Belarus leader will not harm ties with Russia to please West

MINSK, September 30 (RIA Novosti) - Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said Tuesday his country would not sacrifice relations with Russia to please the West.

"We have traditionally had good relations with Russia, and I don't think it would be beneficial to Europe if our relations with Russia deteriorated," Lukashenko said. "Today, Europe wants to improve its relations with the Russian Federation."

"Even if they demand we worsen relations with Russia, we will never resort to this," he said.

Meeting with OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Vice President Anne-Marie Lizin, Lukashenko said Belarus was expecting the European Union to lift sanctions.

To punish the Belarusian leadership for failing to observe democratic freedoms, the EU has a ban on trips to Europe for 41 Belarusian officials, including the president. Bilateral ministerial meetings are also not held.

The EU said earlier in September that the sanctions could be lifted should the country hold its September 28 elections in a democratic fashion. But the OSCE said Monday that Sunday's parliamentary elections in Belarus failed to fully meet OSCE standards.

But Lukashenko said the OSCE's criticism of Belarus' elections was "officialese" typical of the organization.

Belarus last month freed three "political prisoners," another step that could make the EU consider lifting sanctions.

Lukashenko, once dubbed "Europe's last dictator" by the United States, also said Europe had no right to introduce sanctions against Belarus for two reasons - firstly because Belarusians "defended all of Europe" during WWII while losing a third of its people, and secondly due to the Chernobyl tragedy.

"Why do you force on us a European Chernobyl, throwing around sanctions and pressing the people?" he said. "We are not waiting for wonders, nor asking for them. Let us work normally and cooperate."



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