Staunton, April 22 – It is a measure of just how worried the leaders of countries bordering Russia are about the possibility that Vladimir Putin will build on his Crimean Anschluss by moving against their states that even Alyaksandr Lukashenka feels the need to deny that Minsk is oppressing ethnic Russians and to call on Belarusians to unite.
In a message to the Belarusian parliament and people today, Lukashenka said that no one is mistreating ethnic Russians in Belarus, long viewed as Moscow’s closest ally among the former Soviet republics, and declared that Belarusians must unite as never before to maintain their statehood.
The Belarusian president noted at the outset that he was issuing this appeal at a time when “the countries surrounding [Belarusians] were in motion: Ukraine is bubbling, the Russian Federation is trying to rise to its full historical height [and] borders are being destroyed before our eyes.”
He said it was impossible to separate out “Belarusian blood” from Russian and that all “talk about ‘Russianness’ or ‘Belarussianness’ is a step toward a time of troubles.” Consequently, he continued, one could not think of anything “more stupid” than the idea of any oppression of ethnic Russians by Belarusians or in Belarus.
Indeed, Lukashenka said, “there is no other country in the world where the government and people are so supportive of “the great Russian culture” and “the great Russian language.” The Russian language, he said, is the “common” property of all three “fraternal peoples” and rejected the idea of “those who want to privatize Russian. It is ours,” he said.
“If we lose the Russian language,” he continued, “we will lose our mind,” but at the same time “if we stop speaking Belarusian, then we will cease to be a nation.”