Lukashenko: Belarus will not bow to West
Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko vowed the toughest retaliation Thursday if the EU imposed sanctions on his nation and accused Germany and Poland of seeking to oust him through election protests.
In some of his broadest and most strident remarks on the growing diplomatic standoff between Belarus and the European Union, he pledged to come out fighting if the West moved to isolate his regime.
Lukashenko's comments came as his prime minister visited Moscow for talks aimed at shoring up Russia's support for its traditional ally at a time of growing crisis.
That meeting ended with a Russian promise not to impose its own set of sanctions on Belarus and a commitment to resume a nuclear power plant project shelved after the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.
Lukashenko has kept a low profile since he won a fourth term in a disputed December 19 election. In the interim, the former collective farm boss fired his long-serving prime minister and shut the OSCE office in Minsk.
But in combative remarks to his government, the leader of the former Soviet republic said the West's threat to impose travel restrictions on his team would be seen as an attempt to bring Belarus to its knees.
"No one will ever be allowed to speak to Belarus from a position of strength, using the language of ultimatums. ... We do not intend to bow before anyone," Lukashenko told a government meeting.
"If someone tries to impose economic or any other kind of sanctions we must react swiftly and prepare retaliatory measures, right up to the very toughest."
The European Union said on Wednesday it would reinstate a travel ban on Lukashenko if he fails to release the opponents that he jailed on the night of his controversial December 19 re-election.
Washington is also exploring a range of possible sanctions.
But the threat of his government losing international recognition put the unpredictable Belarus leader in a fiery mood that saw him pin the blame for all his republic's troubles on Poland and Germany.
The two nations sent envoys to Minsk on the eve of the elections promising Lukashenko some $3.5 billion in assistance if he held an internationally recognised vote.
Poland and Germany have also led the global outrage over the violence that followed a poll that saw Lukashenko's nearest rival officially receive less than three percent of the vote.
Lukashenko told his government that the arrests have resulted in confessions that confirmed that the two European powers had sought to topple him by instigating protests on election day.
"You must have seen how furiously the Germans and the Poles are attacking Belarus... All the plans and most of the money came from Germany and Poland or went through them.
"It was there that plans for overturning the constitutional order were drawn up."
He also needled his jailed opponents, telling them "they should not be sitting in their isolation cells like blind mice, hoping that the Americans and the Europeans will soon come to their rescue."
Unlike the United States and Europe, Russia has distanced itself from what it said was its neighbour's "internal affair" as it seeks to pursue joint economic projects with Minsk.
Vladimir Putin, the country's de facto leader and prime minister, said during talks with his Belarussian counterpart that two neighbours had "strong potential and good development prospects."
He said the nuclear power plant project should help Belarus establish energy independence, with Russia playing a major part in funding the $6 billion project.
Belarus Prime Minister Mikhail Myasnikovich called Russia "our government's strategic partner" and expressed wishes to build stronger trade ties.
© 2011 AFP