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Lally Weymouth interviews Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko
You are not out on the streets. How do you know that it is not true?
I witnessed online what was transpiring near the house of government. I saw what was happening on monitors.
What did you think of recent events in Tunisia and Egypt?
This will backfire for you. . . . The fact that the entire Arabic arc is being radicalized . . . is a really big thing. And you want to mastermind a regime change in Belarus. . . . It's better to cooperate with us.
How is your fiscal situation? Are you dependent now on Russia? You have a big current-accounts deficit.
We have some economic drawbacks, but we have positive tendencies as well. For the first two months of this year, we had 7 percent economic growth. At the end of this year, we plan to have growth of 10 or 11 percent GDP. The price of oil has almost doubled, and we are still importing oil and gas.
You are isolated from the U.S. and the E.U. - what is your game plan? You have Iran and China as allies.
We are trying to work around the world. We would like very much to cooperate with the United States.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) claimed that your December election was flawed. Will you fix this in a future election?
I cannot change everything. This electoral law is no worse than that in Russia, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan - countries with whom you cooperate very well.
What is your impression of President Obama?
Good opinion, but you don't let him do his job.
Who is "you?"
You mean Republicans?
Not just Republicans - I mean businessmen, some part of the security forces. I don't think Obama would like to repeat the fate of Kennedy.
Why did you bring that up?
If Obama will go on pursuing his course of action, there will be people who may not like it. He will pursue the interest of the majority of his people, but there will be radical people who don't like this course of action. It may have bad consequences.
You joked about being the last dictator in Europe.
Madeleine Albright said it. [Note: Condoleezza Rice said it, not Albright.]
Is that how you see yourself?
That is what she said. She is a wise politician, but she said a stupid thing. The stupidity is that Belarus and Lukashenko do not have the resources to be a dictator.
In 2008 you released political prisoners and opened your media a little bit. All of a sudden you turned, and there was a big crackdown.
That is the way you perceive it.
Am I wrong?
You are smart, tough and a very experienced person. But why are you so delusional?
You have to address the fact that there is no way you can put these people on trial and expect America to be happy with this.
God forbid you are talking again about those people. Don't worry about those people. Their destiny is in their own hands.
I am worried about them. Why don't you take their fate into your hands and give them amnesty?
Tell the Americans we are not bloodthirsty.
What does that mean? You will give them amnesty? Do you think you can do something to help these people? It seems like a terrible situation.
It is not as terrible as it may seem to you.
But you can't leave people who were running against you for president in a KGB jail called "Amerikanka." How can you do this? And then you say the West is being unreasonable?
I absolutely for sure know that they will not sit in the dungeons of the Amerikanka jail.
Okay, you won the election, they protested. They didn't like the election results. This happens in the U.S. all the time. Why would you put them in jail?
Okay, but don't break windows.
What about the accusation that it was your own security people who broke the windows?
I swear to you, these were not our people. This has been proven by video recording.
Why can't you allow an independent media in Belarus?
I am not afraid of mass media.
So what about independent television and papers?
Go to the first floor of my office and buy an opposition paper.
Your Internet is controlled by the government.
Nothing belongs to the government on the Internet. There is a site that belongs to the president. Are you going to think about having rule of law here and making the gestures that the U.S. wants in order to resume relations?
I have just said that I do not think backwards. I am not planning to get engaged with the Americans or the Europeans in any political games.
Why have you forbidden my sons to enter America? They do not belong to al-Qaeda. Why have you punished my children? What do they have to do with this? Why have you closed entry to dozens of people who were not to blame and had nothing to do with the alleged events of the 19th of December?
It seems like you and the United States government could get together.
We did a number of steps closer to your direction. You cheated us, and we don't believe you.
Did you really mean it when you said that you don't care about the U.S. and the E.U. sanctions?
Absolutely. You are not treating us decently. If you want to make myself or my people to kneel down, that won't happen. You won't succeed.
I still think you should let those people out of jail. Don't you feel sorry for them?
Come to the trial and act as an attorney for them. These are people who were led by your propaganda, who took your money.
You blame the U.S. for the people in jail?
Who else to blame? You gave them money. Should I blame China? We will not allow you to create a fifth column in Belarus . . . to undermine the system in Belarus. My power is okay. But God forbid you to turn around the situation in our country and have events unfold . . .
Like in Egypt?
It doesn't look like you will have any problems.
I won't. Recently in Georgia, President Saakashvili suppressed in a most brutal way a manifestation of the opposition. Yet you continue to deal with him. Why? Because Saakashvili is your son of a bitch.
Tell the Americans we think very highly of them. We will never build an iron curtain to prevent them from coming to Belarus.
Lally Weymouth is The Washington Post's senior associate editor.