Putin defends ties with Lukashenko 12:01, 01/02/2006
Vladimir Putin defended his friendly ties with Belarusian leader Aleksandr Lukashenko, saying that they mean support of the brotherly nation, not the regime. Russia is pursuing a well-thought-out policy regarding Belarus, said the Russian president at his annual news conference on January 31.
Asked by an Agence France Presse reporter to comment on his ties with the Belarusian regime and whether a free and fair election is possible in Belarus, Mr. Putin said, “A free election is always possible. As for my meetings with the president of Belarus, they should be linked to support of the Belarusian people, which are brotherly to us, not to support of a regime as you put it.”’
“I would like to draw your attention to the fact that we are involved in integration processes with Belarus,” Mr. Putin said. “The processes are not easy, they are difficult. They often bring about a very heated discussion, like it was two years ago when there was a move to ‘unpeg’ energy prices for Belarus from Russia’s domestic ones. Everybody should remember this. That’s why it is absolutely wrong to say that we support this or that politician at any cost.”
“Belarus and Russia have had special relations for ages,” Mr. Putin said. “They are beyond comparison with Belarus’ relations with France or some other West European country. Please keep this in mind. We remember and will always remember this in the future.”
In a televised interview last week, Mr. Lukashenko denied that he enjoys support from the Kremlin. “Saying that the Kremlin supports me is complete nonsense. But it is a fact that President Putin would like Lukashenko to remain Belarus` president, as he frankly tells me about this and it may be probably guessed from his manner. And why cannot he want this? He is not giving me money for this anyway,” he said.