and their companies, providing refuge to fugitive traitors and extremists, and extremist internet resources. And then it came to sanctions. Imagine, in June they sang to us songs that are pleasant to the ear and at the same time, we already know this today, through the special services, and other structures, they were playing a double game,” said Lukashenko.
According to Lukashenko, “the last straw was the blatant attempts to glorify the things and war criminals” and the holding of events for this purpose in Brest and Grodno.
“Warsaw considers the legitimate reaction of law enforcement agencies to the activities of some Belarusian citizens who call themselves Poles oppression of the Polish national minority.”
Lukashenko stressed that Belarus has always taken a responsible approach to the observance of the rights of all national minorities and is proud of the religious and interethnic peace in the country.
“It will always be that way. Both religious and interethnic peace in Belarus will be preserved at all costs. Nobody will push us into a confrontation between Poles and Belarusians or Russians,” assured Alexander Lukashenko.
Centuries-old history and normalization of relations
“We have no unsettled territorial and property claims against each other. We have never recalled the occupation of a significant part of the Belarusian territory by Poland in the 1920s and 1930s. But, apparently, the time has come to return to this topic and study it in detail with the involvement of historians and political scientists, which, by the way, we have already begun to do,” Lukashenko said, noting that Belarusians and Poles are united by a centuries-old history.
Lukashenko said that ethnic Poles living in Belarus are citizens of Belarus.
“Once again I want to repeat to the leadership of Poland: yes, we have a lot of Poles. But these are our Poles. Their homeland is Belarus. They lived here, their children live and will live here. Those who want to leave, we did hold anyone and we are not going to make them stay. But those who live with us, citizens of Belarus, are our Poles,” he stressed and advised the Polish leadership to treat them that way.
At the same time, Lukashenko noted that he would like to hear specific proposals on returning to a consistent, proactive policy with Poland.
“We are not going to fight with anyone, we don’t want to fight with anyone, but if only they treat us the way they did at the end of last year and now, they will get punched in the face and very hard. We’ve had enough of being some kind of passive observers: we must react adequately where appropriate, as it was in Brest and Grodno. But we will still have to speak a normal language with our neighbours.”
He also instructed to “work on the presentation of the public and Western partners of the so-called Polish issue.” In the West, in his opinion, not everyone understands what is really going on.
“We should more actively promote the themes of the persecution of ethnic Belarusians in the interwar and postwar periods, the activities of Polish nationalist gangs (and not only Polish ones) on our territory, the revanchist aspirations of the authorities of these states to regain control over certain territories and regions of Belarus. In Warsaw, for example, they still refer to these territories as “Eastern Borderlands”. The officially functioning Union of Poles in Belarus, where a new leader was recently elected, should work constructively for the good of our country, contributing to the strengthening of relations.”
Lukashenko added that the Belarusian authorities absolutely do not oppress the Polish minority: these citizens have their own association, with the help of which they can contribute to the development of relations between the countries.
“If you have any problems, inform the government, the president – we will intervene,” he said.