Russian President Hosts 'Belarusian Only' Press

BARVIKHA, Russia -- Russian President Dmitry Medvedev held a meeting with Belarusian journalists at his residence in Barvikha on November 23, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reports.

The first all-Belarusian-media meeting lasted about 90 minutes.

Medvedev said he plans to hold regular meetings with Belarusian journalists, adding that it will be similar to the meetings Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has with Russian journalists.

Medvedev said Russia has invested about $50 billion in the Belarusian economy since 1991.

Russia will sell its natural gas to Belarus at a rate that is 30-40 percent cheaper than other countries, he added.

The Russian president also criticized Lukashenka for his "undiplomatic statements."

Medvedev said he took personally Lukashenka's "politically incorrect" statements about the Russian government earlier this year.

Talking about Georgia's breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Medvedev said that neither he nor the Russian government "have ever asked and will never ask anyone to recognize South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states."

He said Russia got involved in the conflict and recognized the two regions as independent in order to prevent a deepening of the crisis.

Medvedev paid special attention to the pronunciation of Belarus, stressing that it should be "Belarus," not "Belorussia," as most Russians refer to it.

"Belarus is a sovereign and independent state with all corresponding attributes and therefore all political developments in that country proceed through its own scenario, and we have nothing to do with that scenario," he said.

Belarusian journalist Anatol Karol attended the meeting and told RFE/RL that Medvedev did not exclude the possibility of also holding meetings with Belarusian opposition officials.


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