Between two stools: Ties with West cannot substitute for Russia – Lukashenka

Belarusian president Aliaksandr Lukashenka, who, according to Russian news agency TASS, ‘has been steering his country towards closer ties with the West’, said no one can replace traditional friendly relations with Russia.

In talks with the European Union Belarus always asks them the same question: “Will you be a substitute for Russia?” the president said in his address to parliament on Thursday. “The example of Ukraine has shown what comes out of this friendship – getting sucked into a bog.”

He added the country’s trade with Russia and the European Union member-states is almost at an equal level.

“Why should we refuse to cooperate with them? Our relations with the West are a bit different. But we need to build them up. The fact that Belarus is pursuing better relations with the USA and the EU should not worry anyone, either in Belarus or in Russia,” state-run news agency BelTA quotes Lukashenka as saying.

Despite certain tensions between the two former Soviet states, namely the recent food dispute, the Belarusian president said Moscow has always helped Minsk when in need.Last month, Lukashenka said Russia “behaved improperly” by banning certain Belarusian foodstuffs from its market. Moscow said this move came in a bid to stop prohibited products from European suppliers being unloaded in Russia and finding their way onto the domestic market.

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