Deutsche Welle, 17 june 2011
|Lukaschenko asserted that the country |
As Belarus battles economic crisis, President Lukashenko has warned that the county's borders may be closed. After a fierce government crackdown on opposition protesters, the European Union has made threats of its own.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko warned a press conference on Friday that his country may have to suspend foreign imports to deal with its deepening economic crisis.
The country has already witnessed a 36-percent devaluation of its currency and increased inflation, but further sanctions may still be to come.
"If it gets really bad, then we will close the borders and only purchase our own things," Lukashenko said during the five-hour news conference. "But I hope that we won't have to do that."
The president also said he was willing to sell the country's biggest government held assets, including the potash producer Belaruskali.
The deepening economic crisis and shortage of basic goods has led to a series of rare protests across the country in recent months. In the capital, Minsk, motorists demonstrated about rising fuel prices, and protesters in the border regions took to the streets over new trade restrictions.
Internet to blame
Lukashenko used the nationally broadcast conference to blame increased unrest on reporters and foreign powers.
"They are using slightly new methods to try and shake up Belarus - including by using that trash called the Internet," Lukashenko said.
|Minsk was rocked by protests on|
Wednesday, calling for a social media
Addressing the handpicked journalists invited to the conference, Lukashenko handed the lion's share of blame to the media for playing "the biggest role in creating panic." He assured audiences, however, that the worst crisis in the republic's post-Soviet history was coming to an end and the economy was slowly stabilizing.
"We have to all calm down and live through these times together," Lukashenko said. "This is not a crisis - we have no crisis. What we had was panic and commotion. But that is in the past."
Lukashenko has already appealed for foreign help to deal with the economic downturn and has had deal with strict demands to loosen his Soviet-era hold on the economy.
He has fallen short, however, of introducing a free-floating currency which was suggested by the International Monetary Fund.
Meanwhile, Belarus' treatment of protesters came into sharp focus on Friday, when the EU threatened to slap fresh sanctions against the president's allies.
EU ministers are also expected to place asset freezes on Belarusian businesses when they meet in Luxemburg on Monday. New sanctions will "underline our deep concerns" over ongoing reported human rights abuses in the country, an EU diplomat stated.
The expected measures follow this week's publication of a report conducted by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe which accused Lukashenko's government of systematically using fear, harassment, torture and blackmail to clamp down on its own people.
The United States extended sanctions on Belarus on Tuesday in response to its violent suppression of protests in the wake of the disputed re-election of Lukashenko in December.
Author: Charlotte Chelsom-Pill (AFP, dpa)
Editor: Sean Sinico