Aliaksandr Lukašenka criticized on Thursday Russia for stepping up controls along the shared border, which he said inconveniences travelers and delays the transportation of goods.
Speaking at a meeting in Minsk with Anatoĺ Lapo, head of the State Border Committee, and Stanislaŭ Zaś, state secretary of the Security Council, Mr. Lukašenka insisted that Belarus fully honored its commitments under its 1995 agreement with Russia on joint efforts to protect the two countries’ external borders, stopping drugs and weapons destined for Russia, fighting illegal migration and returning stolen vehicles to Russia, according to the Belarusian leader’s press office.
“Belarus’ border control agency has performed way more efficiently [than Russia’s] at the joint borders,” Mr. Lukašenka was quoted as saying. “Just meters into our common Fatherland we are protecting reliably the interests of both our own country and our main ally - the Russian Federation.”
He noted that Russian border guards turned away third-country citizens who had crossed the border into Belarus without problems and had a Russian visa. “They are sent back, told to enter Russia from Latvia or even from Ukraine,” he said, describing the situation as absurd and calling for talks with Russia to address the matter.
In addition, the head of state questioned lengthy examinations of trucks by Russian border guards, customs officers and phytosanitary inspectors at the shared border. Truck lines at the border can reach 10 kilometers and more sometimes, he said.
“A truck is turned inside out near Brest, we know where it is heading and what it is carrying,” he said. “We pass this information to the Russian Federation. They stop this truck again near Smolensk, Pskov, Bryansk and start turning it inside out again. This is abnormal.”
He said that such inspections were inefficient and may be used by Russian border guards and customs officers to extort bribes from carriers.
Mr. Lukašenka slammed the Russian government for referring to Belarus as a country that would collapse without Russian aid. “We need to calculate how much the protection of the joint border costs us, remind them of the [joint] air defense system: they had been asking me to agree to joint air defenses for a long time. Today we work for the Russian Federation, protecting the airspace from the Baltic to the Black Sea. That costs money and not only money. And yet we are still described as freeloaders,” he said.
Mr. Lukašenka suggested that the Belarusian government highlight the total value of its services provided to Russia.
He also mentioned the purchase of Sukhoi Su-30SM fighter jets by Belarus from Russia. “We have performed the functions of protecting the Russian Federation, the people of Russia in this direction,” he said. “So why not help us? Why not supply us with modern weapons? We can use them as well as the Russians but have to pay colossal amounts of money for them.”
The head of state demanded that Moscow should stop accusing Belarus of being its parasite and finally acknowledge the country’s weighty contribution to its security. “And the Russian public should know and understand that the Belarusians are not freeloaders, that a Russian person is not worse off in Belarus than in Russia,” he said. “Let's speak frankly: they are better off than in Russia. And they note it.”
The 1995 agreement has been automatically extended once in five years. Mr. Lukašenka said at the meeting that a new agreement on the protection of the two countries’ external borders should be signed. “If the Russians don’t want that, we should be ready… to defend our interests alone,” he said, adding that the matter should be discussed with Moscow.