Belarus has stood a "serious test" for national unity, President Aleksandr Lukashenko said Monday during a news conference in the capital city of Minsk, according to Belarusian state news agency Belta.
"We have stood a serious test for national unity. We know that we have everything to pass this period in our newest history with dignity. We have people who are educated, thinking critically, committed to the interests of sovereign Belarus," he said.
Belarus has been rocked by mass protests since Lukashenko, who has ruled the former Soviet republic for more than 26 years, was reelected to a sixth term on Aug. 9 last year in an election his opponents claimed was rigged.
Lukashenko underlined that 2021 was declared the Year of People's Unity because Belarusians were able to keep the country intact in the fight for their historical choice and future.
He also noted that this would not have been possible without the consolidation of society in the desire to ensure peace in their native land.
Today, Belarus is in the spotlight of the whole world "against its own will," he said, adding the nation has lived through a "difficult year."
He went on to say that much of what has recently been happening in Belarus has been largely and deliberately distorted and turned upside down by opponents of the state.
"There have been no repressions in my country and will never be. I do not need this. Such things would not benefit me. Using repression in Belarus would be akin to shooting oneself," the president said.
Lukashenko highlighted that last year's mass protests in the country were not peaceful and had been planned beforehand.
"What kind of peaceful actions were they, if there were explosions, firecrackers, etc.? It was easy to see where they flew from. Are you going to say that it was a response to ‘violence'? No, they brought them there. It was before the ‘violence' began, before clashes. They brought shivs, knives, explosives. Why did they bring them? For peaceful actions? Therefore, it was anything but peaceful actions," he said.
He claimed that the protests were sponsored by the West, adding that some 46,700 people took to the streets at the height of the protests in Minsk.
'New world war averted'
"Belarus is located at the crossroads. Had we showed weakness during the protests, we would have been ripped apart. As a result, a new world war would have erupted," he said.
Delivering a report on Belarus to the Human Rights Council in Geneva in July, Anais Marin, the UN special rapporteur on Belarus, said Belarusian authorities have launched a full-scale assault against their people, curtailing their rights, "persecuting human rights defenders, journalists, media workers and lawyers in particular.”
"I realized that bayonets were being sharpened on the other side of the border, so I put the army on alert and the Polonez multiple rocket launcher on standby. We would have struck, but they didn't cross the line. Had it happened, Russia would have never backed down, risking to lose Belarus. There would have been a mess involving a nuclear power. That was what we avoided back then. As for those who took to the streets, it was simply unpleasant. We had thousands of ways to keep them in check," Lukashenko said.
He stressed that Russian troops may be deployed in Belarus if a new world war is imminent.
"If necessary, it will not be just a base here. All the armed forces of the Russian Federation will be deployed here. In what conditions? If a new world war is imminent."
Russian S-400 missile defense
Lukashenko said his country is in talks with Russia on ordering the S-400 air defense missile system.
"Russian President Vladimir Putin has been asked to allow us to buy them at a bulk price, on credit. Although S-300 systems are good and we've learned how to upgrade them and restore them, we have a strong interest in S-400 systems. I am convinced we will get these systems." he said.
He highlighted that some of the money allocated for the construction of a nuclear power plant "has been saved" and can be used to purchase the missile systems.
Belarus has never been against the closest alliance with Russia, but any union should rely on uniform terms and equality, he said.
"We have never been against the closest alliance, but Russia has always kept us at a distance."
Lukashenko also urged Western politicians to "think carefully" before imposing sanctions on Belarus.
"They need to start using their head and think carefully before taking action against us, including before introducing sanctions," he said.
The UK has imposed fresh sanctions on Belarus on the anniversary of alleged fraudulent presidential elections in the country, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said Monday in a statement.
“The Lukashenko regime continues to crush democracy and violate human rights in Belarus. These sanctions demonstrate that the UK will not accept Lukashenko’s actions since the fraudulent election. The products of Lukashenko’s state-owned industries will not be sold in the UK, and our aerospace companies will not touch his fleet of luxury aircraft,” Raab said.
The US and Canada also announced new sanctions on Belarus on Monday.
In July, US President Joe Biden met with Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya at the White House, noting that the US stands with the people of Belarus in their "quest for democracy and universal human rights."
Tsikhanouskaya, who now lives in exile in Lithuania, was Lukashenko's main challenger.Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.