‘ABSOLUTELY nothing depends on Belarus’ in the construction of the union state with Russia, said Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka in Minsk on 29 May at a meeting with a delegation of the Russian Federation’s Siberian Federal District.

The president stressed that Belarus is ready for a serious union with Russia. ‘We should come out of the existing situation quickly and revert to the construction of the union that was an example of how one should live and work,’ Lukashenka said.

According to him: ‘Russia does not fulfil the accord with Belarus on lifting restrictions in mutual trade.

‘The Russian Federation’s failure to fulfil the agreement by 50 per cent will be noted by the end of the year,’ the president believes.

He said the Belarusian side is interested in market relations with Russia and in the creation of a normal competitive environment, including gas supplies to Belarus.

Lukashenka noted that ‘Belarus is ready to play its role in connection with the planned deployment of elements of the American antiballistic missile defence in Europe.

‘This is impermissible, and this is happening not near Russia’s borders but near our borders. We will take adequate measures – this is our zone of responsibility,’ the Belarusian president said.

He added: ‘Russia will be able to find the most adequate and asymmetrical response to the antiballistic missile defence deployment in Europe only in a union with Belarus,’ Lukashenka said at his meeting with the Krasnoyarsk Territory governor, Aleksandr Khloponin.

Lukashenka continued: ‘Even if the richest Americans invite us to become the 51st or 55th state, we will never opt for this.

‘We do not want to become part of either Poland or Lithuania and we will not join the Russian Federation.

‘This is unnecessary and even harmful and, if you wish, this will result in a new Chechnya in the west of Russia.’

He added to Krasnoyarsk Territory governor, Aleksandr Khloponin: ‘We are ready not for simply a dialogue but for the most serious relations with Russia.

‘But we want to know clearly what Russia wants from Belarus and what are the reasons for this or that proposal, e.g. that on the single currency,’ the Belarusian head of state said and asked, ‘Why do we put the cart before the horse?

‘Why is it not the constitution, which is provided for by the union treaty, why is it not the constitutional act, which provides for the single currency issues? Why are they pulling out one element?’ Lukashenka asked.

He said that ‘when we are talking about the single currency, we are told that this will be the Russian rouble with the single issuing centre in Moscow.

‘Why do they pull one issue out of a set of events?’ the Belarusian president said.

Addressing the governor of Krasnoyarsk Territory, Lukashenka said, ‘I think you know the reason for such body movements on the part of the Russian authorities’, adding: ‘We would not like to be anybody’s puppet.

‘The fact that we will not become part of any state is an issue of principle for us,’ Lukashenka said.

He continued: ‘There are certain forces waiting for this. . . We are being offered to join Russia but with limited rights’.

He commented on the US militarisation to the west: ‘The Belarusian army, being backed by the Russian army, can do a lot today.

‘Russia will do absolutely nothing in the west without the Belarusian army because Russia has nothing west of Moscow.

‘This costs a lot but nobody except for the military takes this into account’.

The president continued that the Russian media often accuses Belarus of ‘turning’ to the West and of betraying the interests of the Russians and the union state.

‘We are located in the centre of Europe and cannot but develop ties with the West.

‘We should hold a normal dialogue and this is beneficial for Russia, too,’ the Belarusian head of state said.

Belarus’s foreign trade with the Russian Federation accounts for about 45 per cent and trade with the EU countries also accounts for some 45 per cent, Lukashenka said.

He stressed: ‘We have never let Russia down even in small things.’

Lukashenka said that there were certain misunderstandings between Belarus and Russia at the level of the two countries’ leadership and that crisis phenomena were noted in relations between the states.

‘But this does not mean that we have bad relations at the level of regions and people,’ the president stressed.

He said Belarus is ready to boost trade and economic cooperation with Siberian regions.

Earlier in the day Belarus had demonstrated its economic independence of Moscow by signing an agreement on trade and economic cooperation with the government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh.

The document was signed by a deputy foreign minister, Viktar Haysyonak, and the extraordinary and plenipotentiary ambassador of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh to the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus, Amir Hossain Sikder.

Meanwhile, from Znamensk in the Astrakhan Region the Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Sergey Ivanov has announced that Russia has successfully tested on Tuesday 29 May the latest strategic missile and the latest operational and tactical cruise missile, which are capable of breaching any existing as well as prospective missile defence system.

‘These systems are capable of breaching all existing and prospective antimissile defence systems. Therefore, from the point of view of defence and security, Russians can be relaxed about the future of the country,’ Ivanov told journalists in Znamensk today.

He said that several hours ago a strategic intercontinental ballistic missile equipped with a multiple rather than a single warhead was launched at the Plesetsk cosmodrome from a strategic Topol-M ground mobile system.

According to Ivanov, the test was successful, and visual and technical means of verification at the Kura test range in Kamchatka registered the arrival of all parts of the warhead.

Sergey Ivanov also said that ‘first preliminary tests of a high-precision long-range cruise missile’ for the Iskander-M operational and tactical missile system were carried out at the Kapustin Yar test range in Astrakhan Region on Tuesday.

‘I am very pleased to say that these first preliminary tests were completed successfully,’ Ivanov said.

‘We have thus acquired both a new operational and tactical system and a new strategic system,’ he stressed.

He noted that cruise missiles for the Iskander-M system would be put in serial production in 2009. ‘In the next year and a half, we should complete not only preliminary but also state flight tests and, starting from 2009, the missiles will be put on the systems,’ he said.

He added that the missiles for the Iskander-M system could travel on high-angle, ballistic as well as low-angle trajectories.

Answering a question about the export potential of the Iskander-E system, Ivanov said: ‘There is some intelligence on that. However, the operating range of exportable systems is no more than 300 km, but what we produce for our own army is another matter’.

He added that ‘of late, the state has started paying a lot more attention to the development of the armed forces and their provision with modern weapons than in the recent past’.