Alexander Lukashenko outlined his vision of the migration crisis and what is happening in the country as a whole in an interview with BBC journalist Steve Rosenberg. This conversation is discussed as a rare case when the reporter managed to piss off Lukashenka and insist that he answer the questions asked. We asked the Belarusian political scientist Valery Karbalevich what caused Lukashenka’s rage and whether his answers could be considered a “skirmish in absentia” with Vladimir Putin.
– What was the most important for you in this interview or new?
– Yes, indeed, the interview is very significant. Lukashenko considers himself an excellent polemicist and boldly gives interviews to Western journalists and Western media. He is sure that he will always outplay them, because the very genre of interviews gives a journalist limited opportunities to engage in polemics. In this case, Lukashenka could not carry out his scenario; in fact, a BBC journalist imposed it on him. He knocked Lukashenka down with short remarks and questions – and as a result, a very aggressive, very nervous, very irritated leader of Belarus appeared on the screen. For example, I have not seen such a Lukashenko for a long time, maybe I have never seen him.
– Lukashenka in this interview answered in absentia to Vladimir Putin, who had previously called on Lukashenka to dialogue with the opposition. Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov tried to clarify these words of Lukashenka – they say, this is how Lukashenka said about the categorical impossibility of speaking with the opposition. And you, Valery, how did it seem to be hidden behind these words, is it worth looking for some subtext of the “absentee skirmish” with Vladimir Putin in them?
– Belarusian journalists have long noticed that as soon as the conversation turns to the opposition, Lukashenka loses his temper. A calm, balanced person gives interviews, even jokes calmly, but as soon as he is asked questions about the opposition, he instantly changes and actually turns into a shout. because [оппозиция] – these are people who claim power, and power is his power. It is generally sacrilege, as he believes, to claim power in Belarus for someone else besides him.
And behind this polemic with Putin, yes, there is some tension that has arisen. And I think there are two factors: the first is the referendum and the issue of the transit of power in Belarus, which is not going according to the scenario according to which Putin and Lukashenko agreed more than a year ago, and this causes Putin’s displeasure. The second point, I think, is the very migration crisis. Perhaps Putin promised something to the leaders of Germany, France, who asked him, and Lukashenko, apparently – again, the version – refused to follow the insistent recommendations from Moscow. Well, this pissed off Putin, this remark about the need to negotiate with the opposition appeared. Putin pressed on the most painful place of Alexander Lukashenko.
– Which, in turn, has already irritated Lukashenka?
– Yes, it is clear that this caused irritation – and here is his emotional reaction.
“But, to be honest, it seemed to me that Lukashenka’s response to the question of how Angela Merkel addressed him:“ President ”or simply“ Mr. Lukashenko ”was even more emotional. For several days they have been talking about this, and there is no comment from the team of the German Chancellor.
– I would not try to guess now what he was called, but here the reaction of Lukashenka is interesting: she is very nervous and very aggressive. For some reason, this seemingly innocent, at first glance, question aroused, let’s say, such an agitated reaction from Alexander Lukashenko. This suggests that yes, this topic is quite painful for him.
– And the last thing: he confessed, in fact, that people were beaten at Akrestsin Street. Why did he do it? Is he not afraid that even his supporters will be condemned for this?
– You see, the journalist pissed him off so much that he was not afraid to throw off his mask, or something. Any politician has a mask when he talks to the media. A politician always wants to look better in front of the media, in front of the public than he really is. In this case, the journalist infuriated Lukashenka so much that he threw off the mask – and he really doesn’t care what he looks like. He looked very natural. And naturally it looks, let’s say, not very pleasant and not very beautiful. But this is the skill of a journalist, it seems to me. That is [Лукашенко] after such questions, it’s not even interesting what the audience will think of him: both Belarusian and international.